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French presidential hopeful Francois Hollande made a grand speech to a 20,000-strong crowd on Sunday, who were impressed when Hollande seemingly quoted a Shakespearean passage as he promised to restore egalitarian idealism to France. “And I will quote Shakespeare, who recalls this universal law,” the Socialist candidate said, Le Monde reports, “They failed because they did not start with a dream.”
A lofty sentiment, but extensive digging by British and French journalists failed to track down the phrase in any of The Bard’s works.
Here’s why: while the quote is Shakespearean, it’s not the Shakespeare Hollande seems to think it is.
The quote comes from the 1989 novel ‘The Vision of Elena Silves’, written by Nicholas Shakespeare, a direct descendant of William Shakespeare’s grandfather and The Telegraph’s chief book reviewer.
“I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw the French presidential candidate had quoted me,” Shakespeare said, The Telegraph reports.
This could all have blown over as a simple faux pas, except that the words were uttered in the novel by the protagonist, Gabriel, a Maoist revolutionary who becomes a terrorist for the 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 Shakespeare.
President Sarkozy’s right-wing UMP party — which is already trailing Hollande in the polls — could seize on this as a sign Hollande is less of reconstructed left-winger than he would have France believe.
Translated into more than 10 languages, Nicholas Shakespeare’s critically-acclaimed book was not well-received in France.
“My book reading in Paris was sparsely attended,” Shakespeare said. He added: “Better late than never. I risked my life researching it. Perhaps they will reprint it now.”