Indignez-vous from 93 year old French Resistance survivor Stephane Hessel is a publishing phenomenon. It is the â€˜little red bookâ€™ that having swept France, is now set to topple international bestsellersâ€™ lists. It contains no sex and is not humorous. It is not a literary masterpiece and it does not have a startlingly original message. So why instead of becoming a publishing disaster, has it become a publishing phenomenon?
Everyone is asking, but why? In the main it sounds like the kind of publication that would be largely ignored by a youthful audience.
The timing of this book, which has been released during troubled times of pronounced economic instability and inequality might also seem to many a tad off? But defying all the odds it seems it has rung many warning bells for the people of France, where it has become the #1 bestselling book on Amazon.fr, and has remained so for some time.
Born in Germany Stephane Hessel became a naturalised French citizen and a French Resistance fighter. He escaped from a Nazi concentration camp and after the war helped draft the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948. His book Indignez-vous! at less than 30 pages, 13 which are of text. It is the missive of a 93-year-old man who while reflecting on his own life, becomes outraged at his nationâ€™s youth, wanting them to resist greed and corruption and fight to uphold the sacred values of democracy.
The author is almost a century old holocaust survivor and perhaps that lends credibility to his message. Whatever the reason, this small pamphlet style publication has sold over 600,000 in just three months, much to the shock and delight of Hesselâ€™s small, left-wing publishers. They are more accustomed to print-runs in the hundreds rather than the hundreds of thousands.
Read the entire article by C. McDowall here.
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Take a book of just 13 pages, written by a relatively obscure 93-year-old man, which contains no sex, no jokes, no fine writing and no startlingly original message. A publishing disaster? No, a publishing phenomenon.
Indignez vous! (Cry out!), a slim pamphlet by a wartime French resistance hero, StÃ©phane Hessel, is smashing all publishing records in France. The book urges the French, and everyone else, to recapture the wartime spirit of resistance to the Nazis by rejecting the “insolent, selfish” power of money and markets and by defending the social “values of modern democracy”.
The book, which costs â‚¬3, has sold 600,000 copies in three months and another 200,000 have just been printed. Its original print run was 8,000. In the run-up to Christmas, Mr Hessel’s call for a “peaceful insurrection” not only topped the French bestsellers list, it sold eight times more copies than the second most popular book, a Goncourt prize-winning novel by Michel Houellebecq.
The extraordinary success of the book can be interpreted in several ways. Its low price and slender size â€“ 29 pages including blurbs and notes but just 13 pages of text â€“ has made it a popular stocking-filler among left-wing members of the French chattering classes. Bookshops report many instances of people buying a dozen copies for family and friends.
But 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. They also suggest that the success of the book could be an important straw in the wind as France enters a political cycle leading to the presidential elections of May 2012.
A message of resistance
* “I would like everyone â€“ everyone of us â€“ 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…”