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At just 39 years of age, the newly-elected, youngest-ever French president Emmanuel Macron has captured not just the votes of his compatriots but also the hearts of its literarati. Politics has not always been a driving ambition of his – at 16, Macron declared that being a writer was his only vocation. Consequently, as a young bookworm he wrote three novels – “an epistolary novel about the Aztecs, a love story and one about a pianist that plays with time”.
Of course, having assumed a position in global politics that leaves little time for personal pursuits, Macron has no option but to postpone his writing ambitions. His personal history and life before politics, however, still make him very much a literary figure in the eyes of the media – not as an author, but as a character.
Macron, it is said, should be the literary lead in a typical 19th century fictional French romance, complete with notoriety in his early life in the form of his now wife, but then tutor, Brigitte Trogneux – a drama teacher who shared and encouraged “the adolescent prodigy’s literary ambitions”. Fans have said his looks, his charm, his pretentious but tortured genius, make him a prime candidate for a role in George Ross Ridge’s ‘The Hero in French Romantic Literature’.
In true Hugo-esque style, even Macron’s parents join the plot, when, disapproving of their son’s new relationship, send him to study alone in Paris. Despite his extraordinary literary talent, the young scholar failed his exams for entry into École Normale Supérieure, alma mater of Simone De Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre. Ironically, Alexandre Dumas was exiled for a short time for his political views, but it is unlikely there has ever been a greater political Count of Monte Cristo than Macron.
Now, as a less romantic writer, Macron has become known as more of a historian and biographer. In ‘Révolution’, for example, he provides a window into his personal history, his inspirations, his vision of France and its future which, he says, is a revolution not known since the invention of printing and the Renaissance. It is publication which goodreads.com describes as a “strong, singular book that lays the foundations of a new society.” Perhaps not the earth-shattering novels he had planned as a youth, but an insightful read, nonetheless.
In a second publication, Macron par Macron, three interviews are brought together in one volume, asking the president’s opinions on the evils of society, its intellectual formation and its vision of politics, and questioning him on his literary and cultural tastes. “Macron engages in open words,” says the review. This may be from the mouth rather than the pen, but again, we see Macron’s eloquence reveals an affinity with the printed word. (Four stars out of five from goodreads.com)
There are many, many more biographies including, from FX Bourmaud, ‘The Banker who wanted to be King’ and ‘Behind the Scenes of a Victory; and from Anne Fulda, ‘A Young Man so Perfect.’ Evidently not only a man of his own letters, but those of many others as well, and with titles such as these, it is not surprising that Macron has captivated his voting audience.
When asked by a French magazine to pick his favourite character from history, Macron opted for Victor Hugo rather than a leading politician, another testament to his love of literature, but a love that will be unrequited until he has the opportunity to woo it again with time. Barrack Obama suffered in a similar way for his art, but having left office, he now has the opportunity to take the path of a scribe instead of a statesman.
Whatever his policies and however successful his tenure, Emmanuel Macron will certainly be remembered as a young and ambitious president with a taste for culture, but as he faces some of the world’s hardest political challenges, it could be his fictitious characters who are most endearing of all.