A Tribute to Éric Rouleau (1926–2015)

by mediachinwag

Éric Rouleau had a deep relationship with Egypt and the Middle East—he was Le Monde’s correspondent in the region for 30 years, and later served as France’s ambassador to Tunisia and to Turkey. He was born in Cairo, began his journalism career on the Egyptian Gazette, and maintained a lifelong attachment to his native country.

A tribute to Éric will be held in Cairo on October 13 on the occasion of the Arabic translation of Éric’s final work, Dans les coulisses du Proche-Orient: Mémoires d’un journaliste diplomate (1952-2012). The event is hosted by American University in Cairo’s Middle East Studies Center, the Institut Francais d’Egypte, and the Al-Tanany Publishing House.


One of the speakers is longtime Le Monde Diplomatique Editor-in-Chief Alain Gresh, who wrote a poignant appreciation of Éric’s life and career in Orient XXI last March. A translation appears in the Cairo Review of Global Affairs. Here’s a brief excerpt:

In 1985, Rouleau transitioned to a diplomatic career at the request of President Mitterand. He was appointed ambassador, first to Tunis—then headquarters of the Arab League, and the city where the Palestinian Liberation Organization sought refuge after its expulsion from Beirut in 1982—and later to Ankara. After this time, only diplomats would benefit from his culture, analyses, and countless connections. Ironically, Rouleau himself noticed that the number of his readers dropped from hundreds to two, and even sometimes one—the president of the Republic.

During the first meeting of French ambassadors held in Paris after his appointment, each of the diplomats introduced themselves and their country of assignment—for example the Ivory Coast, Jordan, Argentina, etc. When it was his turn, he stood up and said: “Éric Rouleau, Le Monde.” There was silence, then the audience broke into laughter. Freud believed that slips of the tongue expressed unconscious desires. Did Rouleau consider himself the ambassador of the daily newspaper? Or did he see himself as ambassador to the world, monde in French, as he crossed from north to south? Or, might he have simply meant that he was our ambassador to a planet whose glitches he would help us solve?

Also, read “Cairo: A Memoir,” by Éric Rouleau in the Summer 2012 edition of the Cairo Review.

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“A Tribute to Éric Rouleau (1926–2015)” will be held in Oriental Hall, AUC Tahrir Campus, from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. on Tuesday October 13.

—Scott MacLeod