I admit ignorance of French history and the circumstances covered in this book but boy, do I know about it now. The Dreyfus affair covers dark times of anti-semitism in the 1890s and the brave intervention of the writer Emile Zola who put his own life and reputation at risk by standing up for the man. This historical fictional account of those events is a real eye-opener and one cannot help but admire Emile Zola who risked all to follow his conscience.
This compelling account of the Dreyfus Affair brings to life French writer Emile Zola and his famous "J'Accuse!" challenge to the Establishment back in the 1890s. With Jewish army officer Dreyfus jailed on false espionage charges to protect the guilty (Establishment connected) Esterhazy, Emile Zola finds the courage to use his fame to attempt to put right this wrong through the courts – only it puts his own life and liberty in peril. Ultimately, these are the events that changed France by forcing the separation of the Church and Military from Government. For some, it came at the highest cost.
The Dreyfus affair and Emile Zola's "J'Accuse!" provide the theme for this short book. I was roughly aware of the facts and seized the chance to better my understanding of the matter. As I read, it seemed to me that at any point since, we could point to this tale and say that it is particularly relevant now, because our society is currently...
The story starts in 1895 as an artillery officer is court martialled and hastily found guilty of passing France's secrets to Germany. The man came from Alsace-Lorraine and Germany has recently annexed Alsace. Thus relations between the two nations are fraught. France has a constitution, since the overthrow of the monarchy, which states that all citizens are to be treated equally. However, a Jewish officer, Dreyfus, is not treated with respect and fairness but is picked on as a likely culpable person and swiftly consigned to jail.
The narrator is an engineer and friend of the family of Emile Zola, a man of letters who has gained work as a journalist. While Zola is not wealthy he in true French fashion supports a wife and mistress with their children. A key phrase which struck me is that these were "educated men, critical thinkers." They choose not to believe the convenient court martial finding and look for evidence. A man comes forward with opposing evidence to the army, but he is swiftly transferred overseas and the officer he had accused is as swiftly exonerated. The army does not want to admit that it got things wrong.
Deciding that the hidebound Catholic influence, and intervention by the Papal Nuncio, inflame the time of hatred and need to be countered, Zola spends much effort to write a letter to the President and people, accusing France of having betrayed its own ideals. This is published in a prominent Parisian newspaper and a writ for libel ensues. Much of the rest of the story is concerned with the prejudiced court cases which follow, verdicts and appeals.
Largely this book is based upon conversations, with a few spare words for scene setting and personal description. I'm more comfortable with a little more movement and living in the moment, but our narrator is in his seventies by the time the affair is trundling between courts so this was never going to be an action adventure. Guns, swords, stone-throwing mobs and a possible case of murder do however appear, leaving us in no doubt of the anger and peril upon the Paris streets.
What I thought might be helpful to include, would be an explanation of the fact that France and most of the European continent uses Napoleonic code of law. This means that a person accused of a crime is considered guilty until proven innocent. In Ireland, Britain and elsewhere, the reverse is the case. Also under Napoleonic code, the presiding judge is the one who controls all aspects of the case from investigation to the decision to take the matter to a courtroom to what may be shown to a jury - in some cases there is no jury. In a British or Irish case the judge's influence does not begin until the investigation is ready to be prosecuted, though evidence and procedures must adhere to standards to be admissible. An example can be found in the factual 'Fatal Journey: The Murder of Trevor O'Keefe' by Eroline O'Keeffe.
Zola's words are quoted to us above each chapter, with great variety from humour to philosophy. "One forges one's style upon the terrible anvil of daily deadlines." "The truth is on the march and nothing will stop it."
We need more of such heroes and I thank author Paulette Mahurin for once more bringing Emile Zola and the nation-changing Dreyfus affair to our generation.
I’m not usually a lover of historical fiction but this story came recommended to me. I am glad I took the chance and read it. This fictional novel is based on historical facts and the author’s fantastic ability to create fiction from those facts, the result is an intriguing insight into French history. 1895, military secrets have been leaked to the Germans. Alfred Dreyfus is the perfect scapegoat, Jewish, and family in Germany. Dreyfus is convicted and banished to Devil's Island. Emile Zola, a writer is convinced something is wrong with this and the facts don’t add up. But to find out the truth could result in his career being ruined, or worse. Follow his struggle to expose the truth. Well written and a great story for anyone interested in historical fiction
I can remember hearing the story of Albert Dreyfus at school — and a dull tale it was too. But in the hands of Paulette Mahurin, the story that bored me in a double period of European history on a Friday afternoon takes on a completely new dimension.
Dreyfus was a Jewish army officer in France at the end of the nineteenth century and the story if how he was falsely accused of espionage to protect the establishment and as a reflection of a deep-rooted anti-semitism is well known. Dreyfus’ case was taken up by the novelist Emile Zola, who was convicted of libel before being eventually cleared.
Mahurin takes on the story with the aid of an additional character, Zola’s elderly bachelor friend Charles Mandonette, who is at his side throughout the Dreyfus case and the subsequent libel trial. As Zola’s confidante, Charles is privy to Zola’s agonising, his encounters with Dreyfus and his supporters, and the novelist’s balancing act between wife and mistress.
Beautifully written, though perhaps a little lacking in the kind of drama that really brings a book eating off the page, the story engages the reader with Zola and his motives; Mahurin makes the reader feel that they are an observer, alongside Charles, rather than a participant like so many of the other characters. A satisfying read.
I was pretty much blown away by To Live Out Loud. What struck me was the way in which the author intertwines historical fiction and fact whilst seamlessly incorporating historical references which only serve to add to the magnificence of this book. Remodels historical characters I loved the way in which fact and fiction seamlessly glided to create a narrative that was incredibly intriguing but also left me feeling a combination of raw emotions. There were moments when I wanted to scream, cry, shout and smile. Furthermore, the novel deals greatly with socio-political, religious and racial issues that permeated French society. Issues that are raw and painful but still impact society today. I was particularly moved by Zola and his determination to fight for justice: "The thought is a deed. Of all deeds, she fertilizes the world the most." Her wisdom, resilience, tenacity and zeal blew me away. And quite frankly, Paulette Mahurin's characterization of him is nothing short of remarkable - he's a character that readers can't help but love. I'd recommend this book in a heartbeat; i's a quick but thoroughly outstanding read.
I don't mind admitting that I knew very little about Emile Zola, with regard to the Dreyfus affair, before reading this book. The title, ' To Live Out Loud' is a quote from Zola and, as is so admirably illustrated in book, the principle by which Zola lived his life, When a man is wrongly accused and dishonoured Zola proved himself not only willing to stand up for justice but to make great sacrifices in order to see justice done. The story is sad in part, but uplifting and a reminder that we should all speak out in our own way against the wrongs, large and small, commited against people, animals and the planet we live on. All deserve our interest and attention and Zola's example shows what a worthy cause individual actions can be. I very much enjoyed To Live Out Loud, I learned a great deal and the writing was immaculate.
A fascinating read with universal appeal perfectly executed. The subject of the book is Emile Zola's involvement in the appalling example of a miscarriage of justice when Alfred Dreyfus was wrongly imprisoned for life for a crime he didn't commit. The book brings to life the political and judicial scandal and how it divided French society. As events unfold we see the racism of the time, the determination of the church and the military forces to protect their position and the manipulation of both the courts and the people. The result is not only an exemplary piece of historical fiction but also a consideration of how the powerful protect their interests even today. The subject is well-researched and accurate but Mahurin's gift is her ability to capture the essence of her subject matter within her stories, always drawing on the human element and weave the facts into a compelling read that is both informative and relevant to today. Highly recommend.
I knew nothing of Alfred Dreyfus, but my interest in the past attracted me to read “To Live Out Loud”. Several times I became puzzled as to what was documented actuality and spent time looking up facts, and it became clear that Ms Mahurin did a great deal of research using sources not easily available. In the end I gave up; she is to be commended that truth and fiction are so skilfully interwoven the result is seamless.
The whole story is fascinating, but I did feel the sheer weight of history rather got in the way of developing characters I could feel for, like, and desperately want to succeed. or indeed despise. This is quite a short book and I do wonder if adding to the length might have given the writer a chance to delve deeper into the psyche of the major protagonists to good effect.
I never used to think I would like Historical Fiction but came across this one and decided to give it a go, having enjoyed other books in this genre. I'm pleased to say that it didn't disappoint. From the start we're thrown in at the beginning of the events that will shape the story told. My only tiny criticism, is that it felt very much as a lot of telling and now showing, but not to the point where I felt the need to lower the stars. It is well crafted otherwise and an excellent story to enjoy. I found myself feeling like I was in the crowds watching the events unfold before my eyes and powerless to change the course of history. Excellent book, will look for more by this author! Recommended to those who love a good historical fiction.