De Gaulle, 1890-1944 Essay - Critical Essays

Jean Lacouture

De Gaulle, 1890-1944

An abridged translation of the first volume of Jean Lacouture’s magisterial study of the eminent French soldier-statesman Charles de Gaulle, this book recounts de Gaulle’s life from his birth in 1890 to his triumphant return to France at the head of the Free French in 1944, always placing his personal story in the context of French and world events.

Lacouture traces de Gaulle’s youth and career in the military, examining closely the man and the formative influences on his life and attitudes, the writings which established his reputation as a military intellectual, and his relationships with other key figures, particularly Marshal Philippe Petain. The bulk of the biography, as would be expected, concerns de Gaulle’s wartime career, from France’s darkest hour, in 1940, when he broke with the French government and fled to England, until his triumphant return in 1944. Lacouture keeps track of all the strands of the rope of history relevant to de Gaulle, from the Vichy regime to the Soviet government, from the Free French in London and Africa to the Resistance in France, and weaves them dramatically together to tell a fascinating story of de Gaulle’s survival and ultimate triumph.

This exceptional portrait of an exceptional individual is based on extensive research in de Gaulle’s own writings and relevant secondary sources, and on interviews with contemporaries. It is very well written, its prose dramatic, and Patrick O’Brian, a distinguished novelist and biographer in his own right, has done a marvelous translation. The publication in English in 1991 of DE GAULLE: THE RULER 1945-1970, condensing into a single volume the second and third volumes of Lacouture’s French original, will complete a biography worthy of its eminent subject.

Sources for Further Study

Booklist. LXXXVII, November 1, 1990, p.499.

Boston Globe. November 18, 1990, p.21.

Chicago Tribune. December 9, 1990, XIV, p.1.

Kirkus Reviews. LVIII, September 1, 1990, p. 1373.

Library Journal. CXV, November 15, 1990, p.76.

Los Angeles Times Book Review. November 18, 1990, p.4.

The New Republic. CCIII, December 17, 1990, p.29.

New Statesman and Society. III, December 7, 1990, p.43.

The New York Times Book Review. XCV; November 11, 1990, p.1.

Publishers Weekly. CCXXXVII, September 28, 1990, p.89.

San Francisco Chronicle. November 18, 1990, p. REV3.

The Times Literary Supplement. February 1, 1991, p.20.