The Dreyfus Affair: The Scandal That Tore France in Twoby Piers Paul Read
July 20, 1894. The German Military Attache in Paris. Colonel Maximillien von Schwarzkoppen received a visit from a seedy-looking middle-aged Frenchman who would not give his name. He told Schwarzkoppen that he was a French army officer serving on the General Staff; that he was in desperate need of money; and was therefore prepared to sell military secrets to the
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July 20, 1894. The German Military Attache in Paris. Colonel Maximillien von Schwarzkoppen received a visit from a seedy-looking middle-aged Frenchman who would not give his name. He told Schwarzkoppen that he was a French army officer serving on the General Staff; that he was in desperate need of money; and was therefore prepared to sell military secrets to the Germans.
Captain Alfred Dreyfus, then aged 35, was a high-flying career artillery officer. Shy, reserved, sometimes awkward, but intelligent and ambitious, Dreyfus had everything he might have hoped for: a wife, two enchanting children, plenty of money and a post on the General Staff. However, Dreyfus' rise in the army had not made him friends. Many of them came from the impoverished Catholic aristocracy and disliked Dreyfus because he was rich, bourgeois and, above all, a Jew.
On October 13, Captain Dreyfus was summoned by the General de Boisdeffre to the Ministry of War. Despite minimal evidence against him he was placed under arrest for the crime of high treason. Not long afterwards Dreyfus was incarcerated on Devil's Island.
But how did an innocent man come to be convicted? And why was he kept locked up for so long?
The Dreyfus Affair uniquely combines a fast-moving mystery story with a snapshot of France at a moment of great social flux and cultural richness - the Belle Epoque, the Impressionists, novelists such as Flaubert, Zola, the Goncourts, Proust. It is a key to an understanding of later history; the Holocaust and Zionism: the virulent anti-Semitism of the anti-Dreyfusards and the decision that the Jews must have a state of their own.
Read has done a masterful job of explaining both what happened and why it happened. [He] offers wonderful portraits of the key figures in the unfolding tragedy, and he strives successfully to explain the motivations, fears, and hatred of both sides. This is a great re-examination of one of the most dramatic and consequential episodes in French history.
Piers Paul Read's fresh and comprehensive take on the scandal sheds new light on Dreyfus's personal life, looks closely at the poor man's unjust exile, and tries to assess just what endowed this incident with its long-lasting fascination.
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Meet the Author
Piers Paul Read was born in Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire. He received his B.A. in 1961 and M.A. in 1962 from Cambridge University. In the years 1963-64, he spent a year in on a Ford Foundation Fellowship. This inspired his second novel The Junkers (1968). In the years 1967-68, he spent a year in New York - an experience he used in The Professor's Daughter (1971). Read is best known for his book Alive: The Story of the Andes Survivors, which documented the story of the 1972 crash of Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571. The book was adapted into the 1993 film Alive: The Miracle of the Andes.
Read's first notable success was his book Monk Dawson (1969), which won him a Hawthornden Prize and a Somerset Maugham Award and was made into a film of the same name.
In 1988 he was awarded a James Tait Black Memorial Prize for his book, A Season in the West and in 2003 his authorized biography of the actor Alec Guinness was published to great acclaim.
Piers Paul Read lives in London
Piers Paul Read is best known for his book Alive: The Story of the Andes Survivors, which documented the story of the 1972 crash of Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571 and was adapted into a film in 1993. He has won a number of prizes for his fiction, including the Hawthornden Prize, the Somerset Maugham Award and the James Tait Black Memorial Prize.
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