New York Jewish fiction writer Susan Daitch‘s third novel Paper Conspiracies, which was published last week by City Lights Books, takes an indirect approach to late Nineteenth Century France’s Dreyfus Affair by way of peripheral minor actors in the scandal and via cinema pioneer Georges Mèliés‘ contemporaneous dramtized documentary film L’affaire Dreyfus . The novel’s six sections alternate between 1990s New York and Paris in the 1890s, 1930s, and 1968.
In my New York Journal of Books review of the novel I enthusiastically recommend the book “to fans of highbrow, erudite historical fiction. Readers who enjoy the novels of Umberto Eco, for example, will probably also enjoy those of Ms. Daitch.” I also draw an analogy between late Nineteenth Century French anti-Semitism and Twentyfirst Century American Islamophobia.
While covering the Dreyfus trial as an Austrian journalist Theodore Herzl despaired of Jews ever integrating into western democracies and instead turned to separatist nationalism. But with the exception of the period of German occupation and its puppet Vichy government in the early 1940s the Dreyfus scandal had the long-term effect of marginalizing and banishing from power France’s extreme right wing who wanted to replace the liberal, secular republic with a return to authoritarian rule dominated by the church and the traditional aristocracy.
For more info: David Cooper