THE DREYFUS AFFAIR by Betty Schechter
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If the Dreyfus case were a play it would have everything but a believable plot. It has: a laughing, aristocratic villain in Esterhazy; it has incredible treachery in government and in court; it has the pressures of snobbery revealed in almost every actor concerned, including Dreyfus; it has a classically grotesque religious conflict in anti-semitism; it has an emotional, dramatic defender Zola; and it has the barely-to-be-believed mystique of The Honor of the French Army, which, with all the other factors combined, turned officers and gentlemen into sneaks and liars. But, more than 70 year later, the story of how it happened exerts the sort of reader fascination seldom found outside great fiction. The most recent adult books on Dreyfus were Guy Chapman's in 1956 and Nicholas Halasz's in 1955. Where these books spend much more time on the torturous technicalities of the French legal system, Miss Schechter goes after the social forces and the character defects that allowed the Dreyfus affair to happen. And, she makes the point that it can happen here by underlining the guilt by association and insinuation that invested our frightened '50's. This is a fine follow-up to her exceptional The Peaceable Revolution. (1963).

Pub Date: Sept. 23rd, 1965
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin