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Outside the Gates

Outside the Gates

By W. C. Hackett

134 pp

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About the Book

The gates of Drancy Internment Camp in the northeast suburbs of Paris served as a holding pen for thousands of Jews during the German occupation of France in World War II. Jean Wahl, philosophy professor, poet, bachelor at the top of Parisian society before his arrest, was among those very few who escaped. 

In this searing historical novel by W. C. Hackett, the story is told in Wahl’s own voice, from the moment he passed beyond the gates of the camp to his harrowing flight for the Free Zone in the south. Based on extensive archival research, Outside the Gates binds by spell in a work of vast interior proportions, bringing the reader face to face with the defining mortal questions Jean Wahl himself faces recollecting his year of trial.


“What happens when the angst of existentialism meets the agony of existence in a time of secular fundamentalist tyranny? William Hackett’s thought-provoking novella, set against the backdrop of Nazi-occupied France during World War II, offers penetrating answers to this perennially relevant question.”


author of Benedict XVI: Defender of the Faith

“In a rich and intricate debut, Hackett combines the terrifying urgency of a WWII  prisoner’s escape with deep psychological and spiritual insight. The struggle of Jean Wahl will serve as a mirror into the reader’s own complex humanity.”


author of A Bloody Habit and Brother Wolf


Outside the Gates can only be described as a philosophical thriller. You can’t put down Hackett’s fast-paced story, based on true events, of Jean Wahl’s harrowing escape from Nazi-occupied France. And you can’t help but pick it up a second time, to meditate more slowly with Hackett’s Wahl on the mysteries of life and death, of good and evil. This novel crackles with spiritual intensity. It is a transcendent debut in the fullest sense of the word.”


Virginia Military Institute 


“Riveting and ruminative by turns, Hackett’s novella immerses us in those most extraordinary moments of Jean Wahl’s life, as the body and the soul of this celebrated French philosopher elude his Nazi captors. Every tense look can be felt in this hair-raising suspense novel, yet Hackett also raises our minds to what it means to live. Here we have one literary philosopher’s remarkable tribute to another, and extraordinary white-knuckled spiritual reading for everyone else.”


Ashland University

About the Author

W. C. HACKETT is a philosopher and writer living in rural Indiana. His theoretical exercises include Philosophy in Word and Name: Myth, Wisdom, Apocalypse and Quiet Powers of the Possible: Interviews in Contemporary French Phenomenology.He has also translated works from French to English, including Jean Wahl’s Human Existence and Transcendence. He works at a Benedictine monastery. Learn more about the stories he tells by finding him online. 

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