To take a break from some much less fun stuff, I thought I'd translate a few more pages from The Secret History of the Fifth Republic. This section is about sex. The drugs and rock and roll are on their way.
At the end of this excerpt, the French employs the conditional, a very useful form which I wish we could use the same way in English, to say something while implying that it is not certain (or that you don't want to be sued for saying it).
First, the justification for doing something as un-French as nosing into a politician's sex life:
To plunge into the morals of our great men also shows that the more illustrious they become, the more time they have to consecrate to women. That imbued with their power, they are often ready for anything in order to conquer, and that, usually, their conquests cost the taxpayer dear. And let's not forget that as soon as sexual affairs can be used to demolish an adversary politically, it's hard to ignore them. So, for all these reasons, it seems legitimate to be interested in the sidesteps of certain politicans.
So let us return to Jacques Chirac. In his book [La Tragédie du président, pub. Flammarion, 2006], Franz-Olivier Giesbert evokes a strange character, Jean-Claude Laumond, nicknamed the "pleasure chauffeur", who was the necessary accomplice of all the "chief's" adventures from 1972 to 1997. "Every evening around 8 o'clock, he waited for him in his CX in the courtyard of the Hôtel de Ville, to take him God knows where....They were an odd pair....With their conspiratorial air, one saw when they left on their night round that they were going to give themselves a good time." Unfortunately, during the night of the fatal accident of Lady Diana Spencer, August 31 1997, the Interior Minister Jean-Pierre Chevènement could not manage to reach the president. Revenge of Bernadette [Chirac], who "blamed" Jean-Claude Laumond and obtained his head. He found himself reclassified as inspector of Paris cemeteries. But people are not wary enough of chauffeurs. Especially when they write.
Under the title of Vingt-cinq ans avec lui [Twenty-Five Years With Him], Jean-Claude Laumond makes an inventory of the conquests of the great Jacques: "Chirac had had, ad nauseam, the party militants, the organization secretaries, every woman he had spent five busy minutes with on the sixth floor of 123 rue de Lille, coming back downstairs with a bright eye and his socks in a corkscrew....A witticism ran through the ranks of the feminine personnel of the rue de Lille: "Chirac? Three minutes, including shower!" ...He knew actresses, Italian or otherwise, journalists, some of whom had interesting careers afterwards, for the man is grateful to his lovers [l'homme a la reconnaissance du ventre]. In short, women of whom it is flattering to be considered the lover, since they are the envy of ordinary people. The woman who, for Jean-Claude Laumond, remains the great liaison of Jacques Chirac is Marie-France Garaud. "He had the definitive Muse, the one who propels you to glory, the one for whom you transcend yourself. A relationship that was maternal and amorous at the same time."
Several times, the Chiracs almost separated. "Often, very often, he came home extremely late, smelling of perfumes that weren't hers. If he wasn't packing a suitcase for the weekend, on various pretexts. Or when he wasn't taking advantage of a European summit conference to spend the evening with Silvio Berlusconi in gallant company," writes Franz-Olivier Giesbert. Jean-Claude Laumond, the man who guided the president in all his escapades, evokes the rages of Bernadette when Jacques went too far. "But who doesn't remember that Paris councillor [conseillère], mother of a large family, fine-featured and well-bred? 'You take me for a conne!' spat out Bernadette to an embarrassed Jacques Chirac in front of me....I understood that day that things had gone very far-- right up to the edge of divorce."
All that could become a lot less funny. For the capacity of revenge in the entourage of a president is proportional to the success of the man who exercises the supreme rule. Jean-Claude Laumont describes Bernadette Chirac's payback measures: "She intervened only three times, to my knowledge, in the extramarital affairs of her hero. Twice at least, she 'killed.'" That was the case with a minister [une ministre] who was mad about Jacques Chirac. "This young 'cub' with a delicate profile...had a blind, threatening passion for the Great One. Someone was given the assignment of telling the husband, furnishing him with proof, backing up the dossier of his divorce procedure so that he would get a separation for 'fault' and keep the children." But it could be worse if the conqueror himself, sure of his assault, was defeated and didn't forgive it. "The boss had picked out a secretary who thought it was intelligent to stay faithful to her husband," Laumond recounts. She was harassed, treated as "dingue" [crazy], according to the house gossip, and pushed into resigning.
One could always object that these inelegant procedures are not exclusive to politicians. Where they show their real power, what puts them definitively above the common lot, is when they have children outside marriage and make the taxpayer pay the expense of raising them. In the case of Jacques Chirac, Franz-Olivier Giesbert evokes the famous investigation that the Direction générale de la sécurité extérieure (DGSE) [General Office of External Security] launched into a bank account the president kept in Japan. "The secret service came to all sorts of conclusions." One of them is that Jacques Chirac had an illegitimate Japanese child. "A girl. A young woman, to be precise: she would be about twenty. Her mother is said to be close to the royal family. In the same way, the head of state is supposed to have a Moroccan son a few years old. His mother, too, is said to be close to the royal family; rich people have all the luck [on ne prête qu'aux riches]...." Some go farther [I accidentally typed "father"]: the notorious Japanese bank account of the president, which is supposed to have 46 million euros in it and whose existence Le Canard Enchaîné has argued, ferociously denied by the Elysée Palace [the president's office], is said to have the purpose of assuring the future of this morganatic descendant....
Because of the Canard, Chirac can't digest Japanese food. [Headline: The Japanese bank account of Chirac] "Well, Jacques, more sushi?"
* Cartoon courtesy of Placide