De Gaulle: The Rebel, 1890-1944

In This Review

De Gaulle: The Rebel, 1890-1944

By Jean Lacouture
Norton, 1990
600 pp. $29.95

The first of a two-volume biography of this titanic figure. Lacouture, France's best-known political biographer, emphasizes De Gaulle's struggle with and against the French establishment before 1940, the dazzling experience of having this formidable ego and intellect see his heterodox views on warfare disregarded and then tragically vindicated. A fascinating account, based largely on existing sources and De Gaulle's own copious writings. A balanced study of character, with the darker sides not slighted, and of the historical context. After France's defeat, the self-appointed incarnation of his country-initially without support-De Gaulle gradually established himself as the leader of a Free France, despite the hostility of Roosevelt and the occasional tempestuous enmity of Churchill. De Gaulle's weakness vis-à-vis these men of power reinforced his assertiveness and arrogance, tempered as these were by his tactical flexibility. A book of depth and penetration, imperfectly translated, that empathetically reconstructs one of the century's great careers.

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