And for that matter, who exactly is
Has news of Nicolas Sarkozy's post-marital shenanigans made it to the U.S.? I'm sure people know that his wife Cécilia left him not long after he became the new French president last summer and the legal system pronounced a divorce for the couple in record time.
That was after Cécilia refused an invitation from George W. Bush to come to a picnic at Kennebunkport, Maine, while the Sarkozy's were spending their summer vacation at a resort in nearby New Hampshire. Cécilia said she had a sore throat, but after turning up her nose at the Bush invitation she was seen out shopping in New Hampshire the next day.
Of course, Cécilia had already left Nicolas for a while before he declared his candidacy for the French presidency in 2006. She was reportedly living with another man in New York City. Why she came back to stand at her husband's side during his presidential campaign, nobody knows. The cynical say she was probably paid to do so, the reinforce Sarkozy's respectability. She didn't bother to go vote for him on election day, however.
Now Sarkozy is creating a stir by appearing in public with another woman, Carla Bruni. Sarkozy and Bruni were seen together at the Eurodisney theme park outside Paris last week. Now they have gone on holiday together in Egypt for a few days. They are making so secret of their relationship, even though few know the intimate details.
Who is Carla Bruni? Thirty-nine years old to Sarkozy's 52, she was born in Italy but came to France with her family when she was five years old and has French citizenship. She had a career as a fashion model from 1987 to 1997, and then started a career in pop music.
So Bruni is a songwriter and singer. She wrote the lyrics for an album, released in 2000, for the singer Julien Clerc (who writes his own music). Then in 2002 she released an album she herself wrote and recorded, under the title Qulequ'un m'a dit ("Somebody told me"), on which she sings and accompanies herself on the acoutic guitar. In 2007 she did a second album, No Promises, in English, putting to music poems by such English-language writers as Yeats, Auden, and Dickenson.
Carla Bruni's father was the wealthy industrialist and opera composer Alberto Bruni-Tedeschi, who died in 2006. He moved his family from Italy to France in the early 1970s because he was afraid they might fall victim to the kidnappings the Italian Red Brigades were known for at that time. Carla's older sister is the actress Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi (who happens to have a new movie out right now).
Over the years, Carla Bruni has been linked to and photographed with a series of "Anglo-Saxon" celebrities that includes Eric Clapton, Mick Jagger, Donald Trump, and Kevin Costner. In France, there have been real or rumored relationships with the actor Vincent Perez and the Socialist Party leader Laurent Fabius.
In the late 1990s Bruni was living with a well-known French literary editor but then got involved with the editor's son, married him, and had a child with him in 2001. At the time the younger man was married to Justine Lévy, the daughter of the French celebrity philosopher Bernard-Henry Lévy. Justine Lévy wrote a book about the whole affair in which Carla Bruni is one of the main characters.
Nicolas Sarkozy is certainly stirring things up in France. I'm sure there are many conservative French people who long for a return to the days of upstanding, even moralistic, political icons like Charles de Gaulle and his wife, "Tante" (Aunt) Yvonne.
No other French president — not even François Mitterrand, about whom it was revealed toward the end of his second seven-year term as president that he had had a long-lasting relationship and a daughter with a woman to whom he wasn't married — has flaunted his celebrity and his glamorous, rich friends the way Sarkozy is doing it.
Of course, most Americans' reaction to the whole Sarkozy lifestyle would be: Hey, he's French, isn't he? What do you expect?