PUBLISHED ON FEBRUARY 20, 2020
He was a great conscience of the world and one of the most beautiful feathers of the French press. The writer and journalist Jean Daniel, a great reporter for the Express and then editorial director of Le Nouvel Observateur, died yesterday.
His penetrating gaze had opened up to the world in 1920, in the Mediterranean light of the Sahel. Eleventh child from an Algerian Jewish family, he grew up in Blida, near Algiers. Adolescence was the time of great literary and political passions, for Camus, Malraux, Gide, for Marx and for Stalin too, until the publication of Gide's Return of the USSR shattered his illusions. At home, the man of thought contested it for the man of action, the ideal never stifled the cry of reality. During the war, he left the benches of the Faculty of Philosophy of Algiers to fight alongside General Leclerc and participate in the Liberation, before finishing his studies at the Sorbonne. These back-and-forth movements between action and conscience were like the rest of his life, which combined these two impulses in a brilliant career as a journalist.
Its beginnings in the press were however full of pitfalls. The first literary journal he founded with friends, Caliban, collapsed after a few years, despite Camus' support. In 1954, the articles he published in L’Express, the journal of Jean-Jacques Servan-Schreiber and Mendès France, eventually attracted attention to his talent and his anti-colonialist positions. He who dreamed of literature then became a "novelist of reality", a hired worker who wielded his pen to defend the independence of Algeria and to plead for negotiations with the FLN.
His first journalistic tour de force was to act as an intermediary for John Fitzgerald Kennedy and Fidel Castro, making them like conversing at a distance through him a few weeks apart. This coup was accompanied by a stroke of fate: Jean Daniel was with the Lider Maximo when he learned by telephone the assassination of Kennedy. The impact of the articles he wrote then ensured him fame and established his legitimacy on geopolitical subjects.
In the fall of 1964, Jean Daniel began his great adventure with Claude Perdriel at Le Nouvel Observateur, of which he became the editor and star editorial writer. Carried by its penetrating spirit and its alert pen, the newspaper soon asserted itself as the flagship weekly of the left, and, beyond political factions, like an agora of ink and paper where collective progress was hotly debated. of the twentieth century, where the greatest democratic challenges were tied and unraveled, from anti-racism to the rights of homosexuals and the legalization of abortion. By his spirit devoid of Manichaeism, his commitment and his struggles which never prevented him from accepting the complexity of the situations and the arguments of his opponents, Jean Daniel was not only a tenor of social democratic ideals, but the leader of orchestra of a demanding and pluralist public debate.
He was a listened to and recognized voice, with which intellectuals and politicians liked to dialogue. As a tireless advocate for peace between Israelis and Palestinians, he has asserted himself over the course of numerous editorials as one of the specialists in the Middle East crisis. President François Mitterrand, whom he admired, honored his deep knowledge of geopolitical issues and his diplomatic capabilities by entrusting him with delicate missions, which he always carried out with finesse and efficiency.
The President of the Republic salutes a great French conscience and a monument to journalism which knew how to write history by the force of his pen. He sends his sincere condolences to all the journalists who admired him, to all the readers he has enlightened, to all the citizens he has informed.