On an autumn morning in 1894, Captain Dreyfus was summoned to appear for a routine inspection; instead, as he took down a letter dictated by a senior officer, he was summarily accused of high treason. So began a twelve-year series of events that included his imprisonment on Devil’s Island, the publication of Emile Zola’s passionateJ’Accuse, the Rennes retrial, and the pardon and final rehabilitation of 1906. As the Dreyfus case turned into the Affair, the history of a single military career came to display the conflicts that were tearing France apart: military defeat, anti-Semitic furor, and the place of traditional values in a country still reeling from the turbulence of the French Revolution. Told with an historian’s insight and a novelist’s skill, The Affairmakes fascinating and informative reading about one of the most celebrated episodes in modern history.
“There have been many books about the Dreyfus Affair, but Jean-Denis Bredin's book is one of the best of them — lucid, well-organized, informed by a fine sense of drama.” — John Gross, The New York Times
“[a] critically acclaimed study” — Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
“If one is limited to a single book about the Dreyfus case and its consequences, this should be it. Bredin has told this story with precision, passion, and a vivid sense of character.” — The New York Review of Books
“A brilliant and fascinating book. What is most remarkable about The Affair is the skill and sensitivity with which the author places it in its essential historical setting. It is also a gripping — though terrible — story superbly told.” — The Atlantic
“This is the most judicious and absorbing account to date of the Dreyfus Case.” — The Boston Globe
“This is certainly the best book on the Dreyfus case now available in the English language.” — San Francisco Examiner
“Bredin is crystal clear in his gripping narrative of the complex case. His tapestry glows with all the color of the Belle Epoque and its extravagances.” — Chicago Sun-Times
“There have been other books on the Affair, but I can’t imagine any of them coming even close to Bredin’s work. He is brilliant at placing the myriad elements of the Affair in context with verve and lucidity. It should be a model for future historians.” — San Francisco Chronicle
About the author
Jean-Denis Bredin is a French attorney, law professor, and author. He was born Jean-Denis Hirsch in 1929, to an Alsatian Jewish father and a Catholic mother. His parents divorced when he was small and he was raised as a Catholic. After obtaining degrees in law and humanities from University of Paris-Sorbonne, Bredin was admitted to the Paris Bar in 1950. In 1965, he co-founded Bredin Prat, today one of France’s most prestigious law firms. Bredin was a law professor in Rennes, in Lille and in Paris where he taught from 1969 until 1993. He served on various commissions tasked with reforming France’s universities (1968), broadcast media (1981) and film industry (1982). In 1974, Bredin began publishing fiction (Un Coupable, L’Absence) and non-fiction (L’affaire, Bernard Lazare, Joseph Caillaux, Sieyès). His literary work was so prolific and distinguished that in 1989 he was elected to the Académie Française, occupying Chair 3, formerly held by Marguerite Yourcenar.
Born in New York City in 1944, Jeffrey Mehlman is a literary critic and a historian of ideas. He has taught at Cornell, Yale and Johns Hopkins, and is currently University Professor and Professor of French Literature at Boston University. He has been a visiting professor at Harvard, UC Berkeley, CUNY Graduate Center, Washington University and MIT.
His books include a memoir, Adventures in the French Trade: Fragments Toward a Life; A Structural Study of Autobiography: Proust, Leiris, Sartre, Lévi-Strauss; Legacies of Anti-Semitism in France; Walter Benjamin for Children: An Essay on His Radio Years; Genealogies of the Text: Literature, Psychoanalysis and Politics in Modern France and Émigré New York: French Intellectuals in Wartime Manhattan, 1940-1944.
He has translated works by Laplanche, Derrida, Lacan, Blanchot, Vidal-Naquet, Roudinesco and The Affair: The Case of Alfred Dreyfus by Jean-Denis Bredin. He has held Guggenheim and Fulbright Fellowships and was appointed Officier de l’Ordre des Palmes Académiques by the French government.