THE EDGE OF THE SWORD by Charles de Gaulle


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First published in 1932 but revised as late as the forties, this is a series of five essays on The Conduct of War. Of Prestige, Of Doctrine, Of Politics and The Soldier. The book is being published simultaneously here by Criterion and by Faber and Faber in London and an aide de camp of General de Gaulle confirms that the book, then as now, expresses the author's philosophical convictions. Written in a tone of absolute assurance, in a manner both dramatic and eloquent, this is a brief though striking exposition of de Gaulle's concepts of the nature of war and the leader. He discusses the elements of a valid military action, the requisites of the commander, and he describes the man of character as having recourse only to himself, a readiness to launch great undertakings and a determination to see through to the end what he does attempt. He believes that men, in their hearts, can no more do without being controlled than they can live without food, drink and sleep, and that the mainsprings of command are to be found in the personal prestige of the leader. Above all else what can be looked for in the leader is the power to dominate events, leave his mark on them and to assume responsibility for the consequences of his action. In dealing with the philosophy of war and politics he indicates the strategic losses suffered by France in following a body of theory built upon abstractions, and he insists that what the French need is a taste for the concrete, a sense of proportion and an eye for realities. There can be little doubt whom General de Gaulle has in mind in defining the requisites of greatness. Recent events and his proposed visit here will focus additional attention on his book.

Pub Date: April 26th, 1960
Publisher: Criterion