Candid memoir from France’s former two-term president.
Best-known in the United States, perhaps, for his opposition to the rush to war against Iraq in 2003, Chirac offers American readers a close-up portrait of a truly old-school French politician. Born in Paris and educated in the tradition of republican leadership and service, the author rose through the ranks of French government, serving as minister of agriculture, minister of the interior, mayor of Paris, prime minister of France and, eventually, president. In addition to the accounts of his political life, many readers will be surprised to learn of Chirac's love for poetry, his early interest in Sanskrit, his fluency in Russian (he translated Pushkin's Eugene Onegin), his familiarity with Chinese history and his lifelong enthusiasm for African and pre-Columbian sculpture. As he demonstrates, these interests were formative in his approach to politics and to the “worsening divide between the poor countries that represent more than a third of humanity and the wealthy countries that do not adequately fulfill their responsibilities in terms of development aid.” Chirac describes the shock he experienced as a member of the G7, and he examines the development of France's social safety net and health system as by-products of settlements of political conflicts—e.g., the May 1968 general protest, during which he helped the negotiations. Chirac also provides ample detail about the military and technological underpinnings of national power and gives unique insight on the European Union.
Citizenship, leadership and service combine in this memoir of a full political life.