The Price of Power: A Biography of Charles Eugene Bedaux
Contains Illustrations, Index
Kenneth M. Glazier was Chief Librarian Emeritus at the University of Calgary, Alberta.
When one picks up a biography to read, one looks for the answers to two questions: what did he do and what was he like? One is interested in his career and his accomplishments or failures, but one also wants to know what kind of a human being he was. Behind the public figure is the private individual, in all the complexity of his values, his motives, and his relationship with family and friends, if any. Sir Arthur Bryant, distinguished historian and biographer, once wrote that a biographer should be animated by a passion: “Here is a man,” he should say to himself, “I must find him”; and again, “Here is a man, I must make him live.” This is the passion that we must ask of Jim Christy.
The author, a Canadian journalist and author of both fiction and non-fiction, researched this biography of an elusive man for eleven years. The question is, did he find Bedaux? This was not an easy task. Charles Bedaux, born in France in 1886, spent his youth on the edges of a lawless crowd in the cafes and seedy hotels in Paris. After a man was shot in his presence, the family sent Charles off to America, where he developed a factory efficiency system that made him rich and powerful.
He returned to Europe but continued his adventures in northern British Columbia, Africa, and Nepal. His last brilliant and audacious scheme was to prove his downfall. While World War II was raging, he set in motion a plan to build a pipeline to bring oil across the Sahara Desert to Europe. The Allies wanted to know what his association with the Germans entailed and what was the motive of his collaboration. He fell from grace and became a “black prince” figure of his time.
It is difficult to write a great book about someone who is not a great man, but many will enjoy reading this book for its intrigues, its adventure, and its tragedy. The author has really done his homework in trying to track down an adventurer. But was it worth eleven years of his life and is it worth eleven hours of the reader’s time? Reading the book is like watching a man at the gambler’s table, wondering what trick he will play next until he finally leaves the sordid mess of his own volition. Did we find the real man? No! Because there is no real man to find here, only the shadows of a human being. For lovers of adventure this is a fascinating book.