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Early Life. Born Aug. 18, 1908 in Béziers in southern France, the son of a French army doctor, Edgar Jean Vincent Barthelemy Faure (pronounced fore) was a nearsighted youth but a dazzling student, won his bachelor's degree at 15, his law degree at 19 from the Paris Faculty of Law, where he met another brilliant young law student, Pierre Mendès-France. In 1931 Faure married tall, blonde, elegant Lucie Meyer, daughter of a prosperous silk merchant, took his old friend Mendès on the honeymoon—a months-long tour of Russia (Mendès took sick, was sent home), during which Faure polished up the Russian he had learned at Paris' School of Oriental Languages. Years later, Faure startled a Soviet trade delegation by discoursing for four hours in fluent Russian, stumbling only over the word for "corkscrew."

Professional Career. Until 1942 Faure practiced law, used his criminal cases as background for a series of detective stories written under the pen name of Edgar Sanday. The Faures caught the last boat to leave Vichy France for North Africa, where Edgar joined General de Gaulle. After liberation he was put in a financial job by Mendès, then Minister of National Economy. A typical Faure legend has it that he committed the 1,000-page tax catalogue to memory in four days, amazed the Assembly by answering questions on a complex tax proposal for two hours without preparation or notes. Later, he served as a French prosecutor in the Nürnberg trials, then persuaded the Radical Socialists to give him a constituency in the Jura district, arrived in the Assembly announcing: "I'd like to become a Minister; my constituents would be so pleased."

Assembly Career. From 1949 on, he served in eight governments, usually as Finance or Budget Minister. In 1952 he became, at 43, France's youngest Premier since 1893, but he lasted only 40 days, falling on a courageous demand for a 15% increase in taxes. "If you refuse your confidence," he told the Deputies, "you will be favoring inflation, which is the highest and unfairest kind of tax." An off-again-on-again friend of European unity in the past, he voted for the Paris accords, believes in East-West trade.

Personal Life. A small man with bulging eyes and pouting lips, Faure succeeds by driving energy, quick wit, and breezy, first-naming familiarity. He lives in deep-carpeted splendor in one of Paris' most fashionable apartment houses with his wife and their two daughters. His energetic wife publishes a political review. La Nef, presides over a salon peopled with avant-garde writers and left-wing intellectual-politicians. Where Mendès whipped men to decision by the scornful lash of his tongue, Faure seeks to cajole. But two months ago Faure flew into a rage when L'Express' Editor Servan-Schreiber hinted that he had reduced the tax on race horses for the sake of his fellow members of the Racing Club, challenged the editor to a duel, was practicing myopicaliy with a revolver before Mendès managed to calm him.