I owe Françoise Giroud much of my political awareness, not to mention my desire to write. Although she’d been a regular feature in the pages of ELLE, which she had founded with Hélène Lazareff, I only really fell in love with her age 14, when I stumbled across her defining equality between sexes as a time when “mediocre women will be nominated for important positions.”
Ten years on, this quote still rings true to me. I started reading Adler’s book the way you great an old, long lost friend: excited but worried of being disappointed. Adler’s analysis is limited. Although the book is well-researched, Adler focuses on Giroud’s strengths and driving forces, without much retrospect, as you can expect from a by-product of the Giroud generation. It’s Giroud the pioneering journalist who barely had time for her own kids, Giroud the stateswoman who joined a government without giving up her editorial position, Giroud the leftist humanitarian who became Secrétaire d’Etat for a right-wing government.
Page after page, Adler portrays a woman in charge of her own destiny, hard-working, powerful, revolutionising post-War journalism after being involved with the post-War cinema revolution. She coined the term “nouvelle vague”, worked alongside Sartre, Mauriac and Saint Exupery. Despite all her drive and determination, everything came to a halt when Jean-Jacques Servan-Schreiber, another journalist and statesman, her lover of twenty years, decided to finally leave his wife for a woman much younger than her. Antisemitic, anonymous letters and a suicide attempt followed. Reading about those events, I was split between sadness, misunderstanding and a rather trivial “what do you think you’re doing?”.