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Resistance hero Stephane Hessel stuns publishing world with 30-page work that c

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  • shaji
    Political Essay by 93-Year-Old Tops Christmas Bestseller List in France Resistance hero Stéphane Hessel stuns publishing world with 30-page work that calls on
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 3, 2011
      Political Essay by 93-Year-Old Tops Christmas
      Bestseller List in France

      Resistance hero Stéphane Hessel stuns
      publishing world with 30-page work that calls
      on readers to be outraged about society

      By Angelique Chrisafis in Paris
      Guardian (UK)
      December 26, 2010


      Proving that age is no boundary to publishing success,
      the French book world has been taken by storm by a
      surprise Christmas bestseller: a political call to arms
      by Stéphane Hessel, 93.

      The unlikely publishing sensation is a former
      resistance hero whose 30-page essay, Indignez-vous!,
      calls on readers to get angry about the state of modern

      Launched in October by Indigène, a small publisher
      working out of an attic in Montpellier, southern
      France, the book had a tiny first print-run, 6,000, and
      sold for _3, unprecedentedly cheap in a country where
      book prices are regulated and kept high by the law.

      Hessel's success has stunned France. After two months
      on the bestseller lists, the book has spent five weeks
      at number one, beating Michel Houellebecq's award-
      winning latest novel La Carte et le Territoire and a
      host of Christmas fiction. It has sold 600,000 copies
      and - publishers predict it will reach a million.
      Translations are underway for Italy and other European

      The book's soaring sales reflect a general mood of
      French exasperation at the social inequalities of
      Nicolas Sarkozy's presidency. But the phenomenon is
      mostly down to Hessel's charisma and his life story.

      Hessel was born in Berlin in 1917 and emigrated to
      France aged seven. His free-spirited mother, Helen
      Grund-Hessel, inspired the novel Jules et Jim, which
      became Francois Truffaut's film about a love-triangle
      of two male friends and a woman who loves them both.
      During the Nazi occupation of France, Hessel joined the
      French resistance, was caught, tortured and and
      deported to Buchenwald and Dora concentration camps
      where he escaped hanging. After the war, he helped to
      draft the universal declaration of human rights and
      later became a diplomat.

      Hessel's book argues that French people should re-
      embrace the values of the French resistance, which have
      been lost, which was driven by indignation, and French
      people need to get outraged again. "This is an appeal
      to citizens, young and old, to take responsibility for
      the things in our society that don't work," he said. "I
      wish every one of you to find your own reason for
      indignation. It's precious." Hessel's reasons for
      personal outrage include the growing gap between the
      very rich and the very poor, France's shocking
      treatment of its illegal immigrants, the need to re-
      establish a free press, protecting the environment, the
      plight of Palestinians and the importance of protecting
      the French welfare system. He calls for peaceful and
      non-violent insurrection.

      Sylvie Crossman, a former Le Monde foreign
      correspondent who co-founded Hessel's publishers, said
      the book was like a new, "adapted" version of Charles
      de Gaulle's rallying resistance appeal from London on
      18 June 1940. She said the book had been a success
      because it gave hope to people from a real fighter who
      was not just an armchair intellectual.

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