Sunday, February 08, 2015
An Officer And A Spy by Robert Harris
Robert Harris is an excellent craftsman for this kind of literature and he doesn't disappoint in the retelling of one of the most infamous incidents of French pre-WWI history. In brief, a French captain is convicted of treason, publicly humiliated and sent to rot in horrendous conditions on Devil's Island. A young staff officer takes over the army intelligence section sometime thereafter and soon starts to doubt Dreyfus's guilt.
The following events would make for a great TV mini-series, although critics might complain that you couldn't find this many venal characters at such high government levels in real life. They'd be wrong. Harris has based all the major character's actions and outcomes on existing historical research with only some dialogue and personal dramatic flourishes to make for a more enjoyable read. If you want to take a deeper dive into the story, he provides plenty of recommended books to get the facts without story telling touches. This is a good read and excellent context for the disaster that was French participation in WWI. With generals like this, no wonder they lost so many men who eventually mutinied.