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Mine of insight into Glencore's chairman

The Life: Legionnaire is the autobiography of a young Englishman who joined the French Foreign Legion. If you are intending to do business with Glencore, you might want to read this book.

Book review: Legionnaire

Legionnaire is the autobiography of a young Englishman who joined the French Foreign Legion.

If you are intending to do business with the Swiss multinational commodity trading and mining company Glencore, you might want to read this book because the Englishman in question is Simon Murray, Glencore's chairman.

While his contemporaries trotted off to university, a 19-year-old Murray presented himself, on February 22 ,1960, at the gates of the Old Fort at Vincennes on the outskirts of Paris and signed away the next five years of his life.

In his own words, he was, "a young buck setting himself an extreme challenge to see if he could hack it in a man's world".

Middle class, well-educated and with a broken love affair behind him, he had decided following the footsteps of Beau Geste would be "romantic". But what followed was an all too real coming of age drama in the ranks of the toughest infantry in the world.

He endured a training regime legendary for its brutality, qualified as a paratrooper and killed with his own hands during Algeria's war of independence.

However, the cauldron of the Legion Etranger's "March! Or Die!" tradition did not break this young man.

He served his full tour of duty, was promoted to corporal and on his discharge went on to join Jardine Matheson in Hong Kong, founded the mobile phone company Orange, become the executive chairman of Deutsche Bank in Asia and joined Glencore.

He had sought adventure but what he found was courage in full measure, integrity and a camaraderie that crossed all boundaries of language, culture and creed. And in his story, you'll get an inkling of the character of the man you might be dealing with.

Legionnaire: An Englishman in the French Foreign Legion is published by Sidgwick & Jackson.

dblack@thenational.ae

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