AT THE HEART OF A TIGER by Gregor Dallas


Clemenceau and His World 1841-1929
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 Idiosyncratic but vivid account of the times--and, less successfully, the life--of the great WW I French leader Georges Clemenceau (1841-1929). Dallas (The Imperfect Peasant Economy, 1982--not reviewed) believes that, of all the recent major war leaders, Clemenceau, while one of the most unusual, remains the least known to English- language readers. Regarded as an extreme leftist, Clemenceau was 65 before he first gained national office (as minister of the interior), though he'd been in the French Parliament for more than 30 years, where he was famed as a destroyer of ministries--and of men--rather than as a creative figure. During these years, he fought his share of the duels that were then still a feature of French political life. (On one celebrated occasion, one of his opponents told Parliament that there were ``three things about him that you dread: his sword, his pistol, his tongue.'') As a journalist, Clemenceau's output was prodigious and often remarkably prescient: His views on colonialism, race, and unions were far ahead of his times. His first tenure as PM lasted three years, one of the longest tenures in the Third Republic. But his fame rests on his period in office during the last year of the war, as the French, seemingly having exhausted all other alternatives, were forced to rely on his genius. Given his high profile, it's curious how little sense we have of what sort of man Clemenceau was. Dallas calls him ``the most distant, the most elusive, the most secret of men,'' and regrettably does little to penetrate the secret--making almost no reference, for instance, to Clemenceau's private affairs, which were as elusive as the rest of his life: He married an American woman and seems to have spent very little time with her, though it was some years before they divorced. Clemenceau remains an enigma here but his era comes alive through Dallas's high-flown but lively approach. (Twenty-four pages of b&w illustrations)

Pub Date: Oct. 15th, 1993
ISBN: 0-7867-0000-9
Page count: 640pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 1993


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