Saturday, August 25, 2012

François Hollande, Man of Mystery?

The French have never been passionate about François Hollande, their new president. A professional politician, never a government minister, he has been engaged in the machinations of the Socialist Party for most of his career.
Thus starts the book review by Steven Erlanger.
But a new book about the inner workings of his campaign suggests that Mr. Hollande is a man of self-mastery and doggedness, with unplumbed depths. According to Laurent Binet, the novelist who wrote the book, Mr. Hollande is “a control freak,” a kind of “war machine” with a mysterious core, who detests Mr. Sarkozy and carefully managed the rivalrous personalities of the Socialist Party.

Embedded in the campaign with the understanding that he would publish only after the election, Mr. Binet, 40, whose parents were Communists, said in an interview that he initially favored Jean-Luc Mélenchon, a candidate further to the left. Mr. Binet said he was “seduced” by Mr. Hollande but still found him a mystery, a man who is affable but keeps his real self in reserve.

“I noted this in him,” Mr. Binet wrote. “What we take too often for joviality masks a fundamental irony that he only abandons in exceptional circumstances, when the gravity of the moment demands it.”

… “Mitterrand was a mystery, and he was called the Sphinx, and you could see it in his face,” Mr. Binet said. “But with Hollande it was perhaps more clever. He looks like the guy next door, but it’s much more complicated than that.”

… What seemed to animate Mr. Hollande, besides his commitment to winning the presidency, was his distaste for the incumbent, Mr. Sarkozy.

… But one of his few regrets during the long campaign, Mr. Hollande admits, is when he called Mr. Sarkozy a “sale mec,” or a nasty piece of work, a remark in an off-the-record lunch with French journalists that was quickly leaked. Mr. Hollande also said he regretted wasting his time making a trip to London, since foreign policy has little impact on French presidential campaigns.