Pierre Assouline: Une question d’orgueil. ISBN 978-2-07-045963-6 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ What pushes a man to betray his country, his government, his government’s allies? Georges Pâques is at the center of an espionnage case that shook France and Europe in the 60s when Pâques was identied as a Soviet agent, arrested and sentenced.
The French writer Pierre Assouline goes beyond simply retracing the unusual career of a French public servant that passed intelligence for more than 20 years to Moscow. The quest for the truth about Pâques’ character and his motivation – if such a truth exists – was an adventure in itself that merited being shared with the public. And Assouline does it in his inimitable, beautiful way as he did it in his biography of the journalist Albert Londres.
Assouline talked to Pâques, to his first Soviet agent handler, the latter’s wife and grand-daughter. He sneaked into Russian archives at the time when Boris Yeltsin ruled Russia and everything in Russia was for sale, state secrets inclusive. And gradually he came closer to the essence of Pâques deepest convictions: A sense of mission to put something right, to correct the balance of world affairs. Nothing less.
Pâques was a deeply pious Catholic, politically conservative and he certainly felt no sympathy for the autocratic regime of Staline and his successors. At the same time he was disgusted by the United States’ dominance in world affairs and their government’s arrogance, something he experienced right at the beginning of his career as a public servant of the French administration in Algeria in the 40s. This experience triggered a reflection that would propulse his career: Restoring the equilibrium by helping the Soviet Union. Betraying to preserve world peace. Talk about an ambitious young man.
The Soviet side quickly realized their luck, and Pâques’ first handler rather easily recruited him to report rumours, ideas, opinions, gradually moving to more sensitive information. Once he realized he had in fact become a Soviet agent in the top echelons of the French government and NATO, it was too late to turn back. The irony of his career: Betrayal led to Pâques downfall. A Soviet defector revealed details about a French agent and authoritirs patiently collected information until they had singled him out.
I am not without ambition myself, though I feel much more attracted by music than by politics. One of my long-term goals is to learn to play Ludwig van Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 21 in C major (Op. 53):