Obituary: Philippe Daudy
PHILIPPE DAUDY came to England to write a book about the country, and stayed. What began as an almost encyclopaedic effort slimmed down to the elegant Les Anglais, published in English under that title in 1991. He found here much to praise. This was evidence of his own generosity, enthusiasm and admiration for anything carried off stylishly.
Dark and stocky, he charged bullishly as though to lock horns with life itself. Since everything interested him, he was marvellously informed and disputatious. If Philippe was in the room, you knew it from the obbligato in French and perfect English or Italian, punctuated by his roar of a laugh, and probably by the affectionate attempts of his wife Marie-Christine to keep the noise level down. They were a devoted couple.
A romantic streak was fired by memories of childhood in Ethiopia, where his father was the doctor for the French-run railway. An uncle who impressed him was head of police in the French concession of Shanghai.
At the beginning of the Second World War, as he used to tell it, a teacher in his lycee explained that a clever boy like him did not have to be bottom of the class. One day it was announced to the boys that as a Jew in Vichy France this man could no longer be allowed to teach them. This was the first that Philippe had ever heard of Jews. The Resistance network that he then joined in Lyons consisted almost entirely of Jews. In an attack on the Gestapo transport depot at Villeurbanne, Philippe was shot in the arm. This wound always gave him trouble.
When he could be persuaded to speak of these experiences, he became unusually quiet. I never heard him make any claim for himself. His personal bravery seems to have sprung directly from a sense of right and wrong.
He intended to write about his wartime comrades but I think that unfortunately he had not yet done so. Some of his books were best-sellers, wild adventure stories that came out of his later career as a correspondent for Agence France Presse. He covered the Greek civil war, Korea and the Far East, and Tito's Yugoslavia.
As publisher, businessman, and maker of a choice Armagnac, he branched out in all sorts of happy directions. With Marie-Christine, he ran the cultural centre now set up in her home, the Abbaye de Royaumont, near Paris. He was a leading light in the Franco-British Council, but organisations were not for him. His loves and loyalties were those of a truly free spirit.
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