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The Strange Letter That Has France Asking, ‘Use Me?’

On Monday, France’s Le Monde newspaper published a letter that has left many amused — and others utterly confused. Investigators found the handwritten, undated letter, allegedly from current IMF chief Christine Lagarde to former French President Nicolas Sarkozy, during a search of Lagarde’s Paris apartment in March, and it’s now been leaked to the press. ...

Antoine Antoniol/Getty Images
Antoine Antoniol/Getty Images

On Monday, France’s Le Monde newspaper published a letter that has left many amused — and others utterly confused. Investigators found the handwritten, undated letter, allegedly from current IMF chief Christine Lagarde to former French President Nicolas Sarkozy, during a search of Lagarde’s Paris apartment in March, and it’s now been leaked to the press.

France 24 posted a translation of the note, which Le Monde has dubbed "La lettre d’allégeance":

Dear Nicolas, very briefly and respectfully,

1) I am by your side to serve you and serve your plans for France.

2) I tried my best and might have failed occasionally. I implore your forgiveness.

3) I have no personal political ambitions and I have no desire to become a servile status seeker, like many of the people around you whose loyalty is recent and short-lived.

4) Use me for as long as it suits you and suits your plans and casting call.

5) If you decide to use me, I need you as a guide and a supporter: without a guide, I may be ineffective and without your support I may lack credibility. With my great admiration,

Christine L.

The backstory here is pretty complicated. The authorities searching Lagarde’s apartment were investigating her involvement in a 2008 settlement paid to Bernard Tapie, the former head of Adidas, while Lagarde served as France’s finance minister under Sarkozy. Tapie accused the state-owned bank Crédit Lyonnais of defrauding him and Lagarde recommended the case go to arbitration, where Tapie was awarded more than $500 million. Critics have charged that the award was too generous and likely resulted from Tapie’s close relationship with Sarkozy’s government, while Lagarde has denied any wrongdoing.

The five-point letter has revived interest in the controversial case and left many in France scratching their heads. Slate‘s French edition took the historical route, going back to the Middle Ages and questioning whether the letter should be interpreted as an oath of allegiance or as a pledge from a vassal.

Le Huffington Post, for its part, compiled a list of funny French Twitter responses, including one person who compared the letter to something a 13-year-old girl would write to Justin Bieber. One tweet noted it was lucky the letter wasn’t intended for former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn, who has been embroiled in several sex scandals.

Traditional media outlets aren’t sitting this one out either. The news magazine L’Express is asking readers to imagine how Sarkozy might respond to Lagarde’s letter They’ll publish the best submissions on Friday — and they’re asking readers to avoid any vulgar language, s’il vous plaît.

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