An Officer and a Spy by Robert Harris #amreading #Dreyfus #antisemitism

An Officer and a SpyMarie Georges Picquart was a brilliant officer, and an honest man. Born in 1854 in Alsace (his family’s home was in Geudertheim near Strasbourg) he left the province with his widowed mother after the defeat of 1870. He became a brilliant officer, received the Legion d’Honneur for action in the Tonkin (North Indochina, now VietNam) and distinguished himself in North Africa, before joining the École Militaire in Paris as topography teacher. In 1894 he was involved in the margin of the military trial of captain Dreyfus, as observer for the then Minister for War, General Mercier. Dreyfus was accused of spying and providing secret military documents to the Germans. On behalf of Mercier Picquart handed over a “secret dossier” to the court president, which led to the conviction of Alfred Dreyfus and his deportation in atrocious conditions to Devil’s Island.
Here starts Robert Harris extraordinary novel, which follows Picquart step by step through the ordeal that was to follow. Whereas the main facts of the Dreyfus affair are well known, Harris’s meticulous research has led him to write a fascinating story of betrayal and courage, where the main actors of the drama are brought back to life in front of us. Picquart, after Dreyfus’s conviction, nominated (to his surprise) as the head of a shadowy section of Military Intelligence (Deuxième Bureau) largely responsible for the production of the dossier, becomes rapidly convinced that the court convicted the wrong man. France was then in a state of paranoia about a possible war with Germany (the new Reich had been declared in Versailles, in 1871, on the strength of the Prussian victory over France, which had led to the loss of Alsace and Lorraine), and French opinion was divided between antisemitic monarchists and extremists, and the partisans of the Republic. Picquart steadfastly investigated the making of the dossier, among his own staff and the departmental archives, and concluded not only Dreyfus’s innocence, but also the identity of the real culprit.
As with many other witnesses of injustice and lies through modern history, once Picquart had shared his findings with his superiors, he was pushed aside, posted to a dangerous mission, and ultimately, as he refused to give in, prosecuted and jailed. The reader is inevitably drawn to compare Picquart’s fate with other more recent cases of whistleblowers or witnesses, and I personally was prompted to remind myself of the circumstances of the death of Dr. David Kelly, defense expert and employee of the Ministry of Defense, who lost his life for treating the ignoble lies that were presented as the “WMD dossier” on Iraq as total rubbish. Picquart eventually succeeds in getting Dreyfus freed, although complete justice was never done. Dreyfus was pardoned (rather than fully rehabilitated), and Picquart reintegrated in the army. He would later become Minister of War in the Clemenceau’s cabinet (1906). He will die in active service, a brigadier general, a few months before world war I.
Harris’s description of Paris twenty years before the war, of the military caste of General Staff officers, their prejudices, their hatred of the Jews, and of Picquart’s quiet courage, is compelling. Curiously the author does not mention in his sources, that are comprehensive, the harrowing account of the Dreyfus affair by Hannah Arendt in her book “The Origins of Totalitarianism”.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Up ↑

Helena

The Protocol of Truth

networkpointzero

Le courage c'est de chercher la vérité et de la dire (Jaurès)

Tallis Steelyard

The jumbled musings of Tallis Steelyard

heritagelandscapecreativity

Exploring Time Travel of Place

iksperimentalist

a collision of science and comedy

Stift und Schrift

Zeichnung Illustration Papier Buch

Words and Worlds

Real and Imagined - by Carl Bystrom

Light Motifs II

now with 27% more woo

mermaidcamp

Keeping current in wellness, in and out of the water

Redhead Reflections

Talking inside my head...

My Art & Me

Scribblings & Doodlings

Up Before Dawn

Kicking butt before the sun comes up!

Places Journal

Sisyphus47's writing blog

Mimo Khair Photography

"art is life, life is art"

Bill Hayes

Writer and Photographer in NYC

creartfuldodger

collage/mixed media artist

Islamic Methodologies Made Easy

“Have the people not travelled through the land to make their hearts understand and let their ears hear, verily it is not the eyes that go blind but the hearts inside chests.” [The Qur’an (22:46)].

The Last Refuge

Rag Tag Bunch of Conservative Misfits - Contact Info: TheLastRefuge@reagan.com

Opus bay

Pobres putas cuando reina la Santa hipocresía.

dymoonblog

A fine WordPress.com site

Kingsjester's Blog

Opinions from a Christian American Conservative

Whole, Hearty, Happy

Just a mom on a journey to wellness.

paigezine

"In the end it's not the dates on the tombstone that matter, it's the dash" - Angriest Man in Brooklyn

Dysfunctional Literacy

Just because you CAN read Moby Dick doesn't mean you should.

the secret keeper

"Excess on occasion is exhilarating. It prevents moderation from acquiring the deadening effect of a habit." - W. Somerset Maugham

Dynaries Photography

Focus on what makes you happy

Debbie Gravett

Word painter and story slave

(Almost) Unsalvageable

Depression doesn't define me anymore. Now its all (mostly) about inspiration and adventure

Morbus ignorantia - Krankheit Unwissen

"Wer die Vergangenheit kontrolliert, kontrolliert die Zukunft und wer die Gegenwart kontrolliert, kontrolliert die Vergangenheit." - George Orwell

quiet time journal

Some things need to be shared

paradoxical vagabond

"Fate succumbs many a species; one alone jeopardizes itself." ~W.H. Auden

redstuffdan

ORIGINAL PICTURES FROM NOUVELLE AQUITAINE

Park Preview

A guide to Seattle area parks for the non-robust, lazy birders, and photographers.

Letters From The Ocean

"Stop running after the waves. Let the sea come to you." - Elif Shafak

riutski.wordpress.com/

what's on my mind?

And so it starts...

Personal poetry

MIDDLECLASS MESSENGER

An Advocate For Middle Class Justice

Relax--

God didn't go anywhere!

Love it Now

Love is ever-present within our own Being but we might not feel it until we live in the Now. "Love it Now" was created to share ideas about loving and being present in the here and now. Enjoy!

%d bloggers like this: