Jacques Soustelle


Jacques Soustelle

Jacques Soustelle (3 February 1912–6 August 1990) was a French anthropologist specializing in pre-Columbian civilizations. He became vice-director of the Musée de l'Homme in Paris in 1938.

Soustelle was born in Montpellier in a Protestant family. A very brilliant high school student, he was admitted at the first place at the Ecole Normale Supérieure de la rue d'Ulm which is still the ultimate college of French Education (many Nobel Prizes and Field Medal among alumni). At the age of 20, he was admitted at the first place at the competitive exam of "agrégation de philosophie" (high-level grade for teaching). An anti-fascist, he was general-secretary in 1935 of the French Union of Intellectuals against Fascism.

In summer 1940, he joined the French resistance and Charles de Gaulle in London, coming to head the intelligence service "Bureau Central de Renseignements et d'Action" (BCRA). In 1945, he served first as Minister of Information, then of the Colonies. From 1947 to 1951, he served as Secretary General of the Gaullist party "Rassemblement du Peuple Français" (RPF) and was one the closest De Gaulle's councillors.

He was nominated Governor General of Algeria by Pierre Mendès-France in 1955-56, favouring the integration of the Muslim community in the French Departments along the Mediterranean coast. Thanks to Soustelle's essential support during May 1958 Algiers revolt, De Gaulle returned to power.

Though he believed he would head Algeria Secretary, he only was named Information Minister in June 1958. In 1959, during the Algerian War, he was appointed Minister of State in charge of Overseas Departments by Charles de Gaulle. He miraculously was safe after three "Front de Libération nationale" FLN terrorists attempted to assassinate him by shooting his car on Place de l'Étoile in Paris. He got from De Gaulle a presidential pardon for the only aggressor arrested and sentenced to death. Soustelle disagreed with de Gaulle's sudden turn for Algerian independence. He has analyzed this turnaround in his book "L'Espérance Trahie" (Broken Hope). Soustelle was dismissed from the Cabinet and the Gaullist party "Union pour la nouvelle République" (UNR) in 1960 and joined the "Organisation de l'armée secrète" (OAS) in the fight for the defence of French Algeria. When the OAS was replaced by the "Conseil national de la Résistance" (CNR) , he joined this new organization as one the heads (around Georges Bidault, former President of the World War II CNR resistance organization). His activities led him to being sued for attempting to undermine the authority of the French state. He lived in exile between 1961 and his 1968 amnesty.

Soustelle was elected in France's National Assembly (France's lower House) three times, first representing Mayenne in 1945-46, then the Rhône (1951-58) as a Gaullist, and from 1973 to 1978 as a member of the centrist "Réformateur" party.

Soustelle wrote "Envers et contre tout, Aimée et souffrante Algérie, L'Espérance trahie, l'Art du Mexique, Mexique et les Quatre Soleils". He was elected to the Académie française in 1983.


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