Hollande's famous words: Not Shakespeare's, nor Shakespeare's

by Toby Manhire / 31 January, 2012
The mystery of the French presidential hopeful's misattribution grows curiouser and curiouser.


François Hollande was full of fire and passion. Addressing a 20,000-strong crowd, the man hotly tipped to topple Nicolas Sarkozy in this year’s French presidential election invoked that “universal message”, as famously framed by Shakespeare: “They failed because they did not start with a dream.”

One problem. The Daily Telegraph’s Paris correspondent Harry Samuel picks up the story:

Nicholas Shakespeare, journalist, novelist, biographer and direct descendant of William's grandfather, said: "I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw the French presidential candidate had quoted me."



He instantly recognised the words as coming from his 1989 novel, The Vision of Elena Silves.



It is unlikely to help Mr Hollande's campaign to discover they were uttered by the novel's hero, Gabriel, a Maoist revolutionary who ends up a terrorist for the murderous Peruvian guerrilla group, Shining Path.



Their motto was: "Marxism – Leninism will open the shining path to revolution".



"He is saying the last Marxist revolution of the Sixties had failed, but his is going to succeed and the idea is that they failed because they did not have a dream," said Mr Shakespeare.


It would be tidier, in a way, if the yarn ended there, but it doesn’t.

In a piece for the Telegraph the following day, Mr N Shakespeare issued a mea culpa: he had combed through his novel, and the quote was after all nowhere to be found.

The idea is hardly original – that dreams are a good thing – but at the moment I don’t know where it comes from. In short, I am mortified that I went along so enthusiastically with the misattribution, and I ask for Hollande’s forgiveness.



As any schoolchild knows, it has to matter who said it – and I will continue to pay my children 20p a chapter to work alongside me to locate the prodigal phrase. To be under the impression that I wrote something I may not have done is unsettling.


Where then did those confounded words come from? Did he just make them up, thinking they sounded kind of Bard-ish?

Hollande, as far as I can tell, has remained silent on the matter. But a little online sleuthing suggests one fresh avenue.

Plug the original French phrase as uttered by Hollande – "Ils ont échoué parce qu'ils n'ont pas commencé par le rêve" – into Google, and, amid the results, there are various attributions to Shakespeare, including this one, which says the phrase comes from Hamlet. Chances are this is where Hollande or his speechwriter found the line.



A search of Hamlet appears to confirm that no such quote appears there.

But search for the French phrase in Google Books and up pops a solitary result:



This is from a French thriller novel called 127 J, by someone called Jean Marc Cornelle. Unfortunately the footnote itself is not visible in the Google Books preview. But Lewis Carroll? However mangled the spelling, it sounds promising.

Sadly, a quick search of the Alice books fails to turn up the words, but such dreamy aphorism does have the air of Alice (or the March hare?) about it.

Curiouser and curiouser.
MostReadArticlesCollectionWidget - Most Read - Used in articles
AdvertModule - Advert - M-Rec / Halfpage

Latest

First look: Poké Poké
Health Minister dismisses chocolate fundraiser ban
71842 2017-04-28 09:07:08Z Nutrition

Health Minister dismisses chocolate fundraiser ban…

by RNZ

Should schools be selling chocolate to raise funds? The Health Minister says it's ok, but nutrition experts disagree.

Read more
Film review: Denial
71718 2017-04-28 00:00:00Z Movies

Film review: Denial

by Peter Calder

The dramatisation of a Holocaust denier’s libel suit is both engrossing and moving.

Read more
Danish dramas versus Kiwi soaps
71634 2017-04-28 00:00:00Z Television

Danish dramas versus Kiwi soaps

by Jeremy Rose

A quarter of Denmark's population regularly watch Danish TV dramas, while the highest-rating Kiwi drama attracted an audience of just over 250,000.

Read more
A film fest, a stage classic and other highlights on Auckland's agenda
71779 2017-04-28 00:00:00Z What's on

A film fest, a stage classic and other highlights …

by India Hendrikse

What’s on in Auckland: Crystal Castles, a design and architecture film festival and lots of other excellent events to put in your diary

Read more
How do New Zealanders rank as philanthropists?
71583 2017-04-28 00:00:00Z Business

How do New Zealanders rank as philanthropists?

by Sally Blundell

Kiwis take little persuasion to give to a good cause, but the demands are ever-growing. How much money gets to where it’s really needed?

Read more
The fitness industry is on the eve of digital disruption
71733 2017-04-28 00:00:00Z Technology

The fitness industry is on the eve of digital disr…

by Peter Griffin

As technology changes the way we do business, the effects are extending from the office to most parts of our lives – including how we keep in shape.

Read more
Seeking out San Francisco's tasty gems