Stéphane Hessel, the French author and activist who was among FP's Global Thinkers in 2011 -- our oldest thinker yet, but no less spirited for it -- died Tuesday in Paris at the age of 95. Hessel's is a remarkable life story: He was raised in Paris by parents who counted Marcel Duchamp and Alexander Calder as friends, joined the French Resistance against the Nazis during World War II, was imprisoned in Buchenwald, and ultimately escaped being hanged by swapping identities with a soldier who had died of typhoid fever. Later in life, as a young diplomat, he helped Eleanor Roosevelt draft the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
But it was at the age of 93, as the Occupy movement and the Arab Spring made their way across the world, that a little red book, just some 30 pages, earned Hessel international fame. His Indignez-vous! (the English version was published in 2011 as Time for Outrage!) was, as we wrote at the time, "an old lefty's impassioned cri de coeur against a society that has forgotten the postwar values of tolerance and social responsibility," and it caught the attention of exasperated protesters worldwide, from los indignados in Spain to the drum circlers of Zuccotti Park. Pausing at the "last leg of my journey," Hessel urged the world's youth to carry on the agitating spirit of the Resistance, fighting what he called the "international dictatorship of financial markets." "Here is our message," Hessel declared, "It's time to take over! It's time to get angry! Politicians, economists, intellectuals, do not surrender!"
In 2011, when we asked Hessel who the best muse is for our times, his reply was Calliope, the Greek muse of epic poetry. Somewhat fitting for a man whose language stirred millions.
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