Alex Massie

How Sarko seduced France

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I'm rather looking forward to reading Yasmina Reza's account of her year on the campaign trail with Nicolas Sarkozy, Dawn, Evening or Night. It looks as though it could be the political book of the year. If Elaine Sciolino's article is at all accurate, Sarko comes across as a man who, above all, is alive (a welcome change after the stagnant corruption of the Chirac years. There's wit too:

Even before his victory, Sarkozy is drunk with bravado. Emerging from lunch in London with then-Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain, Sarkozy announces to his aides: "Tony and I have just made a decision. We're going to conquer Europe."

In a scene on the eve of the election, he brags about the official lodgings that will come with the job: "I'm going to get a palace in Paris, a chateau at Rambouillet and a fort at Brégançon. C'est la vie."

Quick to anger, he calls both his aides and political enemies unprintable vulgarities. Dragged to a radar site in Brittany, he rails, "I don't give a damn about the Bretons. I'm going to be surrounded by 10 morons looking at a map! One half-hour to go to the Operational Center, and yet another half-hour to go to the Alzheimer Center! Last campaign days, in a room looking at a map! Great political sense, really."

At a breakfast with French experts on Russia and Chechnya, he declares that the Foreign Ministry is useless. "It is becoming very important to get rid of the Quai d'Orsay," he says. Branding the previous French ambassador in Russia "a moron," and the ambassador in Lebanon "an infamous cretin," he adds, "I have contempt for all these guys, they are cowards."

In another scene he asks himself whether Ségolène Royal, his Socialist opponent, is helping his own chances, and replies, "It's not certain. It's not certain that being a zero is necessarily a disadvantage in France."

Madame Reza has the best - and most French - line however:

At the end of her research, Reza told Le Nouvel Observateur, she came away with "some affection" for Sarkozy, calling him a person of "real stature." Asked whether he ever tried to seduce her, she replied, "No, he wanted to seduce France."

Then, she added a line that could work well in one of her plays: "It is almost insulting to spend an entire year with a man without him trying to seduce you."

Not sure that last bit would work very well in America.

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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