Sarkozy: The new Napoleon?





Both will be remembered as vertically challenged men in a vertiginous hurry. Both were helped into power by beautiful wives, with whom they quarrelled. Both believed that they had a destiny to rebuild France and, above all, to change the way the French think of themselves. Both are known for a weakness for kitsch and anything that glitters.


Both came from non-French, minor aristocratic backgrounds and despised the Parisian elite. Both had, from the start of their career, an obsession with image and grasped the importance of controlling the media. Physical stature alone has inevitably encouraged comparisons between Napoleon Bonaparte and Nicolas Sarkozy. President Sarkozy is almost exactly the same height as L'Empéreur, about 5ft 6in, which was, in fact, respectably tall in Napoleon's day.

Most of the Napoleon/Nicolas comparisons made since M. Sarkozy became President 20 months ago have been brief and insulting, especially in Germany, a country which can stomach neither Napoleon nor "Nicoleon". France's most subtle and readable political commentator, Alain Duhamel, has now explored the interesting parallels between the two men at book length (La Marche Consulaire – Plon).

France remains schizophrenic about Napoleon's character and legacy. The street-map of Paris is littered with tributes to the emperor's generals, victories, armies and treaties but it has no grand avenue or boulevard named after Napoleon himself.

A critical book then?


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