The Pierre Goldman Affair

The Affair Begins

Source: Les Temps Modernes, #352, November 1975;
Translated: for by Mitchell Abidor;
CopyLeft: Creative Commons (Attribute & ShareAlike) 2007.

The book that Pierre Goldman has just written in prison is beautiful, painful, and risky, like a birth. And it is, in fact, the birth certificate of a man. Brought into the world at a time when the children of Jews were destined for the crematory ovens, for thirty years Pierre Goldman has never ceased expiating a monstrous error: that of having survived the non-execution of that sentence. This child should not have been born, his father – an exemplary Jewish resistance fighter – confessed during the only trial, which ended in 1974 by condemning to a living death – life imprisonment -a man who was stillborn and the accomplice of his judges through the suicidal silence in which he immured himself. This silence is now broken: we know who Pierre Goldman is because he finally knows this himself; that he thought of killing himself in prison shortly after his sentencing, and that he finally decided to speak out to say that he is innocent and that he wants to live. This rare book carries within it a man’s truth. It is up to us to hear it, for this truth is also that of the century – our century. When a book appears where a man – in an irrepressible impulse for freedom – wrenches himself from all that condemned him to unhappiness, to self-destruction, to solitude, and the violent silence of death, to not a respond to his call to life would mean shutting oneself away. Listen to this voice that sounds just and strong because it speaks the truth and its accent doesn’t mislead. Allow it to resonate within you, and if you can still say: “This man’s place is in prison and mine is to be free,” it means that you are forever a prisoner of your fear and hatred.

Pierre Goldman is not in prison for the three armed holdups he committed and for which he has always accepted paying the price. He is in prison for a double murder for which he has never ceased proclaiming his innocence. “I’m 26, I don’t love life, I have even lost the taste for freedom; if I was guilty I would say so.” This is the evidence, refused by the police and judicial apparatus from the time of his arrest until his trial four years later, and which appeared in every aspect of the conduct of a man in whom history had placed but one desire, that of dying. This kind of sincerity cannot be feigned: Pierre Goldman did not commit the double murder on the Boulevard Richard Lenoir. Of that guilt no material proof, no decisive testimony was brought to the trial. Badly defended by his lawyers, trapped in his own silence, Pierre Goldman was condemned on the intimate convictions of a vindictive and fearful jury that judged him, not on the facts, but on his supposed personality, in contempt of that fundamental rule of penal law which says that the benefit of the doubt goes to the defendant. Any Anglo-Saxon tribunal would have acquitted him for lack of proof of the charge that earned him his life sentence at the Assizes Court of Paris. This revolting trial is on appeal not only before the Court of Appeals but, thanks to Pierre Goldman’s admirable book, before the consciences of all the French. Intimate conviction for intimate conviction, we henceforth have ours, based on a man’s word. If he must remain in prison it should then be admitted that he is not there for an unprovable crime, but because the institutions and the power structure fear nothing more than they do a free man.

The Pierre Goldman Affair begins. Like an ever growing number of Frenchmen, we have not said our last word. It is concretely a matter of a man’s freedom, of ours. We will publish a group of texts on Pierre Goldman in our next issue.