Feature

Author of the week: Stéphane Hessel

The French Resistance hero's manifesto calling for the world’s youth to rise up against injustice has just been released in an American edition.

In a world of e-books, Stéphane Hessel is an unlikely publishing phenomenon, said Eleanor Beardsley in NPR.org. Last year, the 93-year-old Hessel, a French Resistance hero who was waterboarded in Nazi concentration camps, released a stapled, 29-page pamphlet entitled Indignez-vous!, a manifesto calling for the world’s youth to rise up against myriad forms of injustice. The book has since sold nearly 2 million copies in France and been translated into 30 languages. An American version, Time for Outrage, hit shelves last week. “If you want to be a real human being, you cannot tolerate things which put you to outrage,” says Hessel. “You must stand up. I always say to people, ‘Look around; look at what makes you unhappy, what makes you furious, and then engage yourself in some action.’”

Hessel admits that the book’s success owes a lot to his stature as a hero from a distant past, said Elaine Sciolino in The New York Times. “If it had been written by a young man,” he says, “it would probably not have had the same impact.” Though Hessel has been criticized for stoking anger without offering solutions, he maintains that serious action can only stem from indignation. “When something outrages you, as Nazism did me, that is when you become a militant,” he says. “To be conquered by the Nazis, obviously it was insufferable. Today we are not in front of problems that immediately appear as impossible to accept. But if we look a little carefully, these challenges are there.”

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