Monday, September 12, 2011

"That egomaniac"

Jacqueline Kennedy on the General:

Charles DeGaulle, the French president, is “that egomaniac.” 

Perhaps this was revenge for de Gaulle's reported quip at their first meeting. Seated next to le grand Charles at a state dinner, Jackie, née Bouvier, is supposed to have said, in her best schoolgirl French, "Mes ancêtres étaient français, mon général." To which de Gaulle allegedly replied: "Les miens aussi."

May I add that I met Mrs. Onassis in 1990, when I won a prize for translating a book about the French Revolution. She was among the guests at the prize dinner. She was working at the time as a book editor in Manhattan, and we talked about her latest project, a book about orthodox religious icons in the Slavic countries. She was charming and intelligent, or so it seemed to my awestruck self during our two-minute conversation. I remember as a child being quite enamored of her.

And despite all that, she preferred Malraux to me:

She calls André Malraux, the French novelist, “the most fascinating man I’ve ever talked to.”