Could you put your beliefs before your family?
Epic Annette is the extraordinary true story of Annette Beaumanoir: brilliant and fierce, she was a medical student living in a world at war who, at nineteen years old, joined the French Resistance and saved the lives of two Jewish children in Paris on the eve of their deportation to the camps.
As a doctor and mother devoted to justice and equality, Annette was later found guilty of treachery for supporting the Algerian FLN in France and sentenced to ten years in prison. The story of her dramatic escape, trial in absentia and decades in exile, separated from her children, resembles that of the great heroes whose love for individuals had to compete with their destiny and love of humanity.
Annette will remain with you forever. With this gripping personal tale of heroism and grief, author Anne Weber joins Homer in her ability to conjure a titan in an epic poem.
‘Annette is a rare heroine whose fierce courage almost demands an unusual, and beautiful, account of her life. She stood out in life and this epic will ensure that she is honoured in death. She deserves nothing less.’
—Anne Sebba, author of Les Parisiennes
‘A bold and moving exploration of the ethics of heroism.’
—Times Literary Supplement (review of the German Edition)
‘A riveting and highly original retelling of the life of Annette Beaumanoir.’
‘A novel about courage, resilience, and the struggle for freedom.’
—German Book Prize Judges
‘[Anne Weber makes] the warmth and vibrant energy of a unique, very individual life palpable.’
—Die Berliner Zeitung
‘It pushes linguistic, narrative and genre conventions to their limits, while posing big ethical questions, as its heroine’s idealism comes up against dirty realpolitik.’
—Times Literary Supplement (review of the German Edition)
‘A reading delight from start to finish.’
—Die Süddeutsche Zeitung
‘An accessible chronicle of a humanitarian who refused to bow to political disillusionment. Weber’s epic lives up to its form.’
Published: 25 August 2022
Cover design: © Luke Bird
Cover photo: (left) by permission of the estate of Anne Beaumanoir
Cover photo: (right) © Hermance Triay
Dimensions: B Format paperback 198mm x 129mm with flaps
Length: 181 pages
Publicist: Claire Maxwell at Read Media
Agent: Loan Nguyen at Matthes & Seitz Berlin
Foreign rights: The Marsh Agency
Principles, betrayal and resistance in the mountains of France
I have just been reading an article about men who paid for cosmetic surgery during lockdown to lengthen their legs and thus reach the six foot status guaranteed to take them to high-earning CEO territory. I thought at first this was fiction, like Fay Weldon’s The Life and Loves of a She Devil, but no, apparently this was and is A Thing.
Wanting to be taller and taking steps to achieve it – is this limited to men? Is it easier for a woman to be tiny? At 5ft nothing myself I’ve often wanted to grow, but I’m not sure I’d pony up hundreds of thousands of dollars and months if not years of agony to achieve more height. And I’m not sure that it would really change my fortunes.
Small women are often underestimated, especially while young. This was the case for Annette Beaumanoir, who was born in Brittany in 1923 to unmarried parents, and who, at the age of nineteen, rescued two Jewish children from deportation to the concentration camps despite knowing her communist comrades forbade such unilateral decision-making. Throughout her life she championed causes, resistance and independent thought, and was frequently underestimated.
It’s annoying to read a profile of a small person which includes phrases like ‘despite her tiny stature she is fierce/driven/passionate/has a big personality’. Annette understood from the start that stalwart faith in principles bears little relation to one’s ethnicity, gender, wealth, religion, nationality, physical stature. What she realised as she aged, though, was that values in and of themselves are intangible; you can hold them dear but you can’t hug them. She gradually lost links to many of the people she loved with and, despite a brilliant medical career, came to regret prioritising these principles over personal connections.
One way in which I’ve been luckier than Annette is that my career in publishing has resulted in hundreds, if not thousands, of encounters with people, many of which have developed into lasting friendships. (Publishing sometimes feels like an act of resistance, but in the UK it doesn’t often result in a ten year prison sentence.) And the English language publication of Epic Annette has contributed to this. I heard about the book through friends in Berlin, where I was staying to welcome a new step-granddaughter; I asked my cousin Charlotte Collins for suggestions of potential translators; and I was privileged, during the launch process, to meet the author, Anne Weber, and her husband Antoine Jacottet, the translator Tess Lewis, the team at the Goethe Institute in London, colleagues from her German publishing house, and staff at the American University and Library in Paris, among others.
Annette was betrayed in 1959 by a double agent, codenamed Paul, after driving him from Montpellier to Alès. She had previously been suspicious of his behaviour in Arles, Avignon and Nîmes, but followed FLN orders nevertheless. These cities and towns are very familiar to me; the winding roads which caused pregnant Annette to stop because of her morning sickness are like tracks in my life, the beautiful Cévennes mountains the backdrop of my summers. This part of France is famous for resistance. After the revocation of the edict of Nantes by Louis XIV in the late seventeenth century, protestants were persecuted and the Wars of Religion between them and the Catholic majority were mainly waged in the south. The view from my kitchen window is called La Montée de Cavalier, after the Huguenot chief of the Camisards, Jean Cavalier, who caused a stir when he came to 18th century England as one of the Huguenot French Prophets.
During the second world war the maquis came here to regroup, constantly inspired by Jean Moulin who was born in nearby Béziers and who went to school in Montpellier. It is rugged and difficult terrain, not fashionable, poor, determined. In the most recent presidential elections my village voted for the socialist Mélenchon. Toughness runs through the mountainous landscape. Keeping human connections alive and learning who to trust has been an essential survival mechanism.
Annette has taught me that size really doesn’t matter. What counts is belief, passion and altruism, but also self-reflection, trusting one’s instincts and the grace to admit to mistakes. She was recognised by Yad Vashem as one of the righteous among nations, but wasn’t well-known as a resistance heroine in France because her championing of the Algerian independence cause was seen a treachery. I wish I’d met her in person; I’m glad to have met her on the page via Anne’s epic poem which combines politics, history, philosophy, wit and ethics in admirable, elegant brevity. No need for any lengthening operation.