In 1894 The biggest affair of the Third Republic broke out, the one that was to tear apart the deputies, but also the whole of France, which was passionate about this story, relayed as never before by the press: the Dreyfus Affair ! Articles, speeches, debates, caricatures, all weapons are good to support his theses and discredit the adversary. Did Captain Dreyfus, a Jew, betray France by spying on behalf of Germany? By relying on false evidence, everyone agrees: yes, the Jew is a traitor and should be condemned for it! His deportation was pronounced in Guyana, on Devil's Island, Jean Jaurès himself found the sentence light and would have preferred the killing ... But Dreyfus is not guilty ... And if the real spy is there origin of this thunderclap in the history of France was the man of the year 1894?
We had already presented the concept of this saga to you during the release of the first volume, The Man of the Year 1917, it now has seven and an eighth opus is to be published. The principle of the series is relatively simple, to tell the story of seven illustrious strangers who have marked History: the unknown soldier, the man who betrayed Joan of Arc, the one who shouted “Shit! »In Waterloo, the one who killed Che Guevara, the one thanks to whom Christopher Columbus discovered America, the one who wanted to avenge Caesar, a hero of the Commune and the one that we present to you today: the man at the origin of the Dreyfus affair.
For the history lover, this saga is of great interest: it plunges into various universes, various eras, various historical contexts which allow us to travel playfully through time. But for this same amateur the concept of the saga can be a problem in itself, because by treating the history of illustrious strangers of History one is necessarily obliged to base everything on the romantic and ultimately only the context remains historical.
This seventh volume is certainly the least problematic from this point of view that the unknown is not quite, although it is indeed not well known: it is about the "count" Walsin Esterházy, the high-roller officer. spying on behalf of Germany, a slip of which was discovered in the rubbish bins of the embassy. A bordereau that was quickly attributed to another French officer of Judaic obedience: Captain Dreyfus.
The man behind the Dreyfus Affair
Esterházy is therefore for Fred Duval the man of the year 1894. Fred Duval, scriptwriter of this comic strip, knows the subject well since he did his Masters on the theme of caricature in the Dreyfus Affair. He is also a regular at historical uchronia since he also works on the D-Day series.
Raised by the French doctor of the Austro-Hungarian princely family, Esterházy is a multilingual man, as attracted if not more by the Germanic sphere than by the French sphere. Throughout his career, Esterházy had bad luck, but always managed to keep up by sailing in troubled waters: after his failure at Saint-Cyr he nevertheless made a career in the army within the Pontifical Zouaves, the Foreign Legion, the Zouaves and the Line Infantry. But he is also, and above all, employed by the French intelligence services ... Which will not prevent him from giving confidential information to Germany ... So who is Esterházy? A German spy infiltrated into the French intelligence services? A French spy returned by Germany? Or a great opportunist seeking profit wherever he can find it?
Because in parallel with this military career, Esterházy is a great gambler, abandoning his family to indulge in the pleasures of gambling dens and brothels, accumulating colossal debts!
The plot is drawn for Fred Duval who will with talent tell us the story of Esterházy as he conceives it, based on what we know historically and extrapolating on what seems plausible to him. The limit between the historical and the plausible is moreover quite well marked in this comic with a well-conducted narrative framework making at times an assessment of historical knowledge on such or such a character: what do we know exactly about Ferdinand Walson Esterházy? What exactly do we know about Maximilian Von Schwartzkoppen? ... Clarifications are also made on certain important contextual elements such as the Panama crisis. For the first edition, all these elements of historical context are reported in a four-page journal devoted of course to the main character, to the Panama affair as we have just underlined, but also the spirit of revenge after 1870, l espionite and the Schnaebele affair, the Boulangist crisis, the anarchist attacks or the rise of anti-Semitism ... So many elements present in the comics and which allow you to immerse yourself in this bubbling atmosphere of the year 1894 when The Dreyfus Affair explodes.
Finally, while leaving an important part to fiction, this opus is certainly one of the most historic of the saga, a great success which holds the reader in suspense and allows him to rediscover or to be initiated to this tumultuous history of the IIIe Republic of the late 19th century.
This immersion for the reader is also made possible by the quality of Florent Calvez's drawings. A realistic drawing based on a preliminary documentary research work, in particular from old postcards as the authors specify in the small newspaper in addition.
In the end, we have here a great success, knowing how to carefully balance the historical and the fictional to please a large audience including certainly as many history lovers as spy enthusiasts who will find there the opportunity to learn about the History of the Third Republic whose affairs and oppositions as well as power games are in themselves a novel ...
Screenplay: Fred Duval
Design & color: Florent Calvez
Man of the Year:
1917: The Unknown Soldier
1431: The man who betrays Joan of Arc
1815: The man who yelled “Shit! »In Waterloo
1967: The man who killed Che Guevara
1871: One of the heroes of the Paris Commune
1492: The man thanks to whom we discovered the Americas
1894: The man behind the Dreyfus Affair