The Man on Devil's Island: Alfred Dreyfus and The Affair that Divided France, By Ruth Harris

J'accuse both the prosecution and the defence
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The Independent Culture

This account of the trial and conviction of Alfred Dreyfus on charges of treason – the motivation for Emile Zola's infamous "J'Accuse" – is a densely packed but fascinating look at the circumstances in France that produced the anti-Semitic affair.

It wasn't just that Dreyfus was Jewish, Ruth Harris argues; he also spoke with a hint of a German accent, and this so shortly after France's humiliation by Prussia. She targets the two different sides that grew up around the trial, the left-wing intellectual "Dreyfusards" and the right-wing nationalistic anti-Dreyfusards, and exposes faults on both sides. The lack of evidence and the lies that were concocted by the elite at the time, to secure a conviction, look horribly contemporary, too.

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