Dylan Jones: If you ask me

Saturday 31 May 2008 00:00 BST

If you ask me, Dawn Dusk or Night by Yasmina Reza is probably the most pretentious political biography ever written. Reza, the French playwright best known for Art, was allowed to trail the French President for nearly a year, although the book she has produced is impressionistic to say the least – and comical at worst. Deliberately anti-dramatic (or so she says), the book is a disjointed collection of fragments, vignettes and the sort of inconsequential dialogue that would have been cut by any self-respecting copy editor. Only the French could have produced such an obtuse political book.

It's not exactly dull – not as dull as the David Blunkett autobiography, anyway – and it is not without flair, but it is insanely self-regarding. And while Reza goes out of her way to show Sarkozy's vanity, she manages to turn the torch on herself, too. To wit: "The tie and suit never fit his age. The man's suit accentuating a kind of fragility. The laugh is not the laugh of someone his age. He seems more elegant these days ... He is elegant, yes, he's gone back to Dior." I mean, I ask you ...

I remember quite liking Art (well, it was mercifully short, which seemed to be most people's view), but I can't say I'm going to be rushing to whatever she's got coming up – not after reading that she calls her book a portrait of "the extraordinary prison of political destiny". She said in an interview just last week (when the translated work was published in New York – it was published in France last summer) that she thought Sarkozy had been shocked to discover, on entering office, that he could do so little to affect the day-to-day running of the country. "In a campaign, one can have, or show, the trajectory of a conqueror; in power, it's not that possible. The tragedy of facts asserts itself." Which again, I think, says more about her inability successfully to capture her subject.

There is some meat on the bones, though not enough to line your stomach. If you really ask me, the only salient quote comes on page 61, in a passage describing a campaign meeting before the election that secured Sarkozy his job. "These meetings with politicians are mostly held to keep them happy," said the candidate. "Not to listen to their advice."

Which at least proves he knows something about government. Even if she doesn't.

Dylan Jones is the editor of 'GQ'

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