An irascible de Gaulle talks to Douglas Johnson on boring England, declining France and the Iraq crisis. The great strategist is not impressed with Chirac's handling of America - or could he just be a little bit jealous?by Douglas Johnson / April 20, 2003 / Leave a comment
Douglas Johnson: Bonjour, mon G?ral…
Charles de Gaulle: No, excuse me professor, but we are not talking French today. We are talking English.
DJ: I didn’t realise that you spoke good English.
CdG: Well, it so happens that, where I am at the moment, it is very easy because we have been provided with the gift of tongues, and I can speak any language that I choose. I don’t like speaking these other languages, they are all inferior to French, but my voices told me that today we should speak English. You will not be surprised that I have my voices. I believe that they appear in British diplomatic documents. When I returned to government in 1958, there was a certain Gladwyn Jebb who explained to Mr Macmillan that my voices had told me that I must restore France to being a great power.
DJ: What was your English like when you were alive?
CdG: Ah, I could speak English, but I had a strong French accent. In 1940, English people only knew one Frenchman and that was Maurice Chevalier. When they heard me speak, they were reminded of Chevalier and sometimes said so. I did not like this, especially as he was singing to the Germans in Paris, so I issued an order stating that General de Gaulle did not speak English and only spoke French.
DJ: Did you like being in England?
CdG: Well, you must remember that when I came to England, I left a France that was in the middle of a terrible war. We were being defeated-war was everywhere. But when I was driven to London, I saw people playing tennis, shopping, going to the cinema-war was nowhere. It was a different sort of country. And, when I was in London, they did one of those surveys and they found that a third of all the people in England had never met a single Frenchman-and many of those who had known French people had, I suppose, met them in the 1914 war.
DJ: But when you got to know England better, you must have found good things.
CdG: Well, yes. I found that England was boring.
DJ: Is that a way of saying that you disliked it here?
CdG: Not at all. Boredom is important. Sacha Guitry wrote a play which shows a couple sitting separately on large poufs. In between them, at the…