Home > Press >

Why the Dreyfus Affair Matters

10 06 2009

Relocated to the historic cellar of the university library, Plöck 107-109
(Main entrance, Foyer right, turn left towards the basement)

Louis Begley’s latest book examines the Dreyfus affair and draws parallels between Devil’s Island, Guantánamo and other historical nightmares. Aided and abetted by Sigrid Messner and Günter Leypoldt he will be presenting it to the public on 18 June.
Louis Begley’s latest book examines the Dreyfus affair  
In his latest book Why the Dreyfus Affair Matters American novelist and attorney Louis Begley, honorary doctor of Heidelberg University, re-examines the famous case of the French army officer Alfred Dreyfus, an Alsatian Jew. In 1894 he was unjustly accused of treason and banished to Devil’s Island, a notorious hellhole off the coast of French Guiana. On 18 June Louis Begley, writer in residence at Heidelberg University in 2006, will be presenting his reconstruction of the events surrounding the case at 7.30 p.m. in the Great Hall of the Old University (admission free). Actress Sigrid Messner of Heidelberg Municipal Theatre will read passages from the German translation. Subsequently Louis Begley will be talking about the book with Prof. Dr. Günter Leypoldt of the Department of English and American Studies.

Louis Begley was born in Poland in 1933. He was able to escape the Holocaust and after the Second World War moved to the United States with his family. He was naturalised in 1953 and studied English literature at Harvard University. After military service in Göppingen he returned to Harvard and graduated in law. Until the 1990s he was associated with the major New York law firm Debevoise & Plimpton, first as a staff attorney, later as a senior partner.

Louis Begley’s first novel Wartime Lies, the story of a Jewish boy who escapes the Holocaust, was published in 1990. It received several awards and quickly became a bestseller. Other novels followed, including About Schmidt, the basis for the eponymous Hollywood film starring Jack Nicholson. From 1993 to 1995 Louis Begley was president of the American P.E.N. Centre. The Suhrkamp-Verlag, publisher of the German translation of his latest book on the Dreyfus affair, has this to say about the work: “Louis Begley shows how, then as today, anti-Semitism and racism function in an outwardly liberal society. Charges are based on prejudice, racial profiling replaces the quest for truth, evidence is trumped up. Guantánamo is closer to Devil’s Island than we might care to think.”

Please address any inquiries to
Heidelberg University
Communications and Marketing
Dr. Michael Schwarz
Public Information Officer

Irene Thewalt
phone: +49 6221 542311
Editor: Email
zum Seitenanfang/up