Meeting Our Historic Destinies

Meeting Our Historic Destinies

Posted on July 25 by Ray Argyle
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My aim with The Paris Game is to give readers a dramatic and intimate accounting of how an obscure general saved the honour of France in the Second World War, and how a restored France went on to reinvent itself as a leader in the modern world.

The sub-title tells the story: Charles de Gaulle, the Liberation of Paris, and the Gamble That Won France.

I use biography as a focus to hold the reader’s interest in the larger subject of what is special about the era I am writing about, using dramatic narrative and lots of intimate detail.

Do we really need another book about Charles de Gaulle, arguably one of the great leaders of the last century? My answer is yes, we do. Historians have dealt unkindly with de Gaulle, focussing on his admitted arrogance and vanity, but overlooking the magnitude of his accomplishments in building the Free French movement, in saving his country from communism, and in setting an example for the world by rejecting the dictates of both Washington and Moscow.

I also thought it time to unearth the many Canadian connections with the French leader, over and above his infamous call, “Vive le Quebec libre.”

The title, the Paris Game, reflects my view that the struggle to influence the direction of postwar Europe was at least as important as the “Great Game” played out between Russia and Britain in the 19th century for influence in central Asia.

As well, de Gaulle liked to use gaming aphorisms, speaking of how he was playing the military game, and boasting, when he became President, “I’ve played my cards well. I’ve won.” Sadly but fittingly, he died at his card table, playing a game of solitaire.

I first visited Paris as a young reporter. Ernest Hemingway told a friend, “If you’re lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.” I never lived in Paris, but I kept going back time and again.  My visits, sometimes lasting a couple of months, became my chief research. I talked to people about their wartime experiences. I visited archives in France, the UK, Canada and the U.S. And I read diaries, letters, newspapers and magazines, and lots and lots of books.

I was fortunate in having the help of people very knowledgeable of France and its history. Professor Maurice Vaisse of the University of Paris, who has written a dozen books on de Gaulle, worked with me as I wrote. The result, I think, is a book that is both accurate and authentic. 

I hope The Paris Game will appeal to the general reader with an interest in history and who wants to better understand what drives men, women, and nations to their historic destinies.

Ray Argyle

Posted by Dundurn Guest on October 30, 2014

Ray Argyle

Ray Argyle is a journalist, the author of several books of biography and political history, and the recipient of a Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Medal for contributions to Canadian life. During his long association with France, he has spent many years tracking the political careers of Charles de Gaulle and his successors. He lives in Kingston, Ontario.