Emmanuel Macron and (French) history

How fortunate archaeologists and historians of antiquity are! For them, a broken stele or shard of glass is spur enough for their labor of historical reconstruction. Embarking on a text titled “Emmanuel Macron and history”, and at the risk of sounding like Buridan’s ass, how can one not envy them? A little over a year after becoming head of state, less than two years after starting his presidential run1, the material on “France’s youngest president since Louis Napoleon Bonaparte, the future Napoleon III” is indeed voluminous. Speaking long after his defeat in 1981, Valéry Giscard d’Estaing admitted that for months if not years afterwards he had been unable to open a newspaper, so keenly did it hurt not to see his name splashed across the columns. That was over thirty-five years ago; there is no need to point out how this phenomenon has been amplified in the era of blogs, tweets, and the web.

This proliferation of sources, something I shall return to, is not the sole problem. I cast my vote in the 2017 presidential elections – the seventh in which I have voted, and while my recollection of the 1965 elections is a bit hazy, all subsequent ones are far clearer in my mind – and I feel compelled to examine the actions of the person whom my second-round vote helped elect. How in this context am I to treat my topic objectively? How may I be sure of apprehending Macron the gifted student of 2000 as he was apprehended at that time, while interpreting Macron the president of 2017-2018 with no more prejudice than if interpreting de Gaulle the president of 1958-69?

One source initially seemed indispensable. All Macron’s speeches since his inauguration on May 14, 2017 are readily available on the presidency website. I was thus able to assemble a corpus of thirty or so texts, from the new president’s first official words to his address when Simone and Antoine Veil’s ashes were transferred to the Panthéon on July 1, 2018. The range of subjects is noteworthy, as if virtually every speech provided Macron with an opportunity to distil his vision of history. They include directly historical topics, such as Oradour-sur-Glane, the Vel d’Hiv Roundup, the First World War, and the figures of Clemenceau and Maréchal de Lattre when visiting the Vendée. Other topics pertain more to the occasion attended, be they political (the seventh congress of the French Association of Mayors (the AMF), the annual dinner of the Representative Council of Jewish Institutions of France (the CRIJ) and of its counterpart the French Council of Muslim Worship (the CFCM), speeches to the two houses of parliament in joint sitting at Versailles in July 2017 and 2018); diplomatic (official visits, regular bilateral meetings with heads of European governments, the UN General Assembly, the EU Ambassadors Conference); or cultural (the opening of the Frankfurt book fair, and on two occasions speeches about Francophonie and the French language, topics Macron holds dear). To this already long list could be added his speeches on such fundamental subjects as the catholic religion and secularity (the so-called “Bernardins speech”), and the future of the EU construction process (at the Charlemagne prize-giving ceremony in Aachen).

Lastly, there are Macron’s speeches honoring specific living individuals, those appointed – by a power vested solely in the French president – to one of the two existing top-level ranks (or “dignities”, Grand-Officier and Grand-Croix) in the two remaining orders of merit, namely the Legion of Honor and the National Order of Merit2. Or else honoring the deceased, for Macron is prodigious in his funeral eulogies. It seems that a policy to nationalize “great men” (and “great women”) is being ushered in before our eyes, as instanced by the military honors paid to Simone Veil in the Court of Honor at the Invalides a few days after her death in July 2017, to Jean d’Ormesson in December of the same year, and then to Claude Lanzmann in July 2018. Though all three were public figures, their careers made them unlikely candidates for this type of ceremony in this type of place. Then on December 5, 2017 – in a rerun of October 11, 1963, when within the space of a few hours Édith Piaf and Jean Cocteau both passed away – France lost its most famous singer, Johnny Hallyday, followed by the most telegenic member of the Académie française, Jean d’Ormesson. General de Gaulle gave no eulogy for either Piaf or Cocteau, the latter having been acquainted with the corridors of Vichy and Nazi power under the Occupation. Macron, however, did not pass up the opportunity to appear alongside the rock star’s white coffin in front of the Église de la Madeleine – after having celebrated, the day before, at the Invalides, the writer who had instructed not to place his (many) decorations and Academician’s sword on the flag draping his coffin, just a black pen.

Hommage d'Emmanuel Macron à Jean d'Ormesson, le 8 décembre 2017.

Emmanuel Macron honouring Jean d'Ormesson in a national tribute at the Invalides on December 8, 2017.

Macron being a president who speaks not just frequently but at length, I had dozens and dozens of pages at my disposal. It could have been tempting to analyze them for structure and variations, drawing for instance on the quantitative discourse analysis techniques pioneered by Antoine Prost in the late 1960s in his studies of veteran discourse. This might have unearthed constants in form and content, sketching out a personal pantheon and comparisons to his two immediate predecessors, Nicolas Sarkozy and François Hollande – both presidents at a time when distance, restraint, aloofness, and scarcity had fallen from grace, just those qualities which, from Charles de Gaulle through François Mitterrand to Jacques Chirac, had endowed the presidential word with power, on occasions performative power.

But this article does not, for the most part, draw on this material, whose status must be questioned. The modern president’s office contains a unit in charge of the business of producing speeches, headed by a graduate of the École Normale Supérieure (currently Sylvain Fort, Paul Bernard under François Hollande, and Camille Pascal under Nicolas Sarkozy), or sometimes a writer (Éric Arnoult, known as Érik Orsenna, under François Mitterrand) or literature teacher (Christine Albanel under Jacques Chirac). After several years slaving away ghostwriting the president’s speeches, they all went on to become members of the Council of State3, before moving into a senior administrative career, or sometimes an incursion into politics.

While the president’s office is careful to point out at the head of each speech transcript on its website: “seul le prononcé fait foi” (that is to say, “speaker’s notes, may differ from delivered version”), one may legitimately wonder who is actually speaking when the president gives a speech. Reading the thirty or so above-mentioned speeches in succession – a largely artificial exercise in that each focuses on a single target – generates a feeling of lassitude. Each finely turned phrase follows on from the previous finely turned phrase, and despite the carefully calibrated additions of “I wished” or “I firmly believe that”, the reader cannot detect any personal intervention by the person delivering the speech. An almost caricatural illustration of this was provided by the national tribute to Claude Lanzmann, held on Thursday, July 12, 2018 in the Court of Honor at the Invalides. In both form and content, the speech delivered had the exact same pedigree as those honoring the other great figures Macron had celebrated there since June 2017. Only the speech was not delivered by the president, who was attending a NATO summit in Brussels, but by his prime minister, Édouard Philippe.

Clearly there is nothing new about this. With the exception of General de Gaulle, who wrote and committed all his speeches to memory, French heads of state have tended to work closely on only a very few speeches, deemed important due to their topic or target public, and for which they issue instructions to their inner circle. This preparatory phase may even be staged, as was the case with Macron’s closing address to the Mutualité annual conference on June 13, 2018 in Montpellier. In a filmed scene put online by the Élysée, and widely relayed in mainly critical terms on social media, the president is seen declaring to his colleagues tasked with preparing the speech that “we plough crazy amounts of money (pognon) into subsistence benefits”. According to the writer Jean Rouaud, the word pognon is “old and no longer used at all, but no doubt deliberate since everything is carefully weighed on the propaganda gauge”4.

The preparation and delivery of a speech by the president has become a standard feature of any TV documentary about exercising presidential power, as strikingly illustrated by Un temps de president, a documentary by Yves Jeuland about François Hollande’s presidency, broadcast by France Télévision on September 20, 2015. It shows the remarkable improvisation ahead of the ceremony to bestow the Grand Croix of the Legion of Honor on Jean d’Ormesson5in late November 2014. With just ten minutes to go, Hollande’s speech was still not ready because the secretaries were unable to read his scrawling handwriting.

Run-of-the-mill material is generated by a repetitive process involving sector-specific and communication advisors. Yet it undergoes only marginal alterations, confirming the largely rhetorical nature of the exercise. Hence while contemporary politicians speak more, though less well, than their counterparts in earlier republics, the uniform tone of voice dictated by the uniform source only serves to highlight their recourse to commonplaces. Thus any mention of First World War is followed by an allusion to the Franco-German friendship enabling the European continent to live in peace through so many decades6. Just as stereotyped is the link made over the past thirty or so years between reminders of the sacrifices and murders associated with the Second World War and the re-emergence in France of speech and acts with racist or anti-Semitic connotations.

As always when French presidential elections are held, publishing houses tried to ride the political wave in 2017, though their prophecies turned out to be no more astute than those of the political class as a whole – one may legitimately wonder whether the books by Benoît Hamon7 or those by or about François Fillon were commercial blockbusters. Conversely, the output about Macron reflects the surprise or “break in”8 effect he has attributed to himself. Before early 2017 there were few books about him, but the number started increasing in the spring of the election year. They were not solely the work of specialized journalists commissioned for the occasion9. Historian François Dosse’s Le Philosophe et le président, Ricœur et Macron was published by Stock in October 2017, shortly followed by Macron, un président philosophe, written by Brice Couturier, a political commentator on France-Culture radio, for the Éditions de l’Observatoire, a subsidiary of the Presses Universitaires de France.

A banner across the cover reads: “None of his words are fortuitous”. In other words, Macron – schooled in the thought of Hegel as rectified by Ricœur and “intimately convinced that he knows how to decipher the historical meaning of events”10– is a man whose political deeds and pronouncements are endowed with a power surpassing that of his rivals.

One should not just smile at the naïvely hagiographic nature of such analyses, especially Couturier’s. Macron is presented as a modern-day Blum, a new Herriot, a Painlevé11for our times, all overly hasty analogies. Other writers are more cool-headed, such as Michel Crépu, editor-in-chief of the Nouvelle Revue française. In his introduction to an issue prominently featuring an interview in which Macron discusses history, Crépu writes of a “post-post-modern Bonaparte” whose speeches “sound like a business school Habermas, so in fashion nowadays”12.

In what is perhaps a sign that France has not yet fully entered political post-modernity, it is still deemed good form there for a politician to have published one or several books “of substance” with well-established publishing houses. Until very recently, the written word retained such prestige in France that one had to have written book, often a work of history, to become a fully-fledged political heavyweight. One may detect a particular bent for historical biography, offering a somewhat facile reflection between biographer and subject, with Jack Lang publishing a book on François I, Nicolas Sarkozy on Georges Mandel, François Bayrou on Henri IV, and so on and so forth. Nor should one forget the considerable success of the platitudinous scrivenings in political history published in the 1970s by Alain Peyrefitte, a minister under General de Gaulle, Georges Pompidou, and Valéry Giscard d’Estaing – especially Le Mal français, in late 1976, one year before Macron was born.

The book by François Dosse did much to accredit the figure of the “president philosopher”. Dosse, who lectured at Sciences-Po in the mid-1990s, spotted the rare talents of Macron, a student there, and introduced him to Paul Ricœur, who was looking for someone to help with the bibliography and methodology for his major book La Mémoire, l’histoire, l’oubli published in 200013Dosse’s testimony is particularly significant given those who, flying against the facts, downplay or deny Macron’s intellectual contribution to this work14.

Still, François Dosse’s book did not construct this figure, but merely endorsed it. It was in fact progressively and systematically built up over the course of the election campaign. Four stages may be mentioned. First, an interview in July 2015 with Éric Fottorino, editor-in-chief of the weekly publication Le 1. The young minister, a recent addition to the government (in August 2014), was already setting out his thoughts on presidential power:

The Terror created an emotional, imaginary and collective vacuum: the king is no longer there! An attempt was then made to fill the gap, to insert other figures, typified particularly by the Napoleonic and Gaullist periods. The rest of the time, French democracy has not filled that void. We may clearly see this with the continual questions surrounding the figure of the president, which have recurred since the departure of General de Gaulle. After him, the normalization of the presidential figure re-established an empty chair at the heart of political life. However, what is expected of the president is that he assume this role. Everything has been built on this misunderstanding15.

On reading these few sentences, one cannot but be struck by their overt exaggeration, though this was perhaps deliberate. Macron came of political age early in Chirac’s first term in office, and may no doubt pass this judgement on the presidents he had seen at work since 1995. Yet “the empty seat”, an ideal-type illustration of which is Valéry Giscard d’Estaing’s final TV appearance as French president, is an intellectual conceit, not grounds for historical analysis.

The conclusion the reader is led to draw from these few sentences – three men were able to fill this vacuum, Napoleon Bonaparte, Charles de Gaulle, and now Emmanuel Macron – pretends that Georges Pompidou, Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, and particularly François Mitterrand never fully exerted their role as presidents of the Republic. Still more troubling is that the obliteration of 150 years of history, from Waterloo to May 13, 1958. Even for a politician, who in seeking to get his message across to the widest public is necessarily prone to simplification, writing off all the regimes France experienced in the nineteenth century plus the entirety of the Third and Fourth Republics is clearly unreasonable. Was there really no one able to fill this power vacuum throughout these regimes? Neither Napoleon III nor Gambetta, neither Blum nor Mendès France – not even Pétain? A historian can only look on in puzzlement.

The second stage occurred on May 8, 2016 in Orléans. Macron, the guest of honor at the 587th Johannique Celebrations, was speaking solely of himself in invoking Joan of Arc, whose “crazy dream was adopted as self-evident”. The entire political class had no difficulty deciphering this speech, which was in fact far from cryptic. For example, Gaspard Gantzer noted that: 

Even though listening to Emmanuel shouting himself hoarse in remembrance of Joan of Arc almost made me want to laugh, I realized how implacable his machinery was. This rival, who nobody yet viewed as strong, was almost too strong. I swung between anger at him for playing his personal cards regardless of others, and admiration for my former classmate who was becoming a politician in his own right16.

As is well-known, the use of Joan of Arc for political purposes has been a classic device over the past two centuries of French history. The definitive work on the topic by Gerd Krumeich, published in German in 1989 and in French in 199317, notes that “her remembrance lies at the heart of shifting political issues: before being the far right’s figurehead, she was in turn the daughter of the people in arms, the restorer of the monarchy, and a patriot betrayed by king and church”18. Three elements in Macron’s speech are noteworthy, shedding light on the origins and ambiguities of his relationship to history. First, the importance of imagery from school textbooks, which as we shall see recurs frequently in the historical references in his speeches when running for the presidency:

I have often imagined, no doubt like you, the scenes set out in my history book. Joan in front of the King, in front of the great captains, amid her army, Joan hurt, Joan wounded, but abandoning nothing, providing an irreplaceable example of what the youth of the world can do when drawing on the right willpower. First they burnt her, then they canonized her.

While a historian might tend to point out the equivocal nature of this historical shortcut – over five centuries passed between her burning at the stake and her canonization – the politician does not stoop to details, borne along by the desire to place himself within a “thousand-year history”, another frequently recurring trope in the vision he seeks to present of the nation’s past:

The past always burns our present, and our period is pregnant with what has been. […] And in our past there are vibrant traces of what should light our way, help us to find the thread of this thousand-year history which keeps our people standing erect. Joan of Arc belongs to this history, our history. […] For Joan of Arc, like our other great figures, our national anthem, our flag, are our legacy, the history we have in common, what makes us and binds us together. The great figures of history do not speak to us. They have never sought to send us a message. We alone are the ones who make them speak. We alone build their legend and draw on them to help us understand. Nor are there any providential men and women, to my mind. There is only the energy of the people and the courage of those who plunge into action.

The third element is the most troubling. It relates to a certain idea of the French Republic:

And ultimately, what makes this May 8 in Orléans so singular? Why is it that each year here we celebrate this young woman burnt at the stake in 1431, in a procession attended by the authorities and nearly 60,000 people each year? It is because faithful to our history, faithful to this history, the triptych of Joan of Arc – the desire for justice, energy of the people, and determination to come together – is what seals our republic. This thread connecting us to Joan, via Michelet, Jaurès, Gambetta, and Péguy is the republican spirit. For our republic does not start with the Republic, it started far earlier. It is rooted in this thousand-year history with which we need to reconnect, from the coronation in Reims to the Fête de la Fédération, as Marc Bloch observed. Joan of Arc is far more than herself or her period. She has helped forge this French identity. This identity is a language, a territory, and a nation, and also the fruit of our past, for it is composed of it.

It is one thing to quote one of the most famous lines from L’Étrange défaite (would it be unseemly to note it is known to any properly prepared candidate sitting the ENA entrance exams?) and emphasize the continuity running through French history. The circumstances in which Marc Bloch wrote the book should not be forgotten, producing his interpretation of broad historical sweep at a moment of national disaster, at a time when the wounded motherland was turning in on itself, a phenomenon which went on, mutatis mutandis, to become one of the discursive commonplaces of the Vichy regime. But how can one reasonably write, as Macron does, that the “republic does not start with the Republic, it started far earlier and is rooted in this thousand-year history with which we need to reconnect”? Within the overall architecture of Pierre Nora’s Lieux de Mémoire, which likewise seeks to explore the elusive “French identity” Macron repeatedly evoked when running for president, Nora was careful to lay his foundations with La République in 1984, followed by the 3 volumes of La Nation in 1987, and then the 3 further volumes of Les France

Jean Dillens, La capture de Jeanne d’Arc, vers 1850

Jean Dillens, Joan of Arc, nearly 1850.

If I have examined the Orléans speech at some length, it is because it introduces three key elements of Macron’s conception of history – the national story, the thousand-year history, and the indistinction of the Republic. These recur in more developed form in two other vectors I shall now rapidly examine, namely Macron’s book Révolution setting out his policy program, published by Éditions XO in autumn 2016, and his observations about history and history teaching on March 9, 2017 when interviewed by Emmanuel Laurentin during a radio program on France Culture, La Fabrique de l’histoire.

Revolution enjoys a particular status in the category of political manifesto books, works with a short shelf life and conventional style – for not only is its author now president, it was unlikely he become so when it was published. So in addition to setting out his ambitions for his country and describing how he will carry them out, the candidate, who was still unknown to the electorate, also presents himself in his own words – something neither General de Gaulle needed to do in 1965 nor François Mitterrand in 1981.

This is the purpose of the first chapter, “Who I am”, an enchanted account of his provincial childhood at the side of his adored grandmother who used to get him to read aloud Molière and Racine, Georges Duhamel, Mauriac and Giono19. It goes over his passion from adolescence onwards for the woman who became Brigitte Macron, and of the stages in his academic, professional, and political career. This is followed by a chapter called “What I believe”, and then “Who we are”, in which Macron sketches out what, to his mind, characterizes France and the French. In defining his “perpetual France” he does not shy away from emphasis:

I never tire of contemplating the unwavering and yet elusive soul of France, where time has turned into space. It is a heritage that precedes our conscious memory, and the taste of a future that will remain true to the hopes of the past. A country made up of words, and of land, rock, and sea. That is France.

But France is more than this20.

This is followed by chapters setting out his policies for education, EU construction, changes in the workplace, business, the digital world, and so on, before an afterword that opens with the sentence: “Each of us is the product of our own history”, where in the French version the final word is correctly written with a lowercase letter, whereas each of the previous thirty-three occurrences have, curiously, been written with a capital H.

These occurrences may be sorted into three main categories and classified along an axis running from the most general to the most specific. The first, mentioned here purely as a reminder, is composed of platitudes, commonplaces, and question-begging statements, the kind of catch-all formulations that may be found in the toolkit of candidates for any election, and which are essential equipment for those running for president. For what it is worth, here is a sample21:

Our country has the strength, the resilience, and the desire to progress. Its history and its people make this possible. (p. 9).

 

France does not reinvent itself every day from scratch. Its deeply caring nature is an inheritance from our long history that provides the substance for our reactions to new challenges. (p. 110)

 

Our history and our culture, everything that previous generations have to offer us, form our common foundation. (p. 115).

 

Times are hard, and contemporary history has many sad stories to tell. (p. 119).

 

It will be our undoing if we take a path that is not our own in such difficult times. We must defend what is unique about France, its virtues, and its message through the ages. (p. 121).

No doubt the first sentence of the final quotation deliberately tips its hat at the tautologies General de Gaulle was so fond of, while the second, that it seems difficult to object to, chimes with the following part of the Orléans speech where the future presidential candidate set out his definition of France:

It is an open project that has always known how to embrace others and welcome the weakest, of whom Joan of Arc was one. At heart it is a crazy project, forged on a culture, seeking the universal, both demanding and generous. That is what our identity is, that and nothing else. That is what our hope is ultimately. It is in no way obvious, but it is us.

Let us leave behind such simplifications, both historically and critically facile, to analyze a second aspect of Macron’s use of history for political ends in Revolution. As if preparing the script to the work that Brice Couturier wrote a few months later, Macron lays out his argument in three phases, punctuated by his career and personality. Previously, at a tender age, he had had the extraordinary luck to be associated with an intellectual highflyer: “At Ricœur’s side, I studied the previous century and learned to conceive of history”22. Unlike his rivals, he is thus able to take historical depth into account in forging his political thought: “history is always instructive. I often think of what the Republic of Venice must have experienced in 1453 when Constantinople fell into the hands of the Turks”, he reminds us to back up his conviction that “a country cannot survive in the long term in a state of inertia and deception”23.

Macron the presidential candidate is less inspired by contemporary history. It is disconcerting to observe that the Second World War period is a blind spot in Revolution, and the only two quotations to be found speak volumes for what they pass over in silence, respectively collaboration by the elites and state anti-Semitism. Equally surprising is the page glorifying senior officials’ contribution to the Resistance – either “underground […] or commanding tank regiment units”24. The least one can say of such actions is that they were relatively rare and relatively tardy. In similar vein, how can one avoid questioning his analysis of the process via which Jews assimilated to the Republic (“Judaism has developed in France against a backdrop of respect and love for the Republic. That is a fine example of what our history and political choices have been able to achieve”25), failing even to mention the violent fractures triggered by the Dreyfus affair and the anti-Semitism of the Vichy state.

After the past (the years 1999-2000 when he worked alongside Ricœur) and the continuous present (“I often think of history”), the third phase of the demonstration is wholly contemporary. It is a moment of decision, potentially leading to a significant future. And once again history is invoked twice. First, as an integral part of the office he is running for: “The president is not only vested with powers to take action. The president also shoulders, less perceptibly, everything in the state that transcends politics: the values of our country, the continuity of its history and, discreetly, the vitality and dignity of public life”26.

A few lines later, the sentence reading “[My] decision to run for the highest office of the Republic is the fruit of deep-seated and intimate conviction, and of a sense of history”27 may be read in two ways, neither of which suggests excessive modesty on Macron’s part. Either it is because he is gifted with a sense of history that he regards his running for office as necessary for the country, or it is the sweep of history that imposes Macron on France. We are thus far removed from simultaneous different possibilities of which only one subsequently emerges – the nub of Ricœur’s conception of history.

“I want my country to hold its head high, and in order to do this, to take up the reins of our thousand-year history: that incredible mission to emancipate people and society”28. This final occurrence of the word history in Revolutionoffers a perfect entry point to the third category of analysis, relating to the content of the historic references Macron draws upon. Thousand-year history, continuity of our history, a republic starting well before the Republic – it is as if events were the poor relative to Macron’s vision of history, and concomitantly the nineteenth century, prototypically that of events. We would have to plot the course taken by Macron the pupil and then Macron the student in tandem with successive syllabus changes to discover the objective roots for this. Be that as it may, the century of the industrial revolution and the construction of socialism is largely missing in the stages Macron sketches out of France’s contribution to universal history, presented all in a jumble:

We are capable of taking up the challenge offered us by our times, by picking up the thread of a thousand-year history, which saw us separate the church from the state, create the Age of Enlightenment, discover new continents, lay claim to a universal role, create a culture without precedent, and build a strong economy29.

The nineteenth century is equally absent from Macron’s personal pantheon, directly inspired from school textbooks of yore:

We cannot build France, and we cannot perceive our role within the nation, until we find our place in history, its culture, its roots, and its illustrious figures: Clovis, Henri IV, Napoleon, Danton, Gambetta, de Gaulle, Joan of Arc, the Army of Year II, the Senegalese Tirailleurs, the members of the Resistance – all those who have left their mark on the history of our country30.

The historian, who knows what happens next, will note that Vercingetorix has gone missing, an absence that may seem paradoxical in the light of a subsequent comment Macron made on an official visit to Denmark in late summer 2018. He let slip that the French were the heirs to the “Gauls who are resistant to change”, comparing them – in an overly hasty reading of Max Weber combined with a sweeping generality of the kind abounding in the above –mentioned work by Alain Peyrefitte, Le Mal français – to the Danes, “Lutherans who have lived through the transformations of recent years”31.

In a fairly neat though not necessarily deliberate symmetry, history is put to use in two ways to support Macron’s political program, a program that without contradicting my above observations is paradoxically anchored in two political currents which came to the fore in the nineteenth century, namely political liberalism and Saint-Simonism. In support of the former, the nation’s political history, more specifically the history of the state is used to furnish lessons intended to re-establish the state in its proper place. The demonstration starts with three maxims, to which Alain Peyrefitte, Laurent Cohen-Tanugi, or Jacques Attali would have subscribed, occurring within the space of a few lines32:

Our history has made us children of the state, and not of law, as in the United States, or of maritime trade, as in England.

When the continuity of our history needed to be assured after 1789, it was to the state that the French turned. 

It was also the state that, over the course of time, recognized the place of each person in our national history.

The conclusion follows two pages later, in the form of a plan of action for the five years in presidential office: “It is a mistake to see the state, merely for dogmatic reasons, as an evil in itself. Instead, we must take a long-term, practical view of the state – its relationship to our history, and the services it does and can render”33. But equally, history is mobilized for a Saint-Simonism 2.0, which by overhauling how the means of production are organized is to rise to the new industrial challenges:

If we wish to progress, make our country succeed, and build our prosperity for the twenty-first century in keeping with our history, we must act.

We must be fired with enthusiasm to reinvigorate the industrial dream that is at the heart of our history and our identity.

After the railways, electricity, television, and the telephone, this [the deployment of fiber optics throughout France] is a national project like almost none other in our history34.

A final point on which Macron insists at length – and which several speeches since he became president show to be close to his heart – is the politics of language. Thanks to Francis I who “had the brilliant idea […] of building the realm on the basis of language35[…,] our language conveys our history. […Hence] whoever studies French and then speaks it becomes the custodian of our history and becomes French”36. Conversely, unless I am mistaken, his book says nothing of the commemoration of the events marking the nation’s past, particularly those caused by twentieth-century conflicts, nor of how successive heads of state have viewed them. The subject was no doubt deemed too delicate and divisive to be included in a book setting out his policy stall to a wide audience. Instead, he chose to broach it on La Fabrique de l’histoire, a highly regarded radio program on France Culture presented by Emmanuel Laurentin, which provided a more targeted platform addressing an informed audience.

Presidential candidate Macron took part in the broadcast on March 9, 2017. What is attention-worthy in the interview with Laurentin37– more so than Macron’s reminders of what Ricœur contributed to the philosophy of history and to his own personal philosophical education, or his considerations about the nation’s story and the teaching of history which he subsequently tasked his education minister, Jean-Michel Blanquer, with implementing – are his observations about the Algerian War. Rather than paraphrasing them, let us look at a collage of their substance:

Emmanuel Laurentin – When you went to Algiers on February 15 last, you in effect spoke about colonization, you spoke about a crime against humanity, unleashing a real storm of comments, whereas in Le Point a few months earlier, in November 2016, you referred to the civilizational and barbaric elements comprising colonization, together with the emergence of a state, of wealth, of the middle classes, and people thought: how can one put forward these two accounts in tandem? One that tends towards positive discourse about colonization, as was said back in 2004 triggering many stormy reactions, and another which tends towards what your adversaries regularly call repentance.

 

Emmanuel Macron – When I referred to the elements of modernity brought by the period of colonization, and I spoke on another occasion about invasive modernization, I did not follow the same path as those promoting the benefits of colonization in 2004-2005. Distinctions must be borne in mind.

 

I think one cannot talk of the benefits of colonization, which as is well known is an extremely classic claim put forward by those who want to go back and revisit this past. But I recognize that at the same time there were men and women who within the context of colonization played a role, displayed humanity, accomplished things.

 

On the other hand, what I have said has each time sought to highlight the complexity of experiences and memories of this period. Things which occurred at the time count as crimes against humanity. When I say this, I do not at any stage say that all those involved in colonization were criminals against humanity. It is this sort of blanket application of one notion across everything to do with colonization that is a huge mistake. But I say that acts were committed in this context which now pertain to this notion.

 

At the same time there are other memories. There is the memory of the harkisbetrayed by France. They fought for it, and returned without being able to exist there. There is the memory of the pieds-noirs who lived through this phase of colonization, and at times its more complex aspects, of personal histories, traumas, and a sense of abandonment that must be respected. […] There is a whole section of French society that has not got over General de Gaulle and who say we have been betrayed since 1962. They have constructed a form of irredentism in the republic, an irredentism for that matter that sustains the Front National. There is the memory of the conscripts, of veterans in the Algerian War. At no stage have I considered these memories as being those of criminals against humanity. I have said the French state, in conducting and committing certain acts, played a part in this history. […] You also have those French people of immigrant background and bi-nationals, of whom there are millions, from Algeria, who say no one has ever recognized their part of history and memory. Because France decided to stay in a state of repression after this period, we blocked all that out. We need to pacify this history and have a policy to recognize memories in all their complexity, including their at times irreconcilable aspects.

Macron’s historical analysis is apt here. It seems to announce a presidential initiative consisting in finally recognizing the state’s responsibility in crimes committed during the Algerian War, the equivalent of the speech by Jacques Chirac on July 17, 1995 recognizing, in the name of France, the integral role that the French administration played in implementing the Final Solution. In the subsequent course of the discussion with Laurentin, Macron emphasizes how the political choices of the successive presidents of the Fifth Republic have each in their own manner initially blocked and then paved a gradual way towards a similar recognition regarding the Algerian War:

We decided to enter a state of repression after the Algerian War. That was the choice of General de Gaulle because he grounded his political authority in that, and it was the choice of an entire generation who had to live through this period. The choice was reproduced by his successors, including François Mitterrand, who had played a role during the Algerian War, as is known. That gradually opened up. I applaud the role played by Jacques Chirac, for he was the first to reopen the issue with a great sense of responsibility. Further, he was in the process of concluding a treaty of friendship which was derailed by the parliamentary bill on the benefits of colonization. Then, irrespective of the peregrinations on this topic during the following presidential term of Nicolas Sarkozy, if you look at the 2008 speech in Constantine, he continued this work. And François Hollande took it a stage further in his 2012 Algiers speech. So what I say is therefore in full and entire continuity with that.

When I started writing this text in the spring of 2018, I imagined some solemn act to coincide with a “round number” commemorative year. Jacques Chirac had spoken out about the Vel d’hiv Roundup, and the part played by the French state apparatus in deporting the Jews, on its “fiftieth” anniversary in 1995 (delayed by three years due to François Mitterrand’s lasting refusal to recognize that France had had any responsibility at all in the Shoah38). Was not Macron going to take some equivalent step on March 19, 2022, the sixtieth anniversary of the signature of the Evian Accords? The future will tell. But a major gesture has already been made, when the president paid a visit on September 13, 2018 to Josette Audin, the widow of the young mathematician who was tortured and assassinated by the French army in June 1957 in Algiers39. On this occasion the Élysée issued a brief declaration whose terms, to my mind, justify a parallel with that delivered by Jacques Chirac thirty-three years earlier about the state’s responsibility in implementing the Shoah in France:

Maurice Audin never reappeared and the exact circumstances of his disappearance are still uncertain. The story of his escape figuring in the official transcripts and accounts is marred by too many contradictions and improbabilities to be credible. It is clearly a fiction seeking to camouflage his death. […] Whatever exactly happened, his disappearance was made possible by a system that successive governments allowed to develop, a system called “arrest and detain” at that time, which allowed law enforcement to arrest, detain, and interrogate any “suspect” in order to more effectively combat adversaries.

 

[…] By failing to prevent and punish the use of torture, successive governments imperiled the survival of men and women seized by law enforcement. Yet in the last resort they were the ones responsible for ensuring human rights were safeguarded and, foremost among these, the physical integrity of those detained under their sovereignty.

 

It is important that this history be known, that it be observed with courage and lucidity. The healing and serenity of those who were hurt depend on this, of those whose fate was upended, in both Algeria and France. Recognition will not cure their ills. No doubt something irreparable will remain in each, but recognition should be able, symbolically, to unburden those who are still buckling under the weight of this past. It is in this spirit, in any case, that this history is nowadays thought and formulated. […] Further work to present the truth should pave the way to better understanding of our past, to greater lucidity about the wounds of our history, and a renewed determination to reconcile the memories of the French and Algerian peoples40.

Portrait de Maurice Audin, rue du 19 mai 1956 (Alger), dessin d’Ernest Pignon-Ernest

Portrait de Maurice Audin, rue du 19 mai 1956 (Alger), dessin d’Ernest Pignon-Ernest.

In any case, before the end of the five-year mandate he received in spring 2017, Macron will assuredly take opportunities to celebrate the salient facts in the nation’s story, and the great men he holds dear. Without even mentioning the current sequence, taking the unprecedented form of a week-long “pilgrimage of remembrance” to mark the centenary of the end of the First World War, what will he do to commemorate the treaties of Versailles, Sèvres, and Trianon which redrew the map of Europe? It is worth pointing out that 2020 marks the 50thanniversary of the death of General de Gaulle and the 150thanniversary of the definitive establishment of a republic in France, and that the following year will see those nostalgic for the Emperor commemorate the bicentenary of his death on St Helena. One cannot doubt that this president who enjoys speaking, bestowing honors, promulgating – in short, capturing the limelight – will know how to benefit from these occasions.

French political history – no doubt nostalgic for the “old world” that Macron famously wishes to see definitively expire – continues to value the notions of left and right. A Histoire des droites brought out in the 1990s, and a Histoire des gauches in the early 2000s41,both assert the continuing existence of politicized cultural substrates, including for historical interpretation. The brief timeframe of a victorious election campaign does not suffice to overturn this reality, which we may seek to rediscover by following Bergson’s maxim: “Don’t listen to what they say, look at what they do”. Thus one may detect conscious or unconscious micro-elements – unguarded comments, instinctive reactions, personal relations – preceding and triumphing over career politics, in short all the uncontrolled clues as to who we are dealing with. What with his friendship with Philippe de Villiers and Stéphane Bern, the monarchic tendency, the at times clannish, at times curial modus operandi, and the hurtful comments42, there is no shortage of evidence that Macron has no links to the historic imaginary of the left. Nor does he lay claim to any such allegiance, provocatively going so far as to choose Le Puy du Fou, Philippe de Villiers’ fief, to publicly declare that he was not a socialist.

Brigitte Macron, Emmanuel Macron et Philippe de Villiers au Puy du Fou, le 19 août 2016

Brigitte Macron, Emmanuel Macron et Philippe de Villiers au Puy du Fou, le 19 août 2016.

No doubt nearly all French presidents let the intoxicating and nigh on monarchic splendors of the supreme magistracy go to their head. And in this respect perhaps we will soon long for the tranquil familiarity of presidents such as Vincent Auriol and René Coty. The French-style “republican monarchy”43 is a concept that emerged in political science in the mid-1970s, before expanding considerably during François Mitterrand’s fourteen years in office – including a slide towards underhand police practices. Macron took it up in hackneyed form, that 225 years after the event, the French still cannot get over having guillotined their king – a king he states he does not wish to be44, despite neglecting none of the trappings of supreme power. He thus lent the Bayeux tapestry to the British people, reopened the presidential hunts, and castigated a young man at Mont-Valérien whose terms of address lacked respect for his function – or his person45.

Matters are clearly only made worse by his sycophants, such as François Sureau, François Fillon’s speechwriter during the election campaign, who waxed lyrical about a president who, when reviewing the troops, “looks the soldiers straight in the eyes, as one should”. And we flirt with the outer limits of the grotesque when we learn in a book about Macron’s ENA year-group that one of his fellow students, so impressed by the personality of the future great man, took advantage of a well-lubricated evening to surreptitiously snip off a lock of his hair, now treasured like a relic46. When will the laying of hands on the scrofulous be resumed?

Setting such childishness to one side, historians, a profession largely immune to the rhetoric of the radically new, will point to the seeds of continuity between Macron and his predecessors. However much he might actively invite the comparison, the comparison with the founder of the Fifth Republic is not instructive. Despite the shadow the figure of General de Gaulle has cast over all the presidents of the Fifth Republic, including at times as an imaginary sparring partner, the model he provides is so specific and so uniformly esteemed that any such comparison is necessarily flawed.

Nor shall we compare Macron to his two immediate predecessors, because, conversely, they resemble him too much, both being prototypical hyper-presidents, something that the unfortunate introduction of five-year terms seems to have established as the standard mode of presidential functioning. It is also difficult to refer to Jacques Chirac, who seems to be his almost perfect antithesis: a professional politician and all-round election champion from the most local level up to the presidency, firm on some principles yet happy to turn a blind eye on many others, a lot more cultivated than he wished to show, and far from self-centered47.

But it does seem useful, to my mind, to link Macron’s idea of history to known features in the historical landscape, and mention three major figures in twentieth-century French political history, who led the country for just over a quarter of a century, namely Georges Pompidou (president from 1969 to 1974), Valéry Giscard d’Estaing (1974-1981), and François Mitterrand (1981-1995).

The resemblance to Mitterrand lies in his references to the French province and the bodily motherland, echoed in the “old-fashioned adolescent” aspect that Macron so carefully portrays in the pages of Revolutionabout his childhood. And in the field of literature, the two have a shared passion for Stendhal, together with references to such overlooked writers as Giono, Colette, Giraudoux, and Duhamel – only Chardonne is missing.

Most logically, Valéry Giscard d’Estaing provides a natural reference for placing Macron in perspective. Both come from the same professional background (École nationale d’administrationandInspection générale des finances), and share the same Orléanist sensibility – the trickle-down theory and the metaphor of the “lead climber” transpire as updated versions of the value placed on “capacities”, the elites of finance, industry, or knowledge to whom the liberals of the July monarchy, wary of the dangers of democracy, intended to entrust power. More anecdotally, and more revealingly too, is their shared taste for the Ancien Régime. It will be remembered that Valéry Giscard d’Estaing did not quash rumors that he might be descended, via family offshoots, from Louis XV. While there is no such thing with Macron, his recurrent and showy frequenting of amateurs of manors and castles – Philippe de Villiers and Stéphane Bern have already been mentioned – decidedly indicates nostalgia for pre-revolutionary France. It is the same veiled nostalgia that the translator and writer André Markowicz detected in the speech Macron gave in December 2017 in solemn tribute to Jean d’Ormesson:

And then I heard this sentence: “France is a complex country where gaiety, the quest for happiness, and light-hearted joy, for a time the attire of our national genius, were one day, we know not when, stricken with unworthiness”. What? “We know not when?” But we know exactly when. First, not in France but right across Europe, at the time of romanticism and the French Revolution. When, suddenly, the world burst onto the pages of books, not only into fine salons. […]

Emmanuel Macron named Jean d’Ormesson’s friends: Berl, Caillois, Hersch, Mohrt, Déon, Marceau, Rheims, Sureau, Rouart, Deniau, Fumaroli, Nourissier, Orsenna, Lambron, and Baer […]. Berl, Mohrt, Déon, Marceau, Rheims, Rouart, and Fumaroli, equate, in fact, to “a certain idea of France”, an idea which I could not frankly term left-wing. This is the lineage the president spoke of, in the Invalides, the solemnest setting in the Republic, to depict the France he wishes to build. And he does so without having to say the crucial point, understood by all those attending, for we are in the circle of Le Figaro, the ancient circle of the French right in its most traditional form, that of the “Hussards” and those nostalgic for the aristocracy.

Because it must be admitted after all, mustn’t it, that that was what Jean d’Ormesson’s “light-hearted joy” overlaid: the frankest form of reaction. […] Michel Mohrt, Marceau (Félicien, not Marcel…), Michel Déon, Paul Morand, all of them, I say – all the low life infesting the elitism of yesterday’s France – don’t conjure up for me, personally, the image of a France I could identify with. The impression I have is that the president, via the intermediary of Jean d’Ormesson, was paying tribute to that particular France by calling it “France”, and that he was referring to that France when he spoke of its “national genius” And without ever using the word “reaction” or the word “right”48.

 

But it is with the final figure of Georges Pompidou that we will close this rapid overview of Macron’s historical thought. Not the conservative and modernizing Pompidou, who built so many motorways and allowed the United Kingdom to take its seat at the European table, but the Pompidou who already wanted to “reconcile memories”. On being sharply criticized by Resistance associations in 1971 – the Second World War had only finished 25 years earlier – for having pardoned Paul Touvier (the number two in the Lyon region Milice, the pro-Nazi Vichy regime paramilitary clique), thereby enabling him to recover his assets, he responded a few months later by saying that he had hoped “the moment […] had arrived to tear down the veil, to forget the times when the French did not love one another, but tore each other apart and even killed each other”49.

 

Macron in turn declared that he was “obsessed by reconciling histories”.As noted earlier, over the course of his presidency there will no doubt be a range of political initiatives pertaining to the Algerian War, perhaps even the French colonial venture in its entirety. But will it stop at that? When campaigning to be president, Macron took his desire to reconcile history-in-the-making to quite considerable lengths, criticizing the way same-sex marriage reform had been implemented under Hollande:

One of the fundamental mistakes of his term in office was to ignore a part of the country which had good reasons to live in a state of sadness and resentment. That is what happened with same-sex marriage, when that France was humiliated. One must never humiliate, one must talk and “share” disagreements. Otherwise places like Le Puy-du-Fou will become seats of irredentism50.

On encountering sharp reactions from associations that had fought for this reform, and from Christiane Taubira51who had been the Minister of Justice at the time, Macron declared he had only wished to signal his “refusal to disparage opinions received from people whose values and beliefs contradicted same-sex marriage […and who] were calling for more explanation and above all more consideration”, declaring himself to be generally speaking in favor of “assertive yet pacified reform that is effective yet reconciling”52.

Yet is such reconciliation possible, or desirable even? Behind the age-old debate about reform53 lies the issue of how we apprehend political debate, in which historical references play a significant role. Back in 1891, at the beginning of the decade when the French republic suffered one of its severest crises, the Dreyfus affair, Clemenceau did not flinch from asserting that “the French Revolution is a block”, thus accepting the legacy of the Terror, of Robespierre as well as Danton – the same Robespierre Macron was careful to distance himself from in his interview with Laurentin54. In 1982, when Mitterrand went against the wishes of his party and electorate to push through the reconstitution of the careers of the military officers involved in the 1961 would-be coup to overthrow de Gaulle and the republic, the reason he invoked was reconciling memories. And ten years later, when he refused to officially recognize the responsibility of the French state in implementing the Holocaust, it was once again in the name of national unity.

Back in 1953, when the first major law to grant collaborators amnesty was being debated, it was in the name of “the irreducible residue, namely the dead” that Jean Cassou, one of the earliest members of the Resistance and a staunch left-winger, refused to countenance that “to assure national continuity […] we preach blind reconciliation […so as to] to drift along our merry little way with all the beatitude of a dead dog floating in the current”55. With Macron happily repeating that “the history of Europe is becoming tragic once again”, driving the point home even in disdainful and amalgamating terms: “this old continent of petits-bourgeois sheltering in their material comfort is embarking on a new adventure where the tragic will take its part”56, should we really take the reconciliation of memories to be the focal point of the French nation’s history?

Eighteen months after becoming head of state, Macron has gauged the complexity of embodying the nation. The evening he was elected he pastiched François Mitterrand’s solitary walk around the Panthéon in May 1981. But the Jupiterian president he had promised the French now lies forgotten. Despite summoning history in his support, it has become increasingly difficult to maintain any such posture, for two sets of reasons. The first set is structural, directly linked to political and constitutional changes over the past two decades. The second, of more direct concern here, follows from the kind of personage Macron is or has chosen to be.

I will thus be brief on recent evolutions to the presidential office which has been upended by two phenomena since the beginning of the twenty-first century. First, the obvious and inevitable slide towards hype and sensationalism, and second, the more pernicious effects of reducing the term of presidential office from seven to five years, under the constitutional law passed by referendum in September 2000. The regime has become noticeably presidentialized, making it unlikely that there be a period when the parliamentary majority, and hence prime minister, come from one political group and the president from another.

François Mitterrand twice experienced such a situation (1986-1988 and 1993-1995), and Jacques Chirac once (1997-2002). Not only was this of assistance to the two men, who saw their popularity increase markedly, it also provided France with something it had not known for a long time, namely a head of state perceived as above the fray and not mired in daily events.

Like Nicolas Sarkozy and François Hollande before him, Emmanuel Macron has had time to appreciate that it is difficult to be a symbol of unity – the allotted role of sovereigns in constitutional monarchies and of presidents placed outside ordinary politics, as in Germany, Italy, or Israel – and “at the same time” to run daily government business. The task becomes impossible when, once again under the effect of the media, the president is perceived as a “hyper-president”, a figure constructed by Nicolas Sarkozy, undergone by François Hollande, and avidly taken up by Emmanuel Macron57.

Personal factors make it harder for Macron to perform this balancing act. Everything about him is youthful. Not only is he young, his political career is of recent date, as extensively commented by the papers in May 2017 when, despite being virtually unknown to voters two years previously, he was elected president. Yet the capacity to embody the nation is more readily accorded to the old guard than the new, to veterans than novices. Over the course of the twentieth century, the French took warmly to Clemenceau and Poincaré, Pétain and de Gaulle – all white-haired leaders. Admittedly the Bonapartes assumed imperial power when still young, but it was in the wake of coups, and the place they hold in the nation’s historical memory is far from enviable.

The young President Macron thus finds himself in a paradoxical situation. It is vital that he age. Since he does not really have any past of his own to draw upon, he summons that of his ascendants – the celebrated grandmother foregrounded in Revolution, and the four great grandfathers involved in the First World War invoked during his “pilgrimage of remembrance” from November 5-11, 2018. He imitates, he dons personas. As already noted, the evening of his election he was François Mitterrand at the Panthéon, while his sycophants emphasize that, though young, he has had “a certain idea of France all his life”. What are we to make, for that matter, of the image of the perfect child who, when crossing Paris on his holiday travels, was always reminded of Eugène Sue; or of the child who delighted in burying his head in the books of Maurice Genevoix, when all the other children of the 1980s were, according to a mass-market book about the decade, rejoicing in the “media explosion of Japanese manga, such as Goldorak”58?

Plaque de l’« Avenue du Maréchal Pétain » (novembre 1940), à Toulouse (Musée départemental de la Résistance et de la Déportation de Haute-Garonne)

Plaque de l’« Avenue du Maréchal Pétain » (novembre 1940), à Toulouse (Musée départemental de la Résistance et de la Déportation de Haute-Garonne).

Macron has thus fashioned for himself the figure of the elderly young president – or has at least allowed it to be fashioned. These tensions explain both the fragility of his posture to embody France, and his alarming blunders. His recent rehabilitation of the figure of Pétain when visiting the battlefields of the First World War59 broke a consensus that only bothered the far right and a few backward circles in the armed forces. Such comments, which were no doubt more impulsive than considered, will necessarily splinter a national memory patiently spliced back together over twenty-plus years by the conjoint efforts of a generation of historians – including myself, working in the footsteps of pioneers such as Stanley Hoffmann, Robert Paxton, Jean-Pierre Azéma, and Pierre Laborie – and a generation of politicians, that of Jacques Chirac, who today, as if symbolically, is debilitated by age.

Vidéo du débat, "Emmanuel Macron et l'histoire" qui a eu lieu le lundi 25 janvier 2019.

Unfold notes and references
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1

Macron resigned his position as Minister of the Economy in August 2016 in order to embark on his march on the Élysée.

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2

Macron appointed figures associated with the Second World War (the Resistance member Daniel Cordier, and Nazi-hunters Serge and Beate Klarsfeld) in 2017, and the actor Michel Bouquet in 2018.

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3

This was also the case of Georges Pompidou, the renowned "ENS graduate who knew how to write" (“un normalien sachant écrire”), whom General de Gaulle requested from René Brouillet, appointing him to the Council of State in 1946.

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4

Jean Rouaud “Très cher Manu…”, Le Monde, June 26, 2018.

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5

A figure so closely associated with the presidential palace that he even played the part of François Mitterrand in the film Les saveurs du Palais about the chef at the Élysée.

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6

The argument seemed to have lost its relevance with the conflicts in ex-Yugoslavia during the 1990s, but since then has returned to the fore.

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7

In March 2017 Hamon’s policy platform Pour la génération qui vient was published by the Éditions des Équateurs, while the Éditions Robert Laffont brought out La Politique est à nous, a joint program published under his name and that of Yannick Jadot, edited by the sociologist Michel Wieviorka, in the form of a collection of chapters by forty actors from civil society, including Nicolas Hulot. 

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8

The expression (in French, par effraction) was used by Macron in an interview granted to Le Monde in February 2018: "I am the product of a brutal form of history. I broke in because France was unhappy and worried".

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9

Nicolas Prissette, Emmanuel Macron, le président inattendu (First Éditions) was brought out on May 13, 2017, less than one week after the second round of voting. The various biographies about Brigitte Macron are an offshoot of the same tree (Maelle Brun, Brigitte Macron l’affranchie, L’Archipel, January 2018; Fabienne Cassagne, Brigitte Macron, la confidente, City éditions, May 2018, etc.).

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10

Brice Couturier, Macron, un président philosophe, Paris, Éditions de l’Observatoire, 2018, p. 74.

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11

Herriot, a former writer and literature teacher, and Painlevé, a famous mathematician, both became politicians during the Third Republic.

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12

Michel Crépu, “Mai 2018. Cinquante ans plus tard”, in Nouvelle revue française, n° 630, May 2018, p. 7-8.

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13

Ricœur thanks three people in the concluding lines of the foreword: Thérèse Duflot, who typed up the manuscript, François Dosse, and Emmanuel Macron, “to whom I am indebted for a pertinent critique of the writing and the elaboration of the critical apparatus of this work”, bearing in mind that this apparatus was particularly voluminous. It is worth remembering that the future president was 22 years of age at the time.

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14

Macron analyzed Ricœur’s book in Esprit, the first of various articles he wrote for this journal over the following years: “La lumière blanche du passé. Lecture de La Mémoire, l’histoire, l’oublide Paul Ricœur”, Esprit, August-September 2000, p. 16-31.

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15

“Macron, un philosophe en politique”, in Le 1, no. 64, July 7, 2015, quoted by Gaspard Gantzer (admiring the barefaced cheek displayed by his friend and erstwhile ENA contemporary), who at the time headed the presidency's “communications unit” in La Politique est un sport de combat, Paris, Fayard, 2017, p. 158.

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16

Gaspard Gantzer, La Politique est un sport de combat, Paris, Fayard, 2017, p. 242. The text of the speech, supplemented by sarcastic comments, may be found in the article published in L’Observateur on the day following its delivery.

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17

Gerd Krumeich, Jeanne d’Arc à travers l’histoire, Paris, Albin Michel, 1993. It is interesting to note that the first French edition contained a preface by Régine Pernoud, a biographer of Joan of Arc, whereas in the more recent addition (Belin, 2017) this task befalls Pierre Nora.

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18

To use the terms on the outside back cover of the 2017 edition (Gerd Krumeich, Jeanne d’Arc à travers l’histoire, Paris, Belin).

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19

Emmanuel Macron, Revolution, Scribe, 2017, p. 13. Originally published in French, Révolution, XO Éditions, 2016.

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20

Emmanuel Macron, Revolution, Scribe, 2017, p. 35. 

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21

In the following sentences in the French edition, “Histoire” is written with a capital H.

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22

Modified translation of Emmanuel Macron, Revolution, Scribe, 2017, p. 18.

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23

Emmanuel Macron, Revolution, Scribe, 2017, p. 50.

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24

Emmanuel Macron, Revolution, Scribe, 2017, p. 152.

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25

Emmanuel Macron, Revolution, Scribe, 2017, p. 112.

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26

Emmanuel Macron, Revolution, Scribe, 2017, p. 165.

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27

Emmanuel Macron, Revolution, Scribe,2017, p. 165. 

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28

Emmanuel Macron, Revolution, Scribe,2017, p. 165.

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29

Modified version of Emmanuel Macron, Revolution, Scribe,2017, p. 50.

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30

Emmanuel Macron, Revolution, Scribe, 2017, p. 115.

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32

Emmanuel Macron, Revolution, Scribe, 2017, p. 35.

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33

Modified version of Emmanuel Macron, Revolution, Scribe, 2017, p. 37.

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34

Emmanuel Macron, Revolution, Scribe, 2017, respectively p. 10, 55, and 59.

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35

By the edict of Villers-Cotterêts, a town which went on to belatedly benefit from this historical event when the newly elected President Macron instructed the Ministry of Culture's heritage service, who had other priorities, to finance the restoration of the chateau in order to house a Francophonie center there before the end of his term in office.

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36

Emmanuel Macron, Revolution, Scribe, 2017, p. 44.

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38

On this point, the reader is referred to Marc Olivier Baruch, Des lois indignes? Les historiens, la politique et le droit, Paris, Tallandier, 2013, p. 66-75.

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39

See for example what the historian Benjamin Stora wrote in L’Express three days previously.

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41

Jean-François Sirinelli (ed.), Histoire des droites en France, Paris, Gallimard, 1993 (3 volumes);

Jean-Jacques Becker (ed.), Histoire des gauches en France, Paris, La Découverte, 2004 (2 volumes).

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42

On July 2, 2017, at the inauguration of Xavier Niel’s start-up school in the Halle Freyssinet, a former station, he defined stations as "places where you encounter people who have succeeded and people who are nothing".

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43

Maurice Duverger, La Monarchie républicaine, Paris, Robert Laffont, 1974.

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44

For example, in the interview he gave in October 2017 to the German magazine Der Spiegel“Don’t worry, I don’t see myself as a king. But whether you like it or not, France’s history is unique in Europe. Not to put too fine a point on it, France is a country of regicidal monarchists. It is a paradox: The French want to elect a king, but they would like to be able to overthrow him whenever they want”.

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45

See Jean Rouaud, “Très cher Manu”, Le Monde, June 25, 2018.

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46

Matthieu Larnaudie, Les Jeunes gens, Paris, Grasset, 2018. The anecdote is repeated in the book review in Les Échos, April 13-14, 2018.

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47

Pierre Péan, L’inconnu de l’Élysée, Paris, Fayard, 2007 (republished in paperback in 2016 in the “Pluriel” collection under the title L’autre Chirac).

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48

André Markowicz,“Mireille aux Invalides. Macron, d’Ormesson et Johnny, images de la France” (L’Autre quotidien, online).

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49

Press conference, September 21, 1972. This affair was behind one of the most famous moments of 1970s television in France, when Maurice Clavel walked out of a program called À armes égales.A reference to Georges Pompidou’s “aversions” for the Resistance was cut from the film he had made for the program without his assent, see: “Le soulèvement de la vie”, lettres à Maurice Clavel, décembre 1971, texts selected and presented by Philippe Artières, Paris, éditions de l’INA, 2017.

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51

“You will not find a single word of mine that expresses disdain, that could express rejection. I have defended, protected, and explained, yet I have repeatedly heard ‘monkey face’, ‘sod off’, ‘clear off’, ‘fuck off back home’, ‘you baboon’”, Le Lab politique d’Europe 1, February 22, 2017.

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52

Le Parisien, February 18, 2017; also consult Bruno Perreau, Qui a peur de la théorie queer?, Paris, Presses de Sciences Po, 2018, p. 243-245.

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53

“Reform avoids revolution”, President Giscard d’Estaing used to declare in the mid-1970s. A similar ideology, albeit in more pessimistic form, permeates the above-mentioned essay by Alain Peyrefitte, Le Mal français (Paris, Plon, 1976).

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54

“With Robespierre there was a form of brutality in the way that the state and res publica related to individuals, one with which I do not identify".

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55

Jean Cassou, La Mémoire courte, Paris, Éditions de Minuit, 1953, p. 80-81. The reader is referred to the republished version of this text, for which I wrote a foreword and notes, published by the Éditions Sillage (2017).

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56

“L’histoire redevient tragique. Une rencontre avec Emmanuel Macron”, in Nouvelle revue française, n°630, May 2018, p. 85-86.

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57

General de Gaulle, often presented as having invented the French "republican monarchy", was aware of this situation and farmed out the management of everyday business to his prime ministers. Many examples of this may be found in the notes by Alain Peyrefitte, C’était de Gaulle, Paris, Éditions de Fallois-Fayard, 3 vol. (1994, 1997, 2000).

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58

Laurent Chollet, L’Album de ma jeunesse 80-90, Paris, Hors collection éditeur, 2006 (outside back cover).