One of my real regrets in life is that I never met François Mitterrand. Because if I had, I would have had the chance to say to him, "Oh, Monsieur Mitterrand, I know you. You live on Daniel Singer's street!"
And that is the way I felt about it. I know that Daniel liked the idea that he and Mitterrand lived on the same street. But in my mind there was never any doubt about whose street it was. Those cops on the corner were there, I always liked to think, to keep track of Daniel, who lived across the street.
He was, of course, a man of the left. But he was a socialist with a difference. He was a lefty with manners, and he was a socialist humanist.
I feel sorry for the current crop of Nation interns because they will not get to attend his seminar on the events of 1968. They will not hear him tell them to be realistic and aim for the impossible. They will not be invited, as their predecessors were, as we all were, to visit Daniel and Jeanne in Paris or Brittany.
Believe me, he was a rare occurrence. He would call staff and give everything from career advice to romantic advice. He was our own Dear Abby. The point, as one of our staff put it, is that he not only wrote about an ideal world, he tried to create it.
Anne and I once took a vacation with four friends, including the former editor of TV Guide and a pediatric dermatologist, neither exactly at the center of Daniel's and Jeanne's interest. But they insisted we all come to dinner. The meal of course was glorious. On my voicemail the day after The Nation had reported that Daniel had died were condolence calls from these fellow travelers who had met Daniel but once in their lives but were still singing the praises of Jeanne's floating island (Flottante).
Peter Meyer, who shepherded Nation interns from seminar to seminar over the years, once told me that Daniel invited pretty much every Nation intern to visit him in Paris and also at his and Jeanne's country house in Brittany. And he meant it. And after the seminars our previously cynical interns would invariably say, "He was really great and so nice and thanks for arranging that."
The slogan is that the personal is the political, but for Daniel the political was also the personal. Quite literally. Once the 12-year-old daughter of our literary editor, who had stayed with Jeanne and Daniel the previous year, found herself on a student exchange program living for a month not altogether happily in the suburbs of Paris. She called home and asked her parents if she could call Daniel for a day in the city. They said yes. Daniel then persuaded her reluctant hosts to put her on the métro, and when she arrived he walked her around Paris and explained the pricing of ice cream neighborhood by neighborhood -- how socioeconomic factors determined why the same ice cream cone cost this much here but that much there.
Some years later, at the age of 20, this young woman told her parents that she still hadn't forgotten this unique lesson on the Marxist theory of value.
I first met Daniel in 1978, the year I arrived atThe Nation. Nora Sayre brought him around. They had worked together at the old New Statesman. She said he was the class of the lot. She was right. But I thought he would write the occasional piece. Little did I know that this would be the beginning of a lifelong relationship. Daniel followed us from our office above the Waverly Theater to 13th and Fifth and then to Irving Place. He joined us at InterNation conferences in Amsterdam, London and Moscow. And at some peril to his health, he ventured with us on the high seas in Alaska with Jeanne at his side, if not a step ahead of him.
He had a charmingly proprietary way of talking about his readers. And he was canny in invoking them when there was something he wanted to write about. He would say, "When they get the paper my readers will want to see what I have to say about such and such. I owe it to them, after all." And they would, and he did.
He identified with the fortunes of "the paper" -- as he always called it. He was pleased that circulation had gone from 23,000 to 95,000 since he started contributing, and he was not modest about taking his share of the credit. Nor should he have been. He was a loyal member of The Nation family and helped us define our core values.Tributes * danielsinger.org