Last Letters

Olivier Blanc, Author Farrar Straus Giroux $22.5 (250p) ISBN 978-0-374-18386-8
Among the thousands of ""counterrevolutionaries'' condemned to death by the French Revolutionary Tribunal were wives of emigres, people who had innocently corresponded with ``persons abroad,'' speculators, civil servants who leaned toward the old order and citizens trying to prevent their family heritage from being obliterated. These ``suspects'' were branded enemies of the state and thrown into makeshift prisons during the Reign of Terror. This extraordinary volume contains 150 letters written by imprisoned women and men just hours, even minutes, before being executed. Some accept their fate philosophically, others are more defiant; many reiterate their innocence. Most of the letters are filled with love and sadness. These moving farewell notes speak to us directly across the centuries. Using police reports and prisoners' memoirs, French historian Blanc recreates the perverse conditions in the prisonsconverted schools, lunatic asylums, housesand shows how the authorities used false reports of prison riots as a pretext for mass executions. (July)
Reviewed on: 08/04/1987
Release date: 08/01/1987
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