In the New Yorker, Adam Gopnik reviews Louis Begley’s “Why the Dreyfus Affair Matters”.
The Dreyfus affair matters, he believes, because we have, in the past decade, made our own Devil’s Island and hundreds of new Dreyfuses—the Dreyfus affair matters because we’re still in the middle of it.
Gopnik’s review is a fantastic reminder of just how disturbing the Deryfus affair was, and I think this is a book I’ll be reading at some point in the future. I really enjoyed the idea of the Eiffel Tower and the Sacré-Coeur as the physical embodiments of two very different visions of Paris:
For the Paris of Dreyfus’s time was really a city of two towers—across the city from the Eiffel Tower, the Basilica of Sacré-Coeur, with its monumental bell tower, had been slowly rising since the eighteen-seventies, as a sort of counter-monument, done in a gargantuan Romanesque manner then seen as the true mystical style of Franco-Catholicism. It was dedicated explicitly to the expiation of the sins of 1870 and the redemption of France by a restored Catholic Church. Apollinaire used the two towers—one the shepherd of modern life, the other the fountain, the bleeding heart of the past—to structure his vision of the city in his great poem on Paris, “Zone.
It makes me wonder if there are be two similar buildings today. I can’t think of an Eiffel Tower, but something like the old Houston Summit comes to mind as a modern day Sacré-Coeur. But is there a recent building that represents a better, progressive future in the way that The Eiffel Tower did in 1889?