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Digital Subscriptions > Prospect Magazine > Sep-18 > The last warrior

The last warrior

As a wartime general and peacetime president Charles de Gaulle fought for a France made in his own grand self-image, finds Piers Brendon
© LEBRECHT MUSIC & ARTS / ALAMY STOCK PHOTO
A Certain Idea of France: The Life of Charles de Gaulle by Julian Jackson (Allen Lane, £35)

On the dank evening of 22nd August 1962, a dozen terrorists from the OAS, a paramilitary group opposed to Algerian independence, ambushed General Charles de Gaulle. In a scene memorably re-enacted in The Day of the Jackal, gunmen sprayed the French president’s Citroën DS19 with automatic fire as it sped through the Paris suburb of Petit-Clamart. They hit at least 14 times, penetrating the coachwork, smashing the gearbox and puncturing two tyres. Amazingly, de Gaulle and his wife Yvonne were unharmed, though the general cut his finger slightly while brushing broken glass off his jacket. Quite unmoved, he went on to inspect a guard of honour before flying home to Colombey-les-Deux-Églises. To his prime minister Georges Pompidou, de Gaulle remarked contemptuously: “My dear fellow, those men shot like pigs!”

De Gaulle’s courage was on display throughout his long career. During the First World War, he showed himself indifferent to danger, engaging the enemy so closely at Verdun that he was bayonetted in the thigh before being taken prisoner. Similarly, during his march from the Arc de Triomphe to Notre Dame on 26th August 1944 to mark the liberation of Paris, de Gaulle ignored the rooftop snipers (perhaps Germans, diehard Vichyites or anti-Gaullist members of the resistance).

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In Prospect's September issue: Twenty-five years after the Oslo Accords, Israeli politician and former Knesset speaker Avraham Burg and journalist Donald Macintyre explore how the idea of a two-state solution to the Israel/Palestine conflict has diminished, with Burg arguing that a one-state solution is the only way forward. Jane Martinson visited the offices of the UK’s biggest-selling newspaper—Metro—to find out how it has risen to the top. Adam Tooze charts the ups and downs of the euro and argues that decisions made by the ECB have hampered the currency during its first 20 years in existence. Elsewhere in the issue: Michael Blastland suggests that early diagnosis isn’t all it’s made out to be and that many people have endured unnecessary suffering in an attempt to live longer. Wendy Ide examines the life and work of director David Lynch as she reviews his new memoir, which offers a glimpse behind the curtain.