Obituary: Stéphane Hessel, 1917 – 2013

Main Links:

» Stéphane Hessel, gentleman indigné, Le Monde, December 23, 2011 / February 27, 2013
» 《愤怒吧!》: 93岁愤怒战士一夜爆红, Beijing News, April 11, 2011

Links within blockquotes added during translation.


Hessel was born German, grew up French, and became a French citizen in 1939. He took part in the formulation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, and never stopped promoting its values, Le Monde wrote in December 2011 (article updated on February 27, 2013).

He had joined the résistance in 1941. He had been arrested, tortured, and survived the Buchenwald concentration camp.

And his hope was contagious (Le gentleman indigné, dont l’espérance est contagieuse).

He was also a diplomat. Compromise was hardly something foreign to him. But to react to wrongs seems to have been second nature to him.

On October 20, 2010, on his 93rd birthday, his booklet “Indignez-vous”, Time for Outrage, was published in France, with more than two million copies sold in France, and almost two million more in the rest of the world. He published another edition soon after, describing his admiration for Eleanor and Franklin D. Roosevelt. Indignez-vous was followed by “Engagez-vous”, Get involved, came next.

Counter-espionage was Hessel’s job from 1941, when he followed General de Gaulle to London, a correspondent for Beijing News wrote  from Paris, in April 2011, six months after “Time for Anger” had been published:

In March 1944, he was assigned to organize the resistance network in Paris, and to gather intelligence for the allied troops as they prepared to enter continental Europe. Named “Ge Like”, he secretly entered France, but was soon betrayed and then arrested by the Gestapo. Neither punishment nor lure by promises led to the results [his captors] desired, and Hessel was then transferred to the Buchenwald concentration camp on August 8, 1944, only days before the liberaton of Paris. He later wrote a detailed description of these experiences, in “Danse avec le Siècle”.

His narrow escape from death – by obtaining the identity of a fellow inmate who had died of typhus – inspired him.

Just as Hessel said: “this kind of leap from death, back into life makes him the more determined to enter the enthusiasm of global politics” (正如埃塞尔自己所说的:“这种死里逃生经历更加坚定了他介入世界的政治热情”).

The article’s description of Hessel’s post-war life included his co-authorship of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:

To help this document of tremendous historic value obtain acknowledgment as [a set of] universal values, Hessel and his colleagues went to great pains to make it suitable for East and West, for ideologies, and the different situations of countries and nations.

There was nothing new in the novel, “Time to get Angry”, and it provided neither a logical analysis of the problems faced by humankind today, nor practical methodology for dealing with them, the Beijing News author quoted Hessel, in 2011, and added that its fascination was to be found in the emotions it stirred, and the lesson it taught: not to allow evil to repeat itself.

An initially small, unobtrusive book, written without much preparation, of only some thirty pages including footnotes and a postscript, but inevitable content, unexpectedly led to this kind of reading, discussion and dissemination. (Frequently, customers went to a bookstore and bought ten or more copies for their families and friends). While many publishers call this a coincidence, many others explore the reasons for the book’s strong sales. There is this global upheaval, and worried people are seeking some relief. This small book is just right in its simplicity, legibility, its sentiment and excitement, and its catchiness. […] And secondly, the author’s personal charm adds an envelope of respectability and trustworthiness to this small book. It seems that only with the historical experience and the energetic and passionate involvement of this 93-year-old warrior, a man may be qualified to appeal to public enthusiasm.
一本事先毫不张扬,也无甚精心企划的小书;一本加上注释和后记才三十多页,内容无可避免的略显单薄的小册子,竟然引发了如此的阅读、讨论和传播(经常有顾客到书店一买十多册赠与身边的家人朋友)。在大多出版界人士大呼偶然的同时,也有不少人研究它畅销的必然所致。首先,世界局势的动荡,对未来的担忧让人们急需找到一个释放内心情绪的出口,而这本小册子正好简单、易懂,情绪激昂、朗朗上口。 […] 其次,作者的个人魅力无疑为这本小书笼罩了一层令人尊敬和信赖的气场。似乎,唯有这种经历过历史,并以自身全部的精力和激情投入其中的长者(93岁的老战士)才有资格以这种语气号召起大众的热情。



Hessel dies at 95, The Guardian, Febr 27, 2013
A Resistance Hero Fires up the French, NYT, March 9, 2011



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