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Jacques Lusseyran

19/10/1924 (Paris, France) – 27/7/1971 (Ancenis, France)

Portrait photograph of Jacques Lusseyran
Jacques Lusseyran (1924–1971), ca. 1965.

Jacques Lusseyran was born to a middle-class family in Paris on 19 September 1924. He lost his eyesight in an accident at the age of eight, but nevertheless attended primary and grammar school. He was very gifted in languages. From the autumn of 1941, he attended a special class for admission to the École Normale Supérieure. In this period he founded the student resistance group "Volontaire de la Liberté" and was entrusted with examining would-be members because, owing to his blindness, he had developed an especially good "feel for people". In 1943 his group became part of the national resistance organization "Défense de la France"; he was in charge of the country-wide distribution of the underground newspaper.

Lusseyran was arrested by the Gestapo on 20 July 1943 and, following interrogation in the prison in Fresnes, was deported to Buchenwald in January 1944. There he used his language skills to interpret illegal information in the Little Camp.

"After a year in Buchenwald, I understood that life was not at all as I had been taught it ‒ neither life nor society. What was off kilter, Buchenwald or the ordinary world ‒ what we refer to as normal life ‒?"
Jacques Lusseyran

Following liberation on 11 April 1945, he embarked on the study of literature and philosophy at the Sorbonne. From 1947 to 1958 he served at various French universities as a lecturer on French literature and philosophy. He published several autobiographical books revolving primarily around his experience as a blind person in the Paris of his childhood and youth, and his time at Buchenwald Concentration Camp. In 1958 he went to the U.S. and served as a guest lecturer at Hollins College in Virginia and the Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, from 1966 onward as a tenured professor in Ohio, and from 1969 at the University of Hawaii.

On 27 July 1971, during a visit to France, Jacques Lusseyran and his third wife Marie were killed in a car accident.

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