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As one might expect, De Gaulle's memoirs of the Second World War are deeply concerned with self-justification, if not self-glorification. More surprisingly, they are good reading. De Gaulle writes in a formal, but clear and elegant style. The period covered is from the fall of France, through De Gaulle's flight to England and formation of the Free French, to the liberation and a bit of the postwar period. Obviously, this is not objective history. The chief interest of the book is that De Gaulle's personality and opinions colors every page. The reader may indeed be irritated, or he may be amused, by the author's undisguised self-regard, but in any case there are compensations. There is revealing detail on events such as the fall of France and the invasion of North Africa. With great candor and sharp perception De Gaulle assesses his own and others' strategies. There are good pen-portraits of Churchill and many other contemporaries. And there is the fascination of viewing great events through the prism of a commanding mind..
This book is outstanding for its literary, even poetic, power. De Gaulle thinks of France as a person fated for tragedy and greatness. His biggest problem is achieving recognition as the political representative of France after France has signed an armistice with the Germans: Churchill tells him that although he claims to represent France, neither England or the US will recognize him as such; De Gaulle steadily replies that it is sufficient for him if the French people recognize him. This is the story of a man standing against the entire world for the sake of an ideal. Reminded me of Nelson Mandela!
Charles de Gaulle is perphaps one of the most enigmatic figures of World War II. Misunderstood by both the British and Americans during post WWII period, he ended up greatly disliked in both countries. De Gaulle's memoirs, however, are an important source to more throughly understand the second world war. He tells the story of a France in a virtual state of civil war after the collaspe of France and the establishment of the Petain regime at Vichy. This civil war was fought in the outer reaches of the French Empire- Dakar, Lebanon, Syria, Chad, Indochina, etc. It tells a depressing story of how most of the French remained loyal to Vichy. De Gaulle recounts how in 1940 he made a speech before 2,000 French soliders stranded in England. H He pleaded with them to join his Free French army. He was only able to convince 200 to join. He recounts how the Vichy French army fought with greater vigor against fellow Frenchmen and the British then they did against the Nazis. He writes the history of how a people deeply depressed by war and defeatism slowly raises itself for the struggle against Germany. Without doubt, De Gaulle's perserverence provided France with some cover of honour to assuage its sense of national shame and guilt. De Gaulle takes us through the Empire, his challenges in remaining relevant to the British and the overt hostility of the Americans who remained loyal to Petain until 1943. The translation is good. The inclusion of maps of the Empire would have been useful. As with other memoirs, such as those of Mussolini, Admiral Horthy, Churchill, etc. this is a must read for the student of the 1940s. One note is that strategically, De Gaulle, like Churchill, was an imperial optimist.Read more ›
An essential book and one of the best autobiographies ever. Unlike Churchill and others, de Gaulle researched and wrote his momoirs all by himself, without any "contributors" and shadow writers. He writes clearly, the style is formal and elegant. A joy to read, which is wonderfully surprising and refreshing considering the stuffy nature of most such undertakings. To truly understand the man, one has to read this. His motives, his love for France, the belief in France's destiny. The world has still a lot to learn from him.
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I purchased this complete version after having read more about de Gaulle in William Shirer's "The Collapse of the Third Republic" (Simon & Schuster 1969) and Milton Viorst's "Hostile Allies - FDR and De Gaulle" (McMillan & Company 1965) and also "Is Paris Burning?" by Collins/LaPierre, Simon & Schuster 1965.
What an amazing life and effort! France's "Don Quixote". Never gave up in his "quest" of liberating France and restoring her grandeur. Literary quality everyone compares to Winston Churchill's memoirs. Sure, a little egotistical, but what honesty and no resulting dictatorship.
It is a little confusing when he alternately refers to himself in the 1st person AND in the 3rd person throughout the book; I have never seen that style. Can anyone educate me?
I wished the book had more than 3 little maps (easier to locate oneself) and more photos than the cover page (maybe the individual 3 book version has). Also I did not see any sources or acknowledgements (but maybe THAT is de Gaulle!)
----- My Favorite Exchange -----
Churchill (to de Gaulle): "You claim to be France! You are not France! I do not recognize you as France!"
De Gaulle to Churchill: "If, in your eyes, I am not the representative of France, why and with what right are you dealing with me concerning her world-wide interests?" Mr. Churchill did not reply.
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