She knew she shouldn’t. She didn’t want to. She didn’t mean to.
But at Charles de Gaulle airport recently Gert bought Valérie Trierweiler’s knock-down-and-drag-out memoir Merci pour ce moment, the history of her grand amour with François Hollande and its abrupt conclusion.
Readers of this blog probably don’t share Gert’s keen interest in the hapless Hollande or the shifty Sarkozy. And when you see pictures of Hollande alongside any of the women in his life – Ségolène Royal, Trierweiler herself and the latest, Julie Gayet –you can’t help remembering the words of the old music-hall song:
If women like them like men like those, why don’t women like me?
A word of advice to young women: Hollande looked quite good as a young man when he had flowing locks. Photoshop your boyfriend balding and podgy before you commit yourself. But balding, podgy and all, Valérie adored him.
Picture François at his desk in the Elysée hearing the low rumble of French industry collapsing, the cries of unemployed/health workers/teachers/students/retraités in the streets outside, the tick-tick of the ever-rising numbers on the French deficit counter, the eerie descending whine of his popularity rating. He is waiting for an unpleasant call from Angela Merkel. What he gets is a call from Valérie demanding that he tell her the truth about the latest rumours of his liaison with Julie Gayet. Or he gets, by special delivery, a long letter from Valerie analysing the course of their love. After a day like this, François goes home hoping for a nice quiet dinner. What he gets is Valérie swallowing eight sleeping pills in front of him and collapsing on the couch. Silently, Francois straightens out her legs and disappears – probably to Julie’s place, but how would you know? He’s such a liar. (By the way, it appears François, the Socialist leader with very expensive tastes who, in private, makes jokes about the poor, would be a good addition to our Frauds/freuds gallery).
The central question the reader keeps asking, which derails any sense of continuity or order in the book, is “What is it about?” It’s not as simple as saying Valérie wants revenge on François and on his political cronies who looked down on her, she thinks, as a girl from the wrong side of the tracks, and insultingly ignored her advice and opinions (which have turned out to be 100% correct, she feels that’s self-evident). It is about that, but it is also trying to be a political insider’s book, as witnessed by some ill-advised relating of rude remarks made by senior Socialist Party officials about other senior Socialists, and by Valérie’s rather dull accounts of official visits and of her trips to disaster zones, where the impression is given that her presence made all the difference. She hopes, she says, that the seeds she planted at the Elysée will bear fruit; it’s unclear just what those seeds were. But what the book is really about is the internal reconstruction of the self of Valérie, a job that is still very much a work in progress.
Reconstructions of the self should never be done in public. How much better it would have been for Trierweiler to observe the ten-year rule: wait at least ten years before writing about traumatic events in your life. But the breakup happened in January 2014 and the book came out in September. If anything, Trierweiler is now even more unpopular in France than she was before*. She wants to be taken seriously again as a political journalist. That’s a bit like an actor who has played the bimbo in a long-running soap opera hoping to be offered Hedda Gabler.
Recommended only as a curiosity and as a way of practising your French.
*Here’s an interesting article about the book’s reception in France and the harm it has done to both Hollande and Trierweiler: