The Irish in Paris
For centuries, the passionate and sometimes persecuted Irish have felt a peculiar sympathy with Europe’s self-anointed capital of sophistication.
Both inside and outside France, surely the most representative Frenchman of modern times is Charles de Gaulle, World War II hero and general, founding father, and first president of the Fifth Republic. With his magnificent Gallic horn of a nose, protruding like a great scalene triangle from beneath his brown kepi, he is a symbolic figure as recognizable as the Eiffel Tower, and almost as tall and inflexible. His very surname means “of Gaul,” and it links his identity firmly to the core national identity, that original semimythic Gaul of antiquity that Julius Caesar so neatly divided in partes tres.
It may come as a surprise, then, to recall that when de Gaulle was finally forced, partly by his own Gallic stubbornness, to leave the presidency in April 1969, he did not simply retreat from Paris to his family home in Colombey-les-Deux-Églises, in the heart of the Haut-Marne countryside. Most French people of a certain age will recall the very dramatic photographs snapped a few weeks later, among the last official ones ever taken of de Gaulle. They are in the customary black and white of newspaper photographs of that era, and they show him rigid and stiff backed as ever, hatless, dressed in a suit and dark overcoat, walking with a cane along a beach. A bleak gray ocean surf breaks off to his left, symbolic perhaps of his grim state of mind after his fall from power.
To read the rest of this article, please consider becoming a WQ subscriber, which allows online access to the current WQ issue as well as archive content. Other access options are below.
Research, browse, and discover more than 35 years of articles, essays, and reviews by preeminent scholars and writers. Our searchable archive of back issues is free for WQ subscribers.
Max Byrd, a contributing editor of The Wilson Quarterly, is president of the Squaw Valley Community of Writers and author of several novels, most recently Shooting the Sun (2003).more from this author >>