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Le Temps, Switzerland

David Petraeus, a Chronicle
of Literary History

By Stéphane Bonvin

This is yet another dent in the army’s prestige in this era of ours, which requires that public discourse and bedroom lives coincide.

Translated By Keegan Robertson

17 November 2012

Edited by Mary Young

Switzerland - Le Temps - Original Article (French)

The Affair of the American General and His Mistress, Reviewed Not As a Farce, but As Marivaudage*

Did Jill sleep with David? Is John in love with Jill? Will Holly forgive the famous general?

It seems like “Dallas,” redone as a parody by Les Inconnus.** Yet these are the real questions asked by the American justice system — and by us as well, onlookers fascinated with this story of adultery, senior officers, “bimbo-logical attraction” and messages out of cutting jealousy (hello, Valérie Trierweiler).

You know it. In this fragrant and ethereal paper, it’s up to me to play the garbage man of the news. So I will tell you this story.

It all would have started in Kabul. In the dusty dawn of an infinite destiny, David and Paula were jogging. Him, 60 years old; her, 40. Him, a dazzling alpha male in sleeveless camouflage; her, an intellectual, Lara Croft-style. Bang, bang. Him, Tarzan; her, Jane.

Except these are no ordinary lovers. He is the four-star general David Petraeus, married for 40 years, hero of the nation, craftsman of the withdrawal from Iraq, strategist compared with Eisenhower, great communicator, Republican that Obama appointed head of the CIA to take his sights off of the presidency. Her? She is his biographer, Paula Broadwell, known for her mammary ambition and her shapely head. When did their adulterous liaisons begin? The judge will have to decide. Still, instead of swallowing kilometers, these two fitness junkies finish by creasing the same sheets. After all, why not?

Alas. One day, an acquaintance of the general, a certain Jill Kelley, known for her socializing, her tanned husband, her bled-dry credit cards and her Eva Longoria plastic, contacted one of her friends who works for the FBI. She has been receiving threatening emails, she tells him. She’s afraid. The FBI boyfriend, Frederick Humphries, speaks to his superiors. They take over the case. To fight boredom, Frederick hits on Jill. He sends her half naked photos, in which he courageously bares his belly. Anyway, let’s move on.

The FBI still believes this to be a trivial case. They go through the anonymous emails and discover their author. My god, but it’s Paula, sick with jealousy at the idea that Jill’s talons are digging into her lover (if you aren’t following, look no further than the low-budget soaps; they’re excellent for your memory and slow Alzheimer’s). So the FBI confiscates Paula’s computer and discovers her secret relationship with the general, as well as, it seems to them, classified documents. Treason. Resignation. In passing, the police note that to communicate Petraeus and his lover borrow a method typical of terrorists: Instead of sending easily-intercepted emails, they store them in the draft folder of a shared email address…

Strangely, the whole story comes out shortly before the hearings concerning the attack on the Benghazi consulate, at which Petraeus must testify. And then, another dramatic turn of events: The investigators find “inappropriate” emails between Jill the bimbo and… another senior official, the commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan, John Allen! This is yet another dent in the army’s prestige in this era of ours, which requires that public discourse and bedroom lives coincide…

Dallas? James Bond? Yes, of course. But you should think mostly of… Marivaux. Yes. Marivaux, where it all often happens by mistake, by the grace of stolen mail, intercepted tickets and misplaced letters — here replaced by a collection of hot emails. Because, people, what makes a play about a secret love affair great is not the hidden acts, nor is it the scandalous protagonists. It is the way in which they are discovered, intercepted, published. It surely makes you think.

*Editor’s Note: Marivaudage is a French term used to describe literature that is light-hearted or characterized by “sophisticated banter in the style of Marivaux.”

**Editor’s Note: “Les Inconnus” are a French satirical sketch comedy group.



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