[Pablo Pérez López, Charles de Gaulle, el estadista rebelde (Ciudadela: Madrid, 2020), 218 pp.]
review / Jairo Císcar
Coinciding with the 50th anniversary of Charles de Gaulle's death and the 75th anniversary of the Allied victory in the Second World War, Professor Pablo Pérez López publishes this new biography of "the most illustrious of the French", as he is sometimes referred to. When one undertakes to write a biography, and even more so when it is about a figure about whom countless books and articles have been written, one runs the risk of becoming diluted in what has gone before and contributing nothing new. However, this volume presents the character from a different perspective: his rebelliousness. Rebelliousness understood as a fight for what one believes to be just, as an active non-conformism that pushes one to overcome mediocrity, as love and service to France in its darkest moments. I believe that this is precisely one of the book's greatest achievements: to present, in barely 200 pages and in a friendly and direct style, a new portrait of the French general, who - beyond the excusable chiaroscuros of any person - is a model to be followed and an example of courage that is fully up to date.
The book presents De Gaulle's life chronologically, from his childhood to his death. An analysis of his early life is fundamental to understanding the great man he would later become. We are presented with a restless and dreamy young man, a devout Christian from a very early age. A young man who, at the age of just 14, discovered a vocation, that of military life, which would mark his whole life and the lives of millions of his compatriots, and who would apply himself to it to the point of becoming a leader A . Also noteworthy in the book is the extensive use of passages from his memoirs or handwritten texts of the protagonist, which reveal the most unknown facet of the character: his psyche, his love, his devotion, his rebelliousness. For it must be stressed that sample is a self-aware (but not overbearing) De Gaulle who is clear that he has a mission statement.
We soon move on to introduce the then captain, who excelled during the Great War for his keen analysis and foresight, his love of France never clouding his judgement when it came to pointing out his own and others' failings. A young man who, despite the humiliation of being taken prisoner (despite his heroic efforts that earned him the Legion of Honour), never ceased to learn and examine the enemy, making the most of every moment of his 32 months in captivity.
We follow his development after the Great War, already as a promising member of Petáin's entourage. But it was not all success. De Gaulle's life is marked by the greatness of men who know how to overcome difficulties. Perhaps the most special, and where his true character can be seen, is in the life of his daughter Anne, who suffered from Down's syndrome, and with whom de Gaulle developed an extraordinary bond and closeness. It was with her that the thoughtful general dressed as an affable and affectionate father.
This training of his character seems to me essential to understand the rest of the book, and therefore the rest of his life. Without wishing to end up making a complete summary of the volume (which, as mentioned above, covers his entire life, with special and necessary emphasis on his "political life"), I felt it necessary to reflect the singular proposal and goal of this book, which is none other than to show that more unknown side of the French general, that rebelliousness and non-conformism that led him to play a very important role in the creation of the current form of the French Republic and whose imprint, 50 years after his death, is still alive in Europe and in French politics.
Personally, I was very attracted by the style and organisation of the writing. It makes proposal enjoyable and easy to read, while at the same time a very serious and profound work , which invites constant reflection. sample the intimacy and loneliness of a man faced with the incomprehension of his contemporaries, with respect to whom he was always ahead of the curve. A man who, at final, always put the greater good, his beloved France, before his own. An expert tankman who knew how to lead his country at such different times: the Free French government in London, the parade on the Champs Elysées, the revolt in Algiers, the birth of the Fifth French Republic, May '68 and his final resignation, as a man of honour, after losing the referendum on the Senate and the regions which he called, in one of his last acts of rebellion, against all his advisors.
Finally, de Gaulle was a rebel to the death, refusing any state funeral and resting, with his beloved daughter, in a small French village. His tombstone - which simply reads: Charles de Gaulle, 1890-1970 - merely shows his final rebellion. The man died, but the myth was born.