Cover of the book Elon Musk – L’enquête inédite by Béatrice Mathieu and Emmanuel Botta
From Pivot Magazine

“Elon Musk”—portrait of an unconventional man

Written by two French journalists, Elon Musk – L'enquête inédite is the result of interviews with more than 100 people

Cover of the book Elon Musk – L’enquête inédite by Béatrice Mathieu and Emmanuel BottaFor Beatrice Mathieu and Emmanuel Botta, the art of resourcefulness—or even craftiness—is a key pillar of what may eventually be called Muskism (Image provided)

Megalomaniac. Great. Eccentric. Rude. Unstable. Tyrannical. The spectrum of adjectives that have been used to describe Elon Musk seems endless. The authors of Elon Musk – L'enquête inédite (Robert Laffont, 2023), Béatrice Mathieu, senior reporter for l’Express, a French weekly news magazine, and Emmanuel Botta, editor-in-chief of Capital magazine, won’t take issue with that.

Unable to speak to Musk, the co-authors interviewed 100 people to write their book: Musk’s former collaborators, close friends and even family members, because it's impossible to understand Musk without talking about his childhood. About Joshua, for example, his adventurous grandfather who left Canada for South Africa.

This is where the gifted young man grew up, in a divided country at the heart of a broken family, raised in part by a violent father. Although he lived in an upscale neighbourhood, Musk was withdrawn and introverted, and didn’t like school. He “lived in his own world,” reading science fiction books and computer programming books.

After arriving in Montreal with his brother Kimbal in June 1988, Musk studied at Queen's University in Kingston before heading to the University of Pennsylvania in the U.S. He soon launched several successful companies (Zip2 and, the forerunner of PayPal) but was eventually forced out. His methods offended people. He learned two lessons: Don’t let your financial backers call the shots and always fly solo. But he also understood that nothing is impossible for those who dare.


Over the past two decades, Musk has revolutionized what the authors call “two of the most technologically-advanced, capital-intensive and almost impenetrable sectors in the world: the automotive and space industries.” Though the demise of Tesla and SpaceX have been expected countless times (and it’s nearly happened), Musk has proved that one individual can almost singlehandedly launch rockets and force automakers to go electric.

The book goes on to show just how much risk-taking is in the tycoon's DNA. Behind his outsized ego lies an individual ready to break all the rules, fueled by an unquenchable thirst for revenge, particularly against those who have mocked his projects or failed to support him (right down to his school in Pretoria).

Despite delays and setbacks—seen as a possible price to pay for results—Musk the libertarian is prepared to do anything, from launching a rocket without permission from the Federal Aviation Administration to starting construction of a giant 300-hectare factory in Germany without waiting for a permit. As the authors put it, “The art of resourcefulness—or even craftiness—is a key pillar of what may eventually be called Muskism.” At worst, you’ll fail because “if you haven’t failed at some point, you haven’t innovated enough.”

Vertically integrated for faster results, the companies in the Musk galaxy are extremely agile, because “speed of execution is another Musk trademark. His obsession allowed him to build his first rocket launcher in three years, and a reusable one at that, whereas it takes industry experts at least a decade to develop a conventional [non-reusable] model.”

But behind this efficiency lies a brutal, humiliating management style. “When he's in front of you, he stands exaggeratedly upright, doesn't blink and his gaze seems to pass right through you, as if he doesn't see you. Frankly, he’s much more like a robot than a human,” says François Chopard, founder of Starburst, one of the leading startups in the space and aeronautic fields. While appearing on Saturday Night Live in 2021, Musk revealed that he has Asperger’s Syndrome, and works non-stop (up to 90 hours per week) and expects the same from his associates. “In his head, people are machines/tools—if you’re no longer up to the job, we should find someone better,” says a former employee.


It must be said that Musk has always had a clear goal: to colonize Mars in order to save mankind, since he considers that Earth is dying. Ridiculing any notion of decline and current environmental issues, the businessman began a frenzied technological race in Boca Chica, Texas, a few kilometres from the Mexican border, where he is building the largest rocket in history.

Of course, Musk has critics, to whom the recent Twitter buyout and the first weeks he spent at its helm, provided grist for the mill. But, “love him or loathe him, it must be said that no one has managed to turn the tables on so many different worlds at once. No one. The obsessive character of Steve Jobs, the visionary ideas of Thomas Edison and the enormous wealth of the title character of Citizen Kane—Musk has all these qualities and perhaps more.”


Learn how the rise of electric cars is leading to tax concerns and the first 100% Canadian electric vehicle.