le 8 janvier 2014
Without commenting upon the literary merit of this novel, I can say that it illuminated for me an obscure but important set of events in French history. I enjoyed the pace of tthe novel, the characterisation of the principal protagonist, and the evocation of the period.
le 1 septembre 2015
Turning facts into fiction is given to everyone. Turning a huge body of historical evidence into a factually near-perfect and thrilling novel is a rare talent. Loved the book throughout for its controlled pace of mounting intrigue and its atmosphere of smelly Paris in the mid 1890s. Enjoyed the author’s words of thanks to his wife, serving up cheerful meals to so many of his covert book sources over time.
This doorstopper of a book is ideal for people on long missions abroad, living through long, dark winters, and everyone else relishing a perfectly entertaining, bulky page turner about the greatest French scandal and miscarriage of justice of the 19th century, the Dreyfus affair. It is perfectly researched and highlights the precarious status of French Jews after France’s crushing defeat to Germany in 1870. It was the first war where artillery was used on civilian targets. France lost 130.000 souls and its eastern provinces of Alsace and Lorraine. There and then, the victors decreed a choice of allegiance: who stays becomes German, who leaves chooses for France. Most Alsatian Jews chose German citizenship, but not all… Since 1870, Jews in France became increasingly stereotyped as shifty people without a country, unreliable in war or in a French army.
In 1894, Alfred Dreyfus, a Jewish captain in the French army was arrested for treason to Germany. He was interrogated, tried and sentenced to exile on Devil’s Island, a French penal colony in South America. Did he get a fair hearing or trial? How conclusive was the evidence against him? Had he raised suspicion before? Was he a scapegoat for lingering defeatism? Halfway into the book, the purported author of the investigation has enough evidence to exonerate Dreyfus and indict someone else. This is where this reader bows out because from now on the plot thickens…
Written in the I-form, this brilliant novel follows the one person who witnessed all court proceedings from start to finish, Georges Picquart (40), quite a character with his North African and Indo-China experience, through whose Alsatian eyes this tale unfolds. The loss of his Alsace is key to the book, so is his Alsatian network of family and friends and fellow exiles. Robert Harris describes Paris as a city of inequalities, stereotypes and second loves, suffering from seasonal stench, but also as the capital of a French state and army rapidly embracing novelties like gas and electricity, telephone & telegraph and automobiles. Highly recommended.
le 20 janvier 2015
I don't like giving 5 stars to a potential so-called best seller with a vast publishing empire to market it, especially when the author has one of the greatest and most dramatic stories of institutional injustice and intrigue to work with, so it has a lot already going for it. However, it is a great read and a terribly significant story which I am really pleased to see being disseminated in the english language - lots have been written about it in french and it is still incredibly "present" in the minds of most french people. Indeed, the topic of "racism" - in this case antisemitism - and how it so easily distorts efforts to arrive at the truth is an ever-present problem, even today when there is a resurgence of anti-semitism.... At another level, this is the story of integrity and the pursuit of truth against all self-interest by an army intelligence officer under incredible pressure to collaborate with a vast cover-up sanctioned at the highest levels of government. It is also a sharp insight into late eighteenth century life and values in Paris. The absolute historical accuracy (if there is such a thing) is diffcult to judge and sometimes gives rise to uncertainty in the reader's mind. But if I have a criticism it is that I felt there could have been more written about the final stages of the "Dreyfus Affair" - though perhaps the main character had by then ceased to have any personal knowledge of the facts.
le 2 octobre 2014
J'avais un souvenir très embrouillé de l'affaire Dreyfus et j'ai appris par hasard que Polanski voulait tourner un film sur Dreyfus et que cela lui semblait possible depuis qu'il avait lu le livre de R.Harris qui n'avait pas choisi Alfred comme personnage principal mais le colonel Picquart. Polanski m'a donc vendu le livre de R.Harris. Son talent de conteur a éclairé les événements d'une manière saisissante. J'ai enchainé avec le livre de Jean-Denis Bredin pour en savoir plus. Je recommande ce livre..et puis lire 600pages en anglais(international) ben oui, c'est très possible.
le 15 septembre 2014
Le contenu de ce livre est passionnant, ahurissant, pas très glorieux pour la plupart des personnes concernées etc.
C''est très bien écrit et je l'ai lu d'un trait, ce qui ne m"arrive plus souvent. Ce livre m'a bouleversé et je conseille vivement de le lire!
Pour ceux qui ça intéresse: le livre est traduit dans plusieurs langues dont le français.