Cry out! French writer, 93, publishes a 13-page best seller

Stephane Hessel‘s slim, 13-page political pamphlet, according to a recent article in the Independent, is “smashing all publishing records in France.” In just three months, Hessel’s Indignez vous! (Cry out!), has sold 600,000 copies and another 200,000 print run has just been released. What could Hessel have written about that caused his book to sell eight times more copies than the second most popular book in France, a prize-winning novel by Michel Houellebecq?

Indignez vous! calls for the French, and everyone else in the industrialized world, to reject the “insolent, selfish” power of money and markets, and to  defend the social “values of modern democracy” through “peaceful insurrection.”

Mr Hessel and his small left-wing publisher (which is used to print runs in the hundreds) say that he has evidently struck a national, and international nerve, at a time of market tyranny, bankers’ bonuses and budget threats to the survival of the post-war welfare state. . . .

In a New Year message Mr Hessel, who survived Nazi concentration camps to become a French diplomat, said he was “profoundly touched” by the success of his book. Just as he “cried out” against Nazism in the 1940s, he said, young people today should “cry out against the complicity between politicians and economic and financial powers” and “defend our democratic rights acquired over two centuries”.

According to the Independent, Mr Hessel, was born in Berlin in 1917, and emigrated to France with his family when he was seven. During WWII he was captured, tortured and sent to concentration camps in Germany. After the war, he helped to draft the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948.

A message of resistance

The following is from Mr. Hessel’s book:

* “I would like everyone – everyone of us – to find his or her own reason to cry out. That is a precious gift. When something makes you want to cry out, as I cried out against Nazism, you become a militant, tough and committed. You become part of the great stream of history … and this stream leads us towards more justice and more freedom but not the uncontrolled freedom of the fox in the hen-house.”

* “It’s true that reasons to cry out can seem less obvious today. The world appears too complex. But in this world, there are things we should not tolerate… I say to the young, look around you a little and you will find them. The worst of all attitudes is indifference…”

* “The productivist obsession of the West has plunged the world into a crisis which can only be resolved by a radical shift away from the ‘ever more’, in the world of finance but also in science and technology. It is high time that ethics, justice and a sustainable balance prevailed…”

photo: Getty