From the cradle of Bolshevism to the ghetto of Lvov

albert londres

Pierre Assouline: Albert Londres. Vie et mort d’un grand reporter 1884-1932 ISBN 978-2-07-038236-2 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Superbe en français, outstanding English. Having worked as a journalist myself I make a point of avoiding books about a journalist. I have already read too many bad memoirs. This book is an exception. The biography of the French special envoy Albert Londres deserves the highest praise.

A thrilling story, the story of a thrilling life. A tour de force through the history of World War I, the birth of Bolshevism, the upheavals in the Balkans after the retreat of the Ottoman Empire. A discovery tour to the dark side of the French colonial empire with its prison camps and construction sites where French colonial officers supervise African foremen exploiting African slaves. A descent into the hell of French lunatic asylums, Jewish ghettos in Eastern Europe and Brazilian brothels were French prostitutes, bought and sold by unscrupulous businessman, satisfy their customers.

Londres didn’t spare his readers in Paris in the 1920s and his growing audience – by 1929 he was a journalistic celebrity unable to cope with fan mail – witnessed how his job transformed his view on the world. He started as an observer and recorder of facts to report and inform, but by experiencing the personal misery of man and chosing the individual experience – the men and women who either made or suffered from the making of history – as the focal point of his stories, he became a fighter against social and racial injustice making enemies left, right and center in France and its colonies.

Pierre Assouline, a successful editor and a gifted writer, does a brilliant job in retracing the path that Londres took and the personal development that the journalist underwent. What captivated me most was Assouline’s style in the tradition of the great French romanciers, mimicking Londres’s sense of irony, descriptive precision and expressive excellence. Reading a French book has not often given me so much joy only for its style.

While Albert Londres fought against corruption, abuse of power and social injustice, the Austrian composer Arnold Schönberg persued his own way to democracy and equality – in the realm of chamber music – inspired by the generally progressive ideas that were in the air all over Europe. His String Quartet No. 3 picked up the mood of the time:

A democratic revolution – all notes are equal