He only really held official office between 1969 and 1977. And yet, during nearly half a century outside of government, Henry Kissinger ended up becoming an essential reference understand American foreign policy. Quite an achievement for this Jewish teenager who came to New York fleeing the Nazis and who never lost his German accent. Which did not prevent him from becoming “Big K”, obligatory advisor to a dozen occupants of the White House and a reference for a political realism much more interested in interests than in values.

This saga begins as brilliant gray matter. His undergraduate thesis was so extensive, 383 pages long, that it reportedly led Harvard to introduce the “The Kissinger Rule” limiting the TFG to less than half of this extension. His doctorate examined how diplomacy maintained stability in Europe for almost a century after Napoleon’s defeat. Still obsessed with the Peace of Westphalia, negotiated in Europe at the end of the Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648) and creator of a new international order supported by great statesmen and limited by the notion of balance of power.

When he moved from academia to Washington, his style was to work outside the formal workings of the State Department and its career diplomats. His discreet contacts with the Russians, the Chinese and just about everyone else fit in perfectly with Richard Nixon’s taste for conspiracy. As well as adapting to Kissinger’s obsession with overcoming his outsider status and placing himself at the center of the action, pulling the strings.

Then fortune came, the pro-China lobby, Always stay relevant and publish books until the end of its hundred years. In one of its best volumes, World Order (2015) ended with a striking effort at humility: “A long time ago, in my youth, I was proud enough to consider myself capable of expressing the meaning of the story. “I know now that the meaning of history is a matter to be discovered, not declared.”