Is Nicolas Sarkozy preparing his comeback? According to a recent poll, 53 percent of conservative voters want him to run again in 2017.
Marie-Celie Guillaume belongs to the 47 percent who don’t wish to see him back in the Elysee Palace.
Her book “Le Monarque, Son Fils, Son Fief” (The Monarch, His Son, His Fiefdom) is a vicious attack on the man who “elevated violence in human relations to the guiding principle at the head of the State.”
Madame Guillaume should know: She was right hand to Patrick Devedjian, a former ally of Sarkozy whom he succeeded as president of the General Council of Hauts-de-Seine, France’s second wealthiest department (after Paris).
To avoid legal troubles, she presents her pamphlet under the guise of a roman-a-clef. Sarkozy appears as Rocky or The Monarch, his son Jean as The Dauphin and Devedjian as The Armenian.
The courtiers at the Elysee Palace are caricatured under unflattering pseudonyms -- such as Tigelin (after Nero’s henchman Tigellinus) for the Elysee’s Secretary General Claude Gueant. Sarkozy’s speech writer Henri Guaino is Maitre Jourdain, after the ridiculous social climber in Moliere’s comedy “Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme.”
You have to be familiar with French literature and politics to get all the jokes. It seems that plenty of people are up to the challenge: The book is number 15 on the bestseller list.
Sarkozy supporters have accused Devedjian as the mastermind behind the book. Devedjian has denied this and fired Guillaume two weeks after publication.
It’s true, however, that the two buddies became estranged in 2007 when the freshly-elected president reneged on his promise to appoint Devedjian minister of justice. This is where the book opens.
Their biggest clash came in 2009 when Sarkozy tried to have his 23-year-old son Jean, then an undergraduate law student, elected head of EPAD, the development agency for La Defense, Europe’s largest business district -- called “Little Manhattan” in the book.
Supported by an outraged press, Devedjian opposed this blatant act of nepotism, and Jean had to withdraw his candidature.
Sarkozy retaliated by mobilizing his friends in the “Principality” Hauts-de-Seine against the president of the General Council -- to no avail: In 2011, Devedjian was duly re- elected.
The funniest scene in the book could have come straight from JFK’s White House.
Between his daily exercise and delivering a speech, Sarkozy receives a female official seeking a government subsidy for a local museum.
“Look in what state I am,” he implores her. “Be nice. You can see that I have to relax.”
His prayer is answered: “It lasts only a few moments. The Monarch is in a hurry, and Madame de P. is sympathetic.”
It’s widely believed that Sarkozy lost the last elections because of his egomaniacal, abrasive style, not his politics. Madame Guillaume adds a few more charges to his litany of sins - - brutality, blackmail and threats.
At the end of the book, “La Baronne” (Guillaume) and a Chinese friend debate whether Sarkozy’s reign might have brought something good.
“Rocky has awakened the regicidal instincts of the French. Perhaps, thanks to his excesses, we are going to say goodbye to absolute power and to understand that we need just a president, not a monarch,” she says.
Sarkozy’s successor Francois Hollande said during the election campaign that he would be “a normal president.” Whether voters like that or not remains to be seen.
“Le Monarque, Son Fils, Son Fief” is published by Les Editions du Moment (239 pages, 18.50 euros).
(Jorg von Uthmann writes for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own.)
Muse highlights include Zinta Lundborg’s New York weekend and Lewis Lapham on history.
To contact the writer of this review: Jorg von Uthmann in Paris at email@example.com.
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Manuela Hoelterhoff at firstname.lastname@example.org.