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French President Hollande’s former first lady releases tell-all book

In 2012, presidential candidate Francois Hollande and companion Valerie Trierweiler leave after voting in Tulle, central France.
(Lionel Cironneau / Associated Press)

It’s not the way French President Francois Hollande would want to be known: cold, calculating and uncaring.

But that is the way he was portrayed by former First Lady Valerie Trierweiler in an intimate and damaging account of their stormy relationship,

Trierweiler, whose nine-year relationship with Hollande abruptly ended when his secret affair with a French actress hit the headlines in January, published a memoir Thursday in which she described taking a heavy dose of sleeping pills after discovering he had cheated on her.

In the book, “Merci Pour Ce Moment” (“Thanks for the Moment”), the former political journalist also said that Hollande, 60, tried to woo her back with flowers and passionate messages and asked her to spend a last night with him before she packed her suitcases and left.

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The public airing of the Elysee Palace’s dirty laundry has shocked the French, who are shielded from personal information about their politicians and celebrities by tough privacy laws. The 320-page book, which was printed outside France amid the utmost secrecy, has been described as outrageous, indecent and “sentimental pornography.”

The Elysee Palace said it had not been informed about Trierweiler’s book before it was published and had no comment.

The 200,000 copies have been flying out of bookshops and sales have knocked the racy “Fifty Shades of Grey” off the bestseller top spot.

Trierweiler, 49, who made her name at the glossy and highly respected magazine Paris Match, emerges as a thin-skinned, angst-ridden and jealous woman who had difficulty coping with playing second fiddle to the president, the role of most political wives.

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After learning of Hollande’s secret trysts with actress Julie Gayet, 42, she says, she took a handful of sleeping pills and was taken to a hospital. There, she says, doctors kept her knocked out with “astronomical doses” of medication to prevent her from leaving for several days.

In another passage, Trierweiler reports that First Lady Michelle Obama was jealous when the U.S. president posed for a “selfie” with Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt at the memorial service for former South African President Nelson Mandela in December 2013. “I’m glad I’m not the only one who is jealous,” she writes.

In 2007, Hollande left his previous partner, Segolene Royal, the mother of his four children and now a government minister, for Trierweiler, with whom he had been having an affair. In her book, Trierweiler describes Royal, a career politician, as an ever-present shadow on her relationship with Hollande.

Among her more damaging claims is that Hollande, a Socialist, dismissed the country’s poor as “les sans dents” (the toothless), a claim the president vehemently denied Friday when asked about the book at a news conference at the NATO summit in Wales. Hollande said he was “at the service of the poorest,” describing this as his “reason for being.”

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If Trierweiler, who has given no interviews to promote the book, hoped to capitalize on public sympathy for Hollande’s betrayal, she misjudged the national mood, finding herself at the center of a political and public backlash.

Le Parisien newspaper summed up the general feeling about the blatant score-settling with a one-word front page headline: “Pathetic.” On the website Slate.fr, writer Laurent Sagalovitsch described the book as “sentimental pornography.”

“Nothing can justify the throwing of such opprobrium at a man whose only fault, from what we are told, is to have stopped loving a person who thought they had a strong relationship,” Sagalovitsch wrote. He described Trierweiler as “drunk with jealousy, rancor and bitterness” and said the book was a “one-sided account of events, anecdotes and revelations … that do not concern us.”

Prime Minister Manuel Valls appealed for dignity and respect. “When you lower the public debate with outrageous attacks, or you mix public and private lives, you debase the debate,” Valls told journalists Thursday.

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Even Marine Le Pen, president of the far-right National Front, who rarely has a good word to say about Hollande, described the book as indecent and “a dishonor as much for the person speaking as the person spoken about.”

Willsher is a special correspondent.


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