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[Opinion] Napoleon

Posted October. 29, 2002 22:53,   


U.S. historian Paul Johnson, who recently published a book titled `Napoleon,` said the French general and empire was the second best to Jesus Christ when it comes to historic figures mostly frequently adopted in books. He then added he wrote the book to let it be known that Napoleon Bonaparte was the very man who sowed the seed of destructive wars and authoritarian rules in the 20th century. In his book, Johnson argues that the French ruler, known for the famous quote ˝Impossible is a word to be found only in the dictionary of fools,˝ was in fact a man who blindly stuck to the power of force. He was an opportunist and he spent the first night with his first wife Marie Luis to prove his sexual performance, the American historian pointed out.

▷Yet, there is no man as respected as Napoleon in France. Earlier this month, a French broadcaster aired a TV series about the French hero after pouring some $40 million into production, and generated a number of Napo-mania throughout the country. According to the New York Times, French people are crazy about the man mostly because France under his rule extended its influence as far as the Middle East and North Africa, which stands in sharp contrast to today’s France. English historian Frank McRin once referred to France’s hero as a charismatic leader, cunning strategist and sadist who liked to torture people by pulling out their hair.

▷Recently, it was reported that DNA tests on his hair proved Napoleon was not poisoned to death. So far, not a few French historians speculated that Napoleon did not die of a natural cause in the Saint Helena Island, but was poisoned with arsenic by Brits.

Top French scientists, however, concluded after close examinations that he died of a natural cause and the arsenic substance is believed to come from the drug he was using to treat his baldness. It seems that the great conqueror also worried about being bald.

▷It is not difficult to understand the France’s love for the ruler of the great French empire. Yet, an ambitious and charismatic leader in a country can be a vicious aggressor to another at the same time. After the TV series, Italy criticized that the French broadcaster beautified the aggressor as a great figure in history. Some Italians, however, argued that Italy also shed a new light on the fascism era when the country wielded great power. In this country also there seems to be nostalgia for a powerful leader. Jang Se-dong, who is running for presidency, is drumming up support among the conservative who long for the Fifth Republic, and Park Guen-hye is also increasing her presence mostly thanks to her late father General Park Jung-hee. Are they aware of the irony of the history? That the fallen French emperor once said that no matter powerful it is, ˝a government cannot take a deep root unless it is a result of experience and hardworking.˝

Kim Soon-duk, Editorial Writer, yuri@donga.com