Léon Daudet

   Among the historical works that relate events over several years, sometimes over several centuries, incontestably the most interesting is the one that bears the name L'Action française and which is enlivened from beginning to end by the extraordinary literary genius that is Léon Daudet. It is true that the author feigns to announce what will take place, he says, in the relatively near future, in a word to make prophesies.  But here lies a pretension that is not tenable and that denies even the most superficial scrutiny of the facts. Léon Daudet talks for example about a future war in Europe, of the suspect role played by individuals of whom history has retained nothing but their names, Duval, Lenoir, Almereyda, of the custody of Caillaux the great Minister of Finance.  But hardly have two years passed before reality has reached the appointed position of confirming these predictions. If one had to deal, as Daudet leads us to believe, with circumstances not yet realized, he would have then a genuine gift of prophesy which would seem incompatible with the limits of man's understanding, of a kind of infallibility such as even the last holy fathers themselves would not have claimed. Who would have believed that a mere three days beforehand, Léon Daudet would be able to announce the resignation of M. Briand, who was not even in Paris, in the full exercise of his high judiciary, but at the Conference of Cannes. The word conference does not in itself imply any continuation of parliamentary proceedings, but on the contrary a kind of détente, a sort of congenial recreation. In the enchanted atmosphere of the French Midi, under the blossoming orange trees, not far distant from veritable fields of roses, before the incomparable azure of the sea, each and every one there dreams only of pleasure, of well deserved rest. There all nations fraternize together and for one day evoke the blessed peace of the golden age. The English teach games of golf, dull as they are, to people who are not yet familiar with them, but to which the British nation remains firmly attached. Invitations are exchanged. The Italians encourage the Germans and the Muscovites to come to the wonderful Genoese roads and admire those regions favoured by such sunlight as is unimaginable to the man of the north in his prison of ice. A truce that is hardly propitious, one might have thought, to a change in the ministry! Besides let us not quibble with Léon Daudet over his so-called political prescience. In reality it does not even seem to be a change in the ministry. The custom seemed to be that after a little time had passed the name of the minster was changed but not his person. In order to adhere to this purely nominal law of change Briand took the name Poincaré and continued to hold the supreme judiciary. Had he been replaced by an adversary, one could not have understood that the most widely read newspapers of the time, would have moved from one camp to the other. And this would have demonstrated an intolerable lack of discernment that would have not have been endured by the public. What interests us much more in Léon Daudet is the writer without equal. Long before the submarine, long before the aeroplane, he explored these unimaginable notions, he has created for ever in the human mind a cure through open air, a cure through altitude where each of us when we are feeling wearied might find ourselves once more restored to strength and health. His studies on Stevenson, on Dostoyevsky, on Molière, on the role that ancestral images play in our interior life, make up so many critical pieces that are often profuse creations never to be surpassed.

Unpublished article, from manuscript Cahier 75, NAF 18325, 15v - 12v.
See my article Le Pastiche perdu d'Ernest Renan, Bulletin d'informations proustiennes, No. 51, p. 37-41


Return to Front Page

Created 30.12.16