A contextually comprehensive study of the battle for France’s soul and the figures radically politicized by the debate.



A patient reexamination of the Dreyfus Affair, revealing the “unusually intense process of emotional mobilization” involved on both sides.

Oxford University fellow and tutor Harris (Lourdes: Body and Spirit in the Secular Age, 1999, etc.) views the Affair as the stakeout of two sides, the so-called intellectuals (claiming rationality and republicanism) and anti-intellectuals (nationalism and clericalism). Both groups’ convictions were not so clear-cut, and motivations were often muddied. Accused of high treason in 1894 for penning a bordereau offering military secrets to the Germans, Captain Alfred Dreyfus, a rising young French officer of Jewish origins, was publicly denounced and sent to prison on Devil’s Island for nearly five years. Meanwhile, Col. Georges Picquart came forward with revelations about the real spy, Walsin Esterhazy, but was silenced by the military. As the case became public, gradually lines were drawn in outrage. One side exposed the lack of proof, pervading anti-Semitism and clear miscarriage of justice, while the other side maintained an unshakable confidence in the French military and relief that “such a crime was not committed by a real Frenchman.” Dreyfus’s younger brother, Mathieu, proved indefatigable in garnering support, convincing journalist Bernard Lazare to take up the cause—“They needed a Jewish traitor fit to replace the classic Judas,” Lazare wrote—while novelist Emile Zola, “attracted to the Affair above all because it was a good story,” didn’t publish his incendiary article “J’accuse…!” until January 1898. Arguments exploded from both camps, involving the inflexible force of the military, the uneasy situation of the Jewish community and the salonnieres who helped disseminate ideas in the backrooms. Above all, Harris capably depicts the brittle figure of Dreyfus himself, honorable but broken.

A contextually comprehensive study of the battle for France’s soul and the figures radically politicized by the debate.

Pub Date: July 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-8050-7471-0

Page Count: 560

Publisher: Metropolitan/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Dec. 29, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2010

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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