Jean-Marie Rouart: journey in uchronia

The academician imagines that General de Gaulle confronts Marshal Pétain opportunely exiled in Algiers after the American landing. A fable that questions the meaning of History.

Impossible for France to turn the page of its great hours. For its good authors, History is written in imperfect fashion. From Balzac to Victor Hugo and a hundred others, the whole of the 19th century wondered if he would have voted for the death of the king, if he would have sat with the Gironde or on the benches of the Mountain, if he would have become Cadoudal or Marshal of the Empire… Today, we are stuck in 1945 – the last of our historical dates, it must be said. Jean-Marie Rouart, in turn, puts his paragraphs in the past tense. Or, rather, the past tense. He imagines that in November 1942, after the American landing in North Africa and the invasion of the so-called “free” zone, Pétain joined Algiers. Well done: two years after having delivered France to the Germans, he hands it to the Americans. The “constable of decline” suddenly passes for a genius of manipulation and the masked offensive in retreat …

In Algiers, the marshalist camarilla regains its luster. François Mitterrand, pétainiste at heart, giraudist of circumstance, allergic to de Gaulle, hangs the francisque on his back. A hundred other young wolves in the same chiaroscuro wriggle. In London, on the other hand, the curtain falls. Rouart took advantage of this. He adores sneaking into the basques of great men at a time when history escapes them. There it is served. An infernal eraser has just erased two years of free France’s efforts. The General’s aides-de-camp are devastated. Gone are the evenings at Mayfair, Yardley powder, dinner parties in tuxedos, buttonhole eyelets… And don’t count on de Gaulle to explain. His Greatness has withdrawn in front of the only interlocutors at his height: silence and solitude. Result of this council with himself: he only has one trump card, Stalin. After a tête-à-tête at Checkers with Churchill, this dear England has but one word: good riddance! But, good girl, she gives him an old rusty notice to reach Arkhangelsk and Moscow. In his suite, de Gaulle embarks the last faithful present in London that day: Kessel who was shooting bamboo in Soho, Raymond Aron who kept the Carlton Gardens diary, Elisabeth de Miribel who served as vestal, the handsome Stanislas of this of that which played with the aide-de-camp, a lady and a young actress as sexy one as the other, two or three accomplices… And it left: the chaplain makes indecent remarks to a boy , we slip under wolf furs, we travel versts and versts in a troika, we go to Tolstoy who inspires the thoughts of a midinette in the General, Kessel picole, Aron jargonne, Stanislas jumps from one bed to another, a a Kyrgyz spy, beautiful to melt the ice floes, slips into the suite…

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Rouart rereads the classics and shakes them up

It feels like a Netflix series: every moment, something is happening. Rouart is enjoying it. Finally, we arrive at the Kremlin. The little father of peoples awaited free France there from Mers El-Kébir. Suddenly, he makes her wait a bit and does not receive her until 1 am, between two westerns. Result of this summit: mystery. Rouart did not lift the veil but put the gas back on. He’s off to Samarkand, home to Tamerlan, the master of the greatest empire ever united by one man. De Gaulle, who does not let go of the “Memories from beyond the grave”, seems to be preparing a departure for the DH Lawrence, the officer of His Majesty who fell in love with the desert and his burnous. We’re approaching the land of mists, Tajikistan. Anguish is mounting. Blocks of ice slide on the Amur river. Fortunately, the beautiful Kyrgyz warmed up the members of the French team one after the other. She has genius between her lips. Nothing surprising: in Shanghai, in a singing school, he was taught the techniques of love at the same time besides Wallis Simpson.

Also read.Jean-Marie Rouart revisits the pink ballets

I repeat: Rouart gets off, rereads its classics and shakes them up. Nothing stops him. Before the last page, neither do we. But there, back to London. No more laughing.

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