A book published today will break one of the great political and legal taboos in France by suggesting that President Jacques Chirac may have an illegitimate Japanese son.
The book - Nos délits d'initiés (Our Insider Trading) - by Guy Birenbaum offers no firm evidence of the son, but instead gathers together circumstantial facts and rumours that have been circulating for a number of years.
Although previous books have suggested that President Chirac has had multiple love affairs, this will be the first allegation in the mainstream French media that the head of state has a Japanese love child.
The book, published by Editions Stock, is also a full-frontal attack on the French media practice - backed by tough privacy laws - of never discussing the sexual activities of politicians. M. Birenbaum, 42, says he supports the principle of protecting private lives but not the "institutional hypocrisy" which allows politicians to say one thing and do another.
M. Birenbaum, a publisher, also "outs" the sexual escapades of several other French politicians. In particular, he focuses on the frequent love affairs between politicians and political journalists.
But the core of the book is an examination of rumours that M. Chirac had an illegitimate son with a Japanese woman in the late 1970s. M. Birenbaum is a close associate of the radical Socialist MP Arnaud Montebourg, who has run an energetic crusade to bring M. Chirac to book for his alleged financial and personal misdemeanours.
Although the book makes many reasonable points about the misuse of the French privacy laws, its section on M. Chirac amounts to a catalogue of gossip, circumstantial facts and allegations previously published only on the internet, or in restricted-circulation information sheets.
The rumours closely resemble those that plagued the previous French president, François Mitterrand, in the 1980s. The existence of M. Mitterrand's illegitimate daughter, Mazarine, was confirmed only when he was out of office and close to death. The fury felt by many in France at being kept in the dark contributes to the suspicion and contempt for the Parisian "élite", which nurtures extremist movements such as the National Front.
The circumstantial evidence presented by M. Birenbaum for the existence of M. Chirac's Japanese son - who would now be in his 20s - is as follows.
M. Chirac has made 40 private and official visits to Japan in the past two decades. Last year the Elysées Palace insisted that two French intelligence chiefs be dismissed. They had allegedly launched investigations into M. Chirac's private dealings in Japan and reported back to Lionel Jospin, who was then Prime Minister.
The book also quotes from a number of internet sites and news letters, which claim that it is widely known in the French political community, and the French expatriate community in Japan, that M. Chirac has a son, now said to be in Switzerland.
As the book admits, M. Chirac's frequent visits to Japan could be explained by his well-known love for all aspects of Japanese culture, from art to beer to sumo wrestling. Mme Chirac's dog is called Sumo.Reuse content