The Signature of (Soft) Power

Posted by John Rosenthal

Readers might be forgiven for imagining that the signature depicted below is that of a teenage schoolgirl – perhaps used to dedicate a copy of a friend’s high school yearbook, for instance. I say this, incidentally, on the authority of a former teenage schoolgirl who was kind enough to bring the photo and the similitude to my attention. As so happens, it is the signature of French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin.

 

 
 
The signature appears in a photo that accompanied an article in last week’s edition (23-29 March) of the French weekly L’Express. The Prime Minister used it to sign his entry in the guest book of the town hall of the city of Toulon: "To Toulon, Upright Before the Sea and Facing the Future. Very Amicably, Dominique de Villepin." The bird-shaped "D" and "V" are apparently an allusion to the famous seagull of de Villepin’s slender volume of quasi-literary reflections on international politics The Seagull and the Shark. As I noted in an entry on the old Trans-Int last year: "On Mr. de Villepin’s account, the violent way of the shark is apparently supposed to be that of the US; and the pacific manner of the seagull – as in J. Livingston, I suppose – of course, that of France." As I likewise noted, it is not obvious why one should like to be compared to a scavenger, but this is evidently the comparison that Mr. de Villepin prefers for his country and seemingly even himself.

 

I suppose one could think that it adds to the glory of France to have a Prime Minister who exhibits both the handwriting and the imaginative associations of a school girl. But it can hardly be to the benefit of the country to have a Prime Minister who displays such astounding vanity.

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