Monday, October 5, 2009

The Dreyfus Affair

I've been meaning to write something about the Dreyfus Affair for months, particularly since I learned that this statue on Boulevard Raspail depicts Dreyfus holding the sword broken by military authorities in 1895 after they declared him guilty of spying against the French state. Dreyfus went on to many years of exile on Devil's Island only to be eventually restored to his proper position in the army and French society after his innocence was established and the corruption of his accusers exposed. It's a long story, full of twists and turns, trials, retrials, lies, cowardice, and injustice and I was sure I'd never get the details right. Fortunately, for those interested, Adam Gopnik provides a terrific synopsis of the whole sordid affair in the September 28th issue of The New Yorker. Ostensibly a review of Louis Begley's new book, Why the Dreyfus Affair Matters, Gopnik's article not only serves up the chronology of events but also considers what the whole murky mess meant for the French state and its future. I don't know how long The New Yorker makes such features available; surf on over there now before it's too late.


Starman said...

The Dreyfus Affair should scare the crap out of everyone who really pays attention. Imagine being so accused and not being a prominent figure. Who would bother to pursue your innocence then? Would you have been "exiled", or simply executed? That is my main argument against the death penalty.

Shelli and Gene said...

Thank you. I went there via your link and read it immediately, then emailed it to someone else. Adam Gopnik is so smart. And I've read all Louis Begley's novels, which I think are incredibly good. "Wartime Lies" was particularly moving as one suspects it is at least partly autobiographical.


Grace and Bradley said...

I first came by the affair through the movie. The whole thing is an important lesson that we as foreigner learn about French society and how it evolves.

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