How’s this for a bit of communication across cultures: an Australian biographer reporting a French writer commenting on the death of an American president. It comes from the book I’ll be reviewing in the next couple of days, Hazel Rowley’s Franklin and Eleanor: An extraordinary marriage. In it Rowley quotes Albert Camus on the death of Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1945:
‘His face was the very image of happiness,’ Albert Camus wrote in the French Resistance newspaper, Combat. ‘History’s powerful men are not generally men of such good humour … There is not a single free human being who does not regret his loss and who would not have wished his destiny to have continued a little longer. World peace, that boundless good, ought to be planned by men with happy faces rather than by sad-eyed politicians.’
Somehow I didn’t expect something quite so sunny-sounding from Albert Camus, but perhaps I don’t know him as well as I thought I did. We are, I think, more cynical these days about the concept of “world peace” but we can still hope, can’t we? Does anyone know of any happy-faced world leaders out there that we can call on to promote the cause (besides the current Dalai Lama that is)?