A Decade After His Death, Mitterrand Still Reigns

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"François Mitterrand was the last king of France," said Jacques Attali, one of his closest advisers and author of a best-selling biography about him. "France today is no longer a truly independent nation, but not yet part of a global European nation. We're in a no man's land. There is a longing for a monarch and a request for a stronger president."

In his 14-year reign, Mitterrand hid his cancer from the public. He tried to prevent the reunification of Germany and ignored the AIDS epidemic. There were illegal wiretaps, in part to conceal the existence of a daughter he had with his mistress. Financial scandals and disclosures about his wartime service for the collaborationist Vichy government further tarnished his name.

He bloated the civil service, made high unemployment permanent, fixed the retirement age at 60 and set in motion a reduced workload than culminated in the 35-hour week. It was, said a recent editorial in Le Figaro, "an incredible collection of economic follies for which the bill is far from settled."

But that dark legacy has not stopped the flood of books, magazine and newspaper supplements, no fewer than six television films and documentaries and dozens of hours of commentary and speeches about his life.

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