The Pris­on­er and the Writer

  • Review
By – November 29, 2022

There are no sim­ple, hap­py end­ings in this book by Heather Cam­lot, which fol­lows the noto­ri­ous­ly anti­se­mit­ic Drey­fus Affair. The event began in France of 1894, when Cap­tain Alfred Drey­fus was false­ly accused of trea­son and found guilty. Beau­ti­ful­ly illus­trat­ed and easy to under­stand, The Pris­on­er and the Writer caters to young read­ers who may be encoun­ter­ing this piece of his­to­ry for the first time.

After much delib­er­a­tion and research, pop­u­lar French writer Emile Zola began a cam­paign to free Drey­fus, the only Jew­ish sol­dier in the French army and a man he believed to be a vic­tim of anti­semitism rather than a trai­tor. As a result, Zola was found guilty of libel and fled France, hav­ing received mount­ing death threats.

Drey­fus was ulti­mate­ly found inno­cent and released from prison — but only after spend­ing five tor­tur­ous years there. Apt­ly named Devil’s Island,” it was a place char­ac­ter­ized by extreme heat, poi­so­nous insects, and debil­i­tat­ing lone­li­ness. Zola, on the oth­er hand, returned to France after a year in exile. Both men showed inspir­ing courage and dig­ni­ty despite their dev­as­tat­ing circumstances.

Writ­ten in com­pelling verse, The Pris­on­er and the Writer opens up many themes for impor­tant edu­ca­tion­al discussion.

Award-win­ning jour­nal­ist and free­lance writer, Helen Weiss Pin­cus, has taught mem­oir writ­ing and cre­ative writ­ing through­out the NY Metro area to senior cit­i­zens and high school stu­dents. Her work has been pub­lished in The New York Times, The Record, The Jew­ish Stan­dard, and oth­er pub­li­ca­tions. She recent­ly added Bub­by” to her job description.

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