Napoleon's Master: A Life of Prince Talleyrand (Anglais) Broché – 5 juillet 2007
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Description du produit
Revue de presse
"Marvellous" (Ruth Scurr Telegraph)
"A brisk and enjoyable book...an extraordinary story" (David A. Bell London Review of Books)
"Napoleon's Master dwells particularly on Talleyrand's struggle, as a man of peace, to restrain a genius of war. But it is alive also with the world of the Paris salon and the glittering connections of a most sociable diplomat" (The Economist)
"A lucid and readable account of Talleyrand's career" (Robin Buss Independent)
Présentation de l'éditeur
In this life of the master diplomat, David Lawday follows Talleyrand's remarkable career through the most turbulent age Europe has known and explores - for the first time - in intimate detail his extraordinarily perverse relationship with Napoleon. The richly flawed and abundantly gifted character laid bare by David Lawday is the man to whom diplomats continue to look today for the subtlest tricks of the negotiator's art. A good 150 years before a united Europe came into being, Talleyrand's actions laid the ground for it - as they have for a permanent peace now enduring for two centuries between France and her oldest enemy, Britain.
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Talleyrand did well - a privileged and arrogant aristocrat - to sidestep the revolutionary guillotine. After being fast tracked in the Church (a Bishop) he served the Revolution (nationalising the Church's assets) then Napoleon as minister of foreign affairs whom he betrayed doing very well to sidestep a firing squad. He enthusiastically committed treason for cash and greater liberal ideals. When not skimming off enormous bribes he was a patriot and statesman, an Anglophile who understood power comes from a strong economy. Talleyrand knew politics, not battles, win wars and that well ahead of most (1807) realised for all his military genius Napoleon had created a house of cards.
It is one of the great " ifs" had Napoleon listened to Talleyrand, achieving an accommodation with England and Austria, would Europe would have been something very different (perhaps avoiding 1870, 1914 and 1939)? After Napoleon he served three French monarchs steering France wisely despite them. Everything about him is subject to widely varying interpretations and strong opinions, villain or courageous politician make your own mind up.
The problem with this book is the author has made up his. But Mr Lawday's portrait is superficial. For example Chapter 12 - events of 1812 - the 600,000 were not French but a multinational force (a not inconsiderable diplomatic achievement Napoleon engineered without Talleyrand). And Napoleons' arrival from Elba was not universally welcomed; he chose his route to Paris to avoid being lynched. This book is a hugely sympathetic glossing over of the sharp edges but without any great advocacy. He ascribes a visionary genius to Talleyrand that is based on the 20/20 vision of hindsight (for example the father of the EC, page 295). All the relevant facts are included but time and time he lets Talleyrand off the hook - what was in his private papers he was so keen to remove and destroy? He triumphed at the Congress of Vienna - brilliant certainly but from devious double dealings. But divide and rule is what diplomacy is often about, we need it but need not like it.
This is a book without passion, it fails to convey the excitement and dangers of the age and rather like Talleyrand's club foot it drags painfully to a conclusion. Mr Lawday - for me - does not really understand the man. He states "Talleyrand did not relish the prospect of having to tidy up in Central Europe as Napoleon manoeuvred a rampant Grand Army around its heart." (p 156). I think Talleyrand was in his element, power, playing with politics, the centre of attention and making money was what he lived for. I'd stick with Napoleons verdict "He was a man of intrigue, of great immortality but of high intellect." (p241).
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