I read with great interest a book by journalist Olivier Faye, entitled The Advisor, published by Fayard, where he discusses the portrait of a lady as intriguing as her imprint on French political life was decisive. This is Marie-France Garaud, a political adviser who reigned over French public life in the 1970s, from behind the scenes. It is therefore a biographical account of the first French “Spin doctor”, to whom we owe a proud end of the political career of Jacques Chirac, that Olivier Faye offers. On her influence in the political career of President Chirac, the allusion will often be made to their duet, to the pair Agrippina and Néron. The first in her position as a mother helping Nero to be emperor and reign over Rome through him.
The author admits in his book to having come across the character of Marie-France Garaud while he was an intern at the La Croix newspaper, having to produce his portrait for a magazine. He will be impressed in contact with the lady, by her impact on French politics, her weight on the public life of her country and especially the general public’s lack of awareness of her.
It is with a series of interviews that the principal concerned grants him, with testimonies from several of her contemporaries, with the exception of Valéry Giscard d’Estaing and Edouard Balladur, choosing silence, not to say the evil that they think of her, that Olivier Faye draws the portrait of the “most powerful woman of contemporary France”. It is thus painted a political fresco from the gaze of a person in the shadows. She works alongside leaders to help set a tone in public action in France, which she sees as great and sovereign.
Marie-France Garaud bases her work as an adviser on her intelligence and her interpersonal skills, carries a murderous verb slung over her shoulder, maintains a firm anti-feminist posture and does not depart, out of loyalty, from her collaborator Pierre Juillet. They will be a faithful tandem, working in the shadows for Georges Pompidou in his visits to Matignon and the supreme station of the Elysée. Despite her influence, Marie-France Garaud hardly lets the title of official or unofficial adviser go to her head. She will argue that the adviser “does not exist in the eyes of history”. She will go further on the adviser’s relationship to power, feigning the allusion that the political fiction character Frank Underwood portrayed about the proximity of power. Garaud will say the following: “One is not in power when one is an adviser. We are in power when we decide! Power is not shared, it is served. The states of mind of the performers do not concern anyone.
The Holy Grail of Marie-France Garaud’s career as an adviser will come with the crowning of the political career of Jacques Chirac, who becomes President. She accompanies this fiery, conquering, ambitious, inconstant and impetuous young man in his immersion in French public life. She helps turn him into a real political killer who climbs the stairs to become king. The damage to the careers and destinies of people will be numerous throughout the companionship between the Agrippina Garaud and her Néron Chirac. In private life, in the political scene facing rivals like Jacques Chaban-Delmas, Marie-France Garaud dealt her blows, promoted her ideas, fought enemies until the break with her protege in 1978. Nero had Agrippina killed. among the Romans, Chirac will also be emptied of all the influence of Garaud. The latter will say that he was mistaken on the account of his “Chick”, because she believed him to come from “the marble from which statues are made. In reality, it is from earth that bidets are made”.
The Advisor is a story that brings to life a noble era of politics that one might think is over. The great figures of French politics come across each other and it is a treat to see all their struggles for power. We meet a well-made head who loves power for the ability it gives to move lines and put forward ideas that consolidate the progress of a country.
It is a work of striking relevance in a country like ours, where our politicians have finished making gods of themselves, all-thinking, all-knowing and all-able. It is here that authorities can proudly claim not to refer to the notes that their teams can produce for them, without it shocking! This results in a personalization of public and political action with leaders who can do as they please, to the detriment of the risk on their uncontrolled actions. If there is one thing that is most important in politics, it is knowing how to surround yourself well.
Election contests are approaching, everyone sees themselves as leaders before their time. Several errors in communication and the outings of political personnel from all sides suggest the unpreparedness and the lightness with which some take the political thing. The Marie-France Garaud’s, Senegal needs them. From advice nourished by intelligence and firmness in ideas and convictions, our political life could emerge invigorated from the involvement of these people in the shadows.
By Serigne Saliou DIAGNE / email@example.com
- Translation by Ndey T. SOSSEH