Books About the Dreyfus Affair

I think I may have come up with a new (albeit irregular) feature for this blog, one that holds cross-over appeal for my other blog (on writing and publishing). And it’s this: Every so often, I should come up with a short list of books that I’ve read and would recommend on a given literary-historical topic. (And as far as this blog is concerned, if it’s a Jewish-literary-historical topic, so much the better!)

Let us begin with books about the Dreyfus Affair (named for its ill-fated victim, Captain Alfred Dreyfus). And that’s because ever since I found out (via Josh Lambert) that a new novel connected with this major episode in world/French/Jewish history will be on shelves soon–Susan Daitch’s Paper Conspiracies–I’ve been recalling other books that I’ve read and remember that are also embedded in this material.

A bit of background: While earning my Ph.D. in Modern French history, I prepared a “special field” for my general examinations in French literature, and within that area, I focused on political literature. It was during that period in my studies that I dove into the literature surrounding the Dreyfus Affair, among other événements. I was lucky to work with some wonderful faculty on this project, including the brilliant Susan Suleiman, whose article “The Literary Significance of the Dreyfus Affair” (in Norman L. Kleeblatt, ed., The Dreyfus Affair: Art, Truth and Justice, [Berkeley: University of California Press, 1987], pp. 117-139) is a must-read for anyone interested in this subject.

I will add, too, that whenever I am in France and need to introduce myself, and my listeners appear to have trouble understanding me (my spoken French is not up to the level anyone might hope or expect), I say, “Dreifus, comme le capitaine.” That usually does the trick.

So here are a few titles to which I remain attached. (more…)