Translating DSK

Dominique Strauss-Kanh

Ok, once again, not Asia, but it’s so good that I couldn’t resist.

I’m a paid up member of the UMP, but I would happily vote for DSK. And by that I don’t mean “I would have voted for him prior to the Nafissatou and Carlton affairs”, I mean I would vote for him right now if I had the nerve to stand. I – along with more or less everyone else in Paris – knew all about his proclivities long before the Sofitel affair. To disown him merely because he has been taken to court over it seems churlish.

What’s more, his recent trial for what the anglophone press persists in referring to as ‘aggravated pimping’ has only confirmed me in my views, for against all expectations, the old goat is actually managing to come through it with a certain farouche nobility. Now that’s presidential material, right there.

The basic back-story is the following: DSK and a selection of other worthies are charged with organising parties at which prostitutes were present. The allegations suggest that DSK received their services as a gift and cooperated with their employer to organise some of the aforementioned parties, hence the accusation of conspiracy to live off immoral earnings (or, if you are a British journalist, ‘aggravated pimping’ *le sigh*). DSK and his co-defendants are saying that they had no idea that the women were being paid for their services, and thought that they were just doing it for fun.

In any case, DSK finally took the stand the other day, and his responses were almost poetic. I am about to make a mess of my attempt to translate some of them, because they are given in exceptionally high-flown latinate French that is impossible to render into English. In any case, here’s my best effort in the context of an excellent summary of the state of things written by Pascale Robert-Diard, who has been covering the trial for Le Monde. Poetry has been prefered to fidelity throughout.

The free libertine and his cringing servants

The moment has finally arrived: I no longer want to write about what is being said here in court. It would be too complacent, too facile to use the justification of open court to list salacious details. After two days of arguments dealing with the accusations brought against Dominique Strauss-Kahn, I have finally begun to feel queasy. It began after reading the hundred or so pages on the subject contained in the dossier presented before the court, with their insistence on the raw details of his sex life which – according to the prosecution – are effectively charges to be brought against him.

Strauss-Kahn emphasized this himself: what is on trial here – the question of living off immoral earnings or something else? After dealing with the events alleged to have taken place at the Hotel Murano, a second incident was brought before the court, beginning in a swingers club and ending in a Brussels hotel room. Jade – one of the former prostitutes who have brought civil suits – was present. She had been the designated driver that night, taking the Director of the IMF and a friend from the club to the hotel.

The story provides some much needed comic relief. His friends having been obliged to return to Lille, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, who had to attend an international conference the following morning in Brussels, found himself with no means of transport. Before leaving, the faithful Fabrice Paszowski inspected Jade’s car – a Peugeot 206 – to make sure that it was suitable for the conveyance of his idol. So it was that, in the dead of night, the Director of the IMF folded himself into the back of a 206 – he chivalrously let his female companion take the front seat – driven by a woman who chatted to him about her job as an erotic dancer. One can’t help but smile when one realises that at any moment a deer or a drunk driver could have caused a serious diplomatic incident. In any case…

Jade followed him into the hotel. What followed left her with a bad memory, which she ran through in enthusiastically painful detail for the court, leading the judge to point out that she had nevertheless agreed – in return for 2000 euros – to accompany Dominique Strauss-Kahn to Washington several months later on a trip organized by friends, during which she was photographed smiling in the IMF Director’s office.

Once more it was Frédérique Baulieu who took on the business of questioning Jade’s account of the incident in the Brussels hotel room, based on which Jade asserted that Dominique Strauss-Kahn could not have been unaware that she was a prostitute. The face-off between the witness and Strauss-Kahn’s lawyer was tense: civil but insistent, and the young lady responded with tears. No male lawyer could possibly have asked the sodomy question, upon which several of the accusations brought against DSK rest. As Baulieu put it: “So, according to you, there are certain sexual practices that are reserved for prostitutes and could not be practiced by women who are swingers, or even ordinary women like you or me within the context of a relationship with a husband, a partner or a boyfriend?” More tears.

At the request of the judge, Dominique Strauss-Kahn took the stand.

“My sexuality is more… crude than that of most men. Some women may enjoy it, others not. But that has nothing to do with prostitution.”

He added, with a slight tone of irritation in his voice:

“I am growing tired of this. Everyone has the right to disapprove of my behaviour, but it nevertheless does not imply that I had recourse to prostitutes. Certainly these practices are a minority interest, but there are still plenty of people who enjoy them. Why should they be of any interest to the court, unless you intend to prosecute me for having deviant tastes?”

As on the first day that he took the stand, the weary openness and detachment with which Strauss-Kahn described his sexuality was impressive. Possibly this is all that remains after having lost so much, but the contrast with his co-defendants – who cringe with shame as they describe their own behaviour (voyeurism, an appetite for paid encounters or any number of other specialist pleasures) – is remarkable. When the lawyer Emmanuel Riglaire cried over his lost respectability, telling the court between sobs about his wife’s depression, or when David Roquet’s voice cracked as he described how he lost his job as head of an Eiffage Group subsidiary and now drives a van, or when Police Comissionner Jean-Christophe Lagarde tripped over his own denials, Strauss-Kahn’s testimony has been one of the less bleak aspects of the affair. This band of local notables were irresistibly drawn in to the misadventures of a powerful individual, an unself-conscious libertine, becoming – in some cases – his servile but inadequate imitators.

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