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By Rose, Jacqueline.

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To put it most simply, Dreyfus had been framed. In 1894, he was convicted of treason, court-martialed, and deported to Devil’s Island, the tiniest of three tiny Iles de Salut, or Salvation Islands, off the coast of French Guiana, where the climate was so intense that deportation there was considered a death sentence. By the time of Zola’s trial, he had already been languishing on the island for three years, in conditions that can fairly be described as inhuman. It almost killed him. He would remain there for another two years until he was brought home for his 1899 retrial, where he would be reconvicted “with extenuating circumstances” by a court set up by the army to vindicate Proust among the Nations itself.

The Catholic newspapers, the Croix, the Pèlerin, and the Gazette de France, all made themselves the vehicle for anti-Jewish hatred. ”  But that was perhaps too easy. It ignored the extent to which these outbursts were drawing on the underside of other, more civilized, passions. ”  “They are stirring up France,” Zola wrote of the army’s appeal to national sentiment, “hiding behind her legitimate emotions, clamming mouths shut because the heart has been vexed, perverting minds. ”  The image is important.

He knows him. ”  Dishonest government and the innocent suffering for the guilty will do nicely as a description of the Dreyfus Affair. Proust will use the hero Picquart to drive home his distinction between paying lip service to justice and serving a cause with one’s own internal flesh and blood. If we truly want to save the world from miscarriages of justice and corrupt government, we must hand over to politics not just a name and a face but the deepest parts of ourselves. If Picquart is a hero for Proust, it is because, in Picquart’s head, as it inclines from side to side, Proust reads the passage of thought.

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