De Gaulle in Power:
The Fifth Republic in the Mirror of History
AMONG the various anecdotes, authentic or bien trouvees, that circulated in Paris this summer, the one that best expressed the country’s perplexities ran as follows: an old friend of de Gaulle’s, not currently associated with the government, came to call on the new Prime Minister; on taking his leave he was amazed to find Andre Malraux, reputed to be de Gaulle’s closest collaborator, literally throwing himself upon him with the anxious query, “You who know the General so well, tell me, what does he really think?”
During the weeks between the installation of de Gaulle’s government in late May and the announcement of the new constitution in early August, the whole of France was asking itself the same question. The revolutionary change had been accomplished- what the political experts had dismissed as impossible had in fact occurred-but the out- lines of the new regime were far from clear. The country was living suspended between two eras, with the Fourth Republic obviously dead, but the Fifth still to be defined. In Paris the commissions elaborating the new institutions and the new policy worked long and earnestly-no holidays for them. The rest of the French elite simply went off on vacation.
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