Thursday, May 18, 2017

Memoir in Two Voices Review
Francois Mitterrand, who died in January at the age of 79 after serving 14 years as president of France, is among the most frequently portrayed men in the history of his country. Scores of articles and books have been written about Mitterrand, before and after his death. In Memoir in Two Voices Mitterrand gets a chance to have the last word and "express my deepest thoughts on a variety of subjects." The book is a record of occasional conversations between the French leader and Elie Wiesel, the Nobel Peace laureate, and is the third Mitterrand book released posthumously (Interrupted Memoirs and On Germany, On France are the others). --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

"I see myself," Mitterrand confides, "as... the guardian of memory." Assisting the late French president in this final act of friendship is Nobel laureate Wiesel. The dying Mitterrand, seemingly prompted by Wiesel, unburdens himself of his last memories and confessions, discussing childhood, faith, war, literature and power. Wiesel occasionally reaches for personal parallels to the crafty old politician's recollections and insights. We learn little new about Wiesel other than that he remains a masterly storyteller. His primary role is to evoke Mitterrand's cautious, ostensibly candid responses. The central issue is Mitterrand's embarrassment that he has been cozy with, and may have protected, Rene Bousquet, who, Wiesel observes, "handed over little Jewish children to the Nazis" but was exonerated by the notoriously lax postwar French judicial system. The relationship finally ended when Bousquet's crimes?"errors," to Mitterrand?were proved in the late 1980s. "I'm not a man," he claims loyally, "who changes his opinion about his colleagues just because the world has come down on them." Mitterrand speaks little of his personal life here (he had a second household and an adored illegitimate daughter), and the reader must assume that Wiesel's presence is meant to lend credibility and an air of moral gravitas to the limited self-portrait Mitterrand offers. The glimpses into the private Mitterrand are nonetheless as fascinating for their revelations as they are exasperating for their silences. 

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