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Posted at: Mar 11, 2018, 2:16 AM; last updated: Mar 11, 2018, 2:16 AM (IST)BOOK REVIEW: REVOLUTION BY EMMANUEL MACRON

Deconstructing Macron

Smita Sharma 

The year 2016 witnessed unsettling surprises. The UK decided to exit European Union in a miscalculated Brexit referendum that cost Prime Minister David Cameron his job. Donald J. Trump was elected the 44th President of United States to the surprise of even his own Republican Party colleagues. With nationalism as the new resonating slogan and anti-immigration, trade protectionism and Islamophobia as common themes, Conservatives were making inroads across the globe. Far right voices like Freedom Party of Austria (FPO), Alternative for Germany and Marine Le Pen were aggressively driving divisive campaigns in Europe in the run-up to elections next year. 

In such a pro-Conservatives global scenario, not many would have imagined that a 39-year-old bureaucrat-turned-banker-turned Liberal politician would win the most powerful seat of France. Not just France, his victory must have brought a sigh of relief among liberals in several other countries as well. 

On May 7, 2017, Emmanuel Macron, who had launched his political party, En Marche, just nine months before the elections, won 66 per cent of the votes defeating National Front’s candidate Marine Le Pen. Hope had triumphed fear. It was nothing short of a revolution given the short duration within which Macron won the public’s confidence. No surprise then that Macron’s memoir is titled Revolution. 

Born on December 21, 1977, to a family of doctors in Amiens, Macron writes about the influence of his grandmother had on him. He used to spent long hours with her reading aloud works of great writers like Moliere and Racine. 

Fleetingly one learns about those who shaped his social and political beliefs. These include the likes of prominent French philosopher and historian Paul Ricoeur, physicist and member of Resistance during World War II and former French prime minister Michel Rocard. 

Macron’s romantic relationship and subsequent marriage with Brigitte Trogneux — his former drama teacher at school and their 25-year age gap, defied many norms. The two met when Macron was in high school where Brigitte was a Latin and French teacher and her daughter was Macron’s classmate. 

In the memoir though, deep personal struggles are barely spoken about. He writes about Brigitte’s courage and commitment in her role as teacher, mother and grandmother. “We were married in 2007. That was the official consecration of a love, initially clandestine, often concealed, and misunderstood by many before they came to accept it,” he writes. “I was probably stubborn in struggling against the circumstances of our lives where everything conspired to keep us apart and in objecting to the commonly accepted norms, by which we were condemned from the outset. But I have to say that her courage was what stood out,” (page 24) Macron adds. 

First published in 2016, just months ahead of French presidential polls, the memoir reads more like a manifesto. Unlike Barack Obama’s The Audacity of Hope where readers sail through his personal life journey, Macron’s Revolution is a vision document where he tries to go beyond the conflict between the Left and the Right. From climate change, terrorism, refugees, agrarian issues, education and health to reclaiming France — the then candidate Macron outlines what he feels needs to be changed. Islamic terrorism remains a constant threat refrain but without hysteria and fear mongering against a particular community. 

The Indian reader interestingly can relate to several issues he addresses. On policy paralysis as well as pushing through legislative reforms, Macron asks, “How can one justify the fact that even in the course of a five-year presidential term the regulations in a given sector or tax obligations can be changed over and over again?” Indian netas and babus would have similar tales in post-Demonetisation and GST implementation scenarios. At a time when RSS supremo’s comments on the Indian Army have led to a raging debate, it is interesting to read Macron’s views. “In the current situation, operational reserves play a fundamental albeit non-exclusive role. This does not mean that we should reintroduce mandatory military service for all. It would not be beneficial for our young people, and runs contrary to having a professional army.” (page 178) 

In the chapter titled, Taking Control of Our Destiny, Macron outlines foreign policy views — support Iran in its more open business agenda, do not go back to out-and-out conflict with Russians, redeploy ambitions in Africa and do not, under any circumstances, follow Americans blindly. 

There is just a passing mention of India strengthening its ties with France and Australia. The preface though draws a parallel between the two countries seeking economic growth while upholding climate change commitments. 

If Macron ever defaults on his promises, the French people can always remind him through this book.  However, if readers are looking to understand Macron the man, his life and more, Revolution hardly tells you much.

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