Wednesday, September 23, 2009

An Affair, remembered

Adam Gopnik's summary of the Dreyfus Affair is pretty spot-on, and I of course agreed when in the podcast version of his New Yorker piece he referred to Sarah Palin's real-America comments as "anti-Dreyfusard". Still, a couple things:

-"Drumont’s book [La France Juive, 1886] was above all an anti-immigrant manifesto." Not really. It was above all a rant against Jews. Its historical and political significance owed little to innovation - as far back as the 1840s, anti-Jewish ranters offered the French reading public that same fusion of religious, economic, and Jews-are-whiny-and-all-powerful Jew-hatred - and much to timing. It was only once masses of Eastern European Jewish immigrants arrived, and various other external factors entered the picture, that anti-Judaism in France became the political movement "anti-Semitism." I get that everyone wants to say that the situation of Muslims in France today is just like that of 19th C Jews, but the similarities are not infinite, and Drumont really did hate Jews. If there's ever been a book that's unambiguously about hating Jews, that's the one. Plus, if Drumont's main concern was immigration, why was he going around spreading anti-Semitism in Algeria, where much of the Jewish population had been there prior not only to the French but also to the Arabs?

-"Charles Maurass, who had succeeded Édouard Drumont as the leading authoritarian anti-Semite in France", was in fact Charles Maurras, unfortunately, as the former would have been better. Also unfortunate: the similarity of his name to that of Maurice Barres, another famed anti-Semite of the time, making it officially impossible to tell the two men apart, except that one wrote Les Deracines and the other did not.

-Proust was not Jewish, at least not unambiguously so, to be listed as such alongside Herzl and Leon Blum. If you're going to label him a Jew, you need to qualify this with something about how he was actually a Catholic whose mother's family was Jewish, which, unless you're going by strict Jewish law, doesn't make him a Jew. He did not identify as one.

2 comments:

Petey said...

"Adam Gopnik's summary of the Dreyfus Affair is..."

It's Wednesday night.

The management of this blog is quite upset that WWPD's editorial staff is around 60 hours late in posting on a topic squarely in its wheelhouse.

WWPD should have been flooding the zone.

Considerable advertising revenue has been irrevocably lost.

"Proust was not Jewish, at least not unambiguously so, to be listed as such alongside Herzl and Leon Blum. If you're going to label him a Jew, you need to qualify this with something about how he was actually a Catholic whose mother's family was Jewish, which, unless you're going by strict Jewish law, doesn't make him a Jew. He did not identify as one."

Well, in this context, Hitler's definition of 'who is a Jew' carries some weight in the matter...

Phoebe said...

Some people don't have Internet at home.

And, Hitler doesn't enter into it. He wasn't around for Swann and all that. Now I don't dispute that there's a case for Proust-as-Jew, but what's important here is that this is something that has to be justified. Proust fits as well on a list of definitive 'Jews' as Gwyneth Paltrow - it's a matter of wanting to claim people, for philo- or anti-Semitic reasons, who are either definitively non-Jewish or ambiguous. If you're listing 'famous Jews', you shouldn't put Proust. I'm Gopnik knows Proust's deal, so I don't get why he included him with no explanation.