On an autumn morning in 1894, Captain Alfred Dreyfus appeared for a routine inspection but found himself summarily accused of high treason. Here he began a twelve-year ordeal that included imprisonment on Devil's Island, forgery, the publication of Emile Zola's "J'Accuse", trial, retrial, and long delayed pardon. The history of his singular military career revealed the troubles within French Society of the time: an obsession with espionage in a recently defeated nation, patriotic sentiment elevated to the status of doctrine, anti-Semitic prejudice transformed into furor, the cult of the Army, and collapsing traditional values in a country still recoiling from the turbulence of the French revolution in 1789. With precision and insight, Jean-Denis Bredin defines these attitudes at the turn of the century as they played themselves out in the life of one man, and examines their legacy today.
Jean-Denis Bredin (17 May 1929, Paris) is a French attorney and founding partner of the firm Bredin Prat. He is the twentieth, and current occupant of seat 3 of the Academie francaise, elected on 15 June 1989.