Alfred Dreyfus, The Man at The Center of the Affair: Maurice Samuels and Alice Kaplan in conversation
On January 5, 1895, Captain Alfred Dreyfus’s cries of innocence were drowned out by a mob shouting “Death to Judas!” In Alfred Dreyfus The Man at the Center of the Affair (Yale University Press, 2024), his latest book, Maurice Samuels gives readers new insight into Dreyfus himself—the man at the center of the affair. He tells the story of Dreyfus’s early life in Paris, his promising career as a French officer, the false accusation leading to his imprisonment on Devil’s Island, the fight to prove his innocence that divided the French nation, and his life of quiet obscurity after World War I. Samuels’s striking perspective is enriched by a newly available archive of more than three thousand documents and objects donated by the Dreyfus family.
On Thursday, March 21, at 6pm, join Maurice Samuels and Alice Kaplan as they discuss why, according to Samuels’s views, Dreyfus was not an “assimilated” Jew but rather how he epitomized a new model of Jewish identity made possible by the French Revolution, when France became the first European nation to grant Jews full legal equality. Samuels and Kaplan will also tackle Dreyfus’s complex relationship to Judaism and to antisemitism over the course of his life, and the profound effect of the Dreyfus Affair on the lives of Jews around the world. A story that resonates even more with our times, as global antisemitism rises around the globe once again.
ALICE KAPLAN is Sterling Professor of French at Yale University, and a specialist of 20th century France. Her previous books include The Interpreter, Dreaming in French: The Paris Years of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy, Susan Sontag, and Angela Davis, and Looking for The Stranger: Albert Camus and the Life of a Literary Classic, and a novel, Maison Atlas (Bruit du Monde, 2022).
MAURICE SAMUELS is the Betty Jane Anlyan Professor of French and director of the Yale Program for the Study of Antisemitism at Yale University. He is the author of four books: The Spectacular Past: Popular History and the Novel in Nineteenth-Century France (Cornell, 2004); Inventing the Israelite: Jewish Fiction in Nineteenth-Century France (Stanford, 2010 / Hermann, 2017); The Right to Difference: French Universalism and the Jews (Chicago, 2016 / La Découverte, 2022); The Betrayal of the Duchess (Basic Books, 2020). Samuels is a recipient of the Guggenheim Fellowship and of the New York Public Library Cullman Center Fellowship. Alfred Dreyfus The Man at the Center of the Affair (Yale University Press, 2024) is his latest book.
Image: Alfred Dreyfus in the Villemarie Garden, Carpentras 1899-1900. (credit: Dreyfus Family Collection)