Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Might he be a Danton?

During WW2, the U.S. Army briefly ran a program of selecting bright recruits for college training, including one Heinz "Henry" Kissinger. A classmate recalled:
The guy was so damn bright and so damn intellectual it was strange to most of us -- and we were the ones who had been selected for our intelligence. . . . He'd come into the living room of our suite. Three or four of us would be talking, probably about sex. He'd flop on the couch and start reading a book like Stendhal's The Red and the Black -- for fun!
-- Walter Isaacson, Kissinger, p. 41.

One could discern a great deal about Kissinger's soul by knowing how he responded to that novel. Did he, the young immigrant trying to conform and make his way in a new country, identify with the social-climbing would-be hypocrite, Julien? Or did Kissinger already sympathize more with Marquis de la Mole and even Kissinger's future idol, Metternich (who has an uncredited cameo, as it were, in the novel)?

(Compare two avowed fans of The Red and the Black: Al Gore and Richard Posner.)

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