July 20, 1894. The German military attache in Paris receives a visit from a seedy-looking man who claims to be a French army officer in desperate need of money, offering to sell them military secrets. Captain Alfred Dreyfus was a rising star in the French artillery command. Reserved yet intelligent and ambitious, Dreyfus had everything: a family, ...
July 20, 1894. The German military attache in Paris receives a visit from a seedy-looking man who claims to be a French army officer in desperate need of money, offering to sell them military secrets. Captain Alfred Dreyfus was a rising star in the French artillery command. Reserved yet intelligent and ambitious, Dreyfus had everything: a family, money, and a clear path to a prestigious post on the General Staff. However, Dreyfus had enemies as a result of his ambition. Many of them came from the impoverished Catholic aristocracy and disliked Dreyfus because he was rich, bourgeois, and, above all, a Jew. On the basis of flimsy evidence, Dreyfus was placed under arrest for the crime of high treason. Not long afterward, he was sentenced to spend the rest of his life on the legendary, lethal Devil's Island. The saga of Dreyfus's many trials-he was not exonerated until 1906, twelve years after first being arrested-the fight to free him, and the intrigues on both sides, is a fast-moving mystery story rife with heroes and villains, loose women, loyal wives, bisexual men, tricksters, and charlatans. But this was no mere sideshow. The anti-Semitism and deceit on display in the Dreyfus case was an ominous prelude to the Holocaust and the long, bloody twentieth century to come. In an era when religious conflict, fierce patriotism, and charged debates over national identity pervade the public sphere, the scandal of Captain Dreyfus still has much to teach us. In the hands of prizewinning novelist, biographer, and narrative historian Piers Paul Read, this real-life morality tale comes alive for a new generation. Using his storytelling skills and a nuanced, deep knowledge of French history, Read rediscovers l'affaire Dreyfus as a rich, riveting tale."
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Publishers Weekly, 2012-01-02 The wrongful 1895 conviction of French-Jewish army captain Alfred Dreyfus as a German spy was based on fabricated evidence. But though innocent, according to Read, a British writer known for Catholic-themed novels who sees the Dreyfus affair as a defining moment in the history of the Catholic Church, Dreyfus was a less than admirable figure: arrogant, very intelligent, but awkward and abrupt, with no friends at work and several questionable extramarital relationships. Read writes that even Theodor Herzl, who founded modern Zionism reportedly on account of the Dreyfus case, initially believed the evidence showing Dreyfus was guilty. It's unclear what bearing these facts have on the question of Dreyfus's innocence or guilt or on the fracture that emerged in France between Dreyfus's supporters (including Emile Zola and his famous "J'accuse" statement) and his enemies. While absorbing and perceptive in parts, Read's (The Death of a Pope) effort often feels disjointed and lacks the nuance of Ruth Harris's and Frederick Brown's recent books on the Dreyfus affair. Moreover, for unexplained reasons, Read emphasizes the work of some recent historians who dispute the accepted view that anti-Semitism was at the heart of Dreyfus's conviction. In the end, Read adds little to our understanding of this critical event in French and Jewish history. Photos. Agent: Gillon Aitken (U.K.) (Mar.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
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