Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Our Heroine J'Accuses Herself of Not Being A Serious Student Of History


Last night, reading my daily allowance of The Proud Tower, I learned everything there is to know about the Dreyfus Affair. Here is the most important thing there is to know about it: when people jokingly shout, "J'accuse!" (what? it's just me shouting that? weird.) they (I) am making reference to Emile Zola's famous headline in L'Aurore defending Alfred Dreyfus from the charge of treason against the French government. Did you already know that? Neither did I!

Of course that's not really the most important thing about the Dreyfus Affair, unless you are a superficial personage like myself. For you intellectuals, it was a fascinating chapter of history, involving cover-ups, cover-ups of cover-ups, anti-Semitism, royalism, anti-clericalism, republicanism, and so many other isms that it almost drove France to civil war while that crazy German Kaiser giggled from the sidelines.

Tuchman's chapter on the Dreyfus Affair was tantalizing, yet dull. Constrained by the book's structure, she only gives it one chapter, and the problem is there's a lot of ground to cover, so the narrative zig-zags all over the place. This was how it read to Our Heroine: Meanwhile, Zola was...; On the other side of Paris, the Army was...; Over on the Rive Gauche, the Socialists were...; In Rome, the Church was...; Meanwhile, the Anarchists were...; On Devil's Island, poor Msr. Dreyfus was...; In Berlin, that rascally Kaiser was... and whatever the ellipsis indicates got all mixed up in my head.

Clearly, what Our Heroine needs is a juicy novelization of the Dreyfus Affair, novelizations being the primary way in which I learn anything, sort of like hiding peas in macaroni and cheese.

And, in yet another example of my extraordinary prescience (a talent that never results in any material reward for me whatsoever) I have become interested in a subject just as it's about to hit the big time, with a novelization of the above coming out in September 2009 titled Traitor: A Novel of the Dreyfus Affair, by Leonard Wolf.

Traitor by Leonard Wolf: Book Cover


Isn't that great timing? Doesn't that look exciting!? I am writing this blog post so we don't forget about this book, but also y'all, I think when this goes paperback, we should all read it together and discuss it. However, if you don't want to, I can handle it. I will still read it and discuss it here, by myself, guaranteeing I will be the smartest person in book club.

4 comments:

BMT said...

Just promise me you won't advertise for a book club on Craig's List again...

Our Heroine said...

Oh no, I learned my lesson there! (but I might still make charts and graphs)

Aure said...

I must agree about novelizations. Everything I remember about Zoroastrianism, despite having taken an honestly fascinating introductory History class with a brilliant prof, is out of Kushiel's Avatar.

Our Heroine said...

Aure, I know nothing about Zoroastrianism, but have always been so curious! Do you recommend Kushiel's Avatar? I may have to add it to my "get-smarter-using-novels" list.