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The initial facts are extraordinary enough, like something out of a Claude Chabrol movie, via Georges Simenon or Ruth Rendell. It's a true life story of French bourgeois implosion - respectable doctor living near the Swiss border goes berserk, kills wife and two children, having previously shot his mother and father and attempted to strangle his mistress, sets fire to the family home and takes an overdose, only to be rescued, revived and charged with murder, much to the consternation of the local community, which had always regarded him as a solicitous, conscientious and caring husband, father and son.
So far, so Chabrol. Then, with a twist worthy of Nabokov, a further level is revealed. In spite of everything he had claimed, the killer, Jean-Claude Romand, turns out never to have been a doctor at the World Health Organisation, nor to have any medical qualifications. The whole professional edifice of his life was an elaborate fabrication.
This scandalous revelation was followed by local rumours of a romantic surrogate life in drug-running, and so on, but the truth was more desperate. Days when Romand had said he had been teaching in Dijon, or working at the WHO's Geneva headquarters, had been spent mooching about alone.
Romand, the ostensibly successful professional and happy family man, had in fact done nothing with his life, except make it up.
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It hardly seems worth pointing out that writers spend their lives making things up too. The perpetrator of all these lies was of course a mild man on the surface, in many ways unnoticeable, well used to avoiding drawing attention to himself, except occasionally, when he concocted elaborate ruses to both gain sympathy and distract - pretending while a student to have been set upon; claiming, when things got more desperate, that he had cancer. Romand's exceptional passivity and fear of confrontation seem to have been the products of a combination of geographical and family elements: rural isolation in a grandiose but oppressive landscape - the Jura forests of eastern France - in which he grew up a sensitive only child with a stoical, undemonstrative father and a sickly, fretting mother, on whom no demands could be made.
Romand's neurosis manifested itself in an inability to take exams, and his initial break with his family - to study medicine instead of following his father into forestry management - faltered because of this.
From that failure of nerve developed his forged life. What followed was a bizarre combination of upward mobility and stasis, funded initially by a parental allowance, then through embezzling the savings of relatives and friends. Here Romand was able to capitalise on two things: the traditional mistrust of the French paysan and petit bourgeois towards banks; and the proximity of the Swiss border.
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A Paradigm of Philosophy: The Adversary Method
Winner, Edgar S. Introduction [PDF].
The major contribution of the book is the systematic focus on a notoriously amorphous subject--how world leaders and intelligence organizations draw inferences about their adversaries' long-term intentions. Haas, Political Science Quarterly. Yarhi-Milo makes a major contribution to the study of this critical question by developing a new theory of threat perception and testing it in three important historical cases.
With its extraordinarily detailed historical research, extensive coverage of primary sources, compelling evidence, and balanced interpretations, Knowing the Adversary is indispensable reading for conflict theorists, intelligence analysts, and diplomatic historians. Levy, Rutgers University. Yarhi-Milo's fascinating and important book is a huge step forward.
Testing theories based on rational choice, organization theory, and psychology, and using original research on British perceptions of Nazi Germany and American views of the USSR, she shows that decision makers and intelligence analysts looked at different indicators and that the attention paid by both groups was highly selective.
The quality of the empirical work is outstanding. I can think of few recent qualitative studies that are in its league. Surprisingly little research has focused as directly and fully on this important question as Yarhi-Milo does here.
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