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PORTRAIT D'EMILE ZOLA
par Manet

1868




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1840 Émile Zola    ^top^
      Il était le romancier de la condition ouvrière en France (Germinal, La bête humaine) et le peintre de toute la société de la " Belle Epoque " (Nana, etc.) Il est également l’auteur du fameux "J'accuse" dans l'Aurore qui bouleversa, sema le trouble et divisa la France et permit de faire réviser le procès du capitaine Dreyfus, juif, faussement accusé de trahison avec l’ennemi, rétrogradé, condamné au Bagne (à Cayenne).
      French writer Emile Zola's J'accuse...!”, was printed on 13 January 1898 in L'Aurore. The letter exposes a military cover-up regarding Captain Alfred Dreyfus. Dreyfus, a French army captain, had been accused of espionage in 1894 and sentenced in a secret military court-martial to imprisonment in a South American penal colony. Two years later, evidence of Dreyfus' innocence surfaced, but the army suppressed the information. Zola charges various high-ranking military officers and, indeed, the War Office itself of concealing the truth in the wrongful conviction of Dreyfus. Zola was prosecuted for libel and and, on 23 February 1898, sentenced to one year's imprisonment. In July 1899, when his appeal appeared certain to fail, he fled to England. In 1899, Dreyfus was pardoned, but for political reasons was not exonerated until 1906. Zola returned to France in June 1900. Zola's intervention in the controversy helped to undermine anti-Semitism and rabid militarism in France.
      Zola died unexpectedly on 28 September 1902, the victim of coal gas asphyxiation resulting from a blocked chimney flue. Some believe that fanatical anti-Dreyfusards arranged to have the chimney blocked.
     Born on 2 April 1840, Zola grew up in poverty and twice flunked the baccalauréat. Employed in the advertising department of Hachette, in 1865 Zola published his first novel, La Confession de Claude, a sordid, semiautobiographical tale that drew the attention of the public and the police. Zola left Hachette.
      In 1867 he published Thérèse Raquin, first published serially as Un Mariage d'Amour earlier in the same year. The sensual Thérèse and her lover Laurent murder her weak husband Camille. After marrying, they are haunted by Camille's ghost, and their passion for each other turns to hatred. They eventually kill themselves.
      In 1868 Zola published Madeleine Férat, a rather unsuccessful attempt at applying the principles of heredity to the novel.
      It was this interest in science that led Zola, in the fall of 1868, to conceive the idea of a large-scale series of novels similar to Honoré de Balzac's La Comédie humaine.. Zola's project would become the 20 volumes of the Rougon-Macquart series (deux branches d'une même famille: l'une issue d'un mariage, les riches et puissants Rougon, l'autre issue d'un adultère, les pauvres Macquart: les personages). La Fortune des Rougon was published in book form in October 1871. Zola went on to produce these 20 novels--most of which are of substantial length--at the rate of nearly one per year, completing the series in 1893.
     Les Rougon-Macquart is "the natural and social history of a family under the Second Empire." (1852-70).
      La Curée (1872)explores the land speculation and financial dealings that accompanied the renovation of Paris during the Second Empire.
      Le Ventre de Paris (1873) examines the structure of the Halles and its influence on the lives of its workers. The 10 steel pavilions that make up the market are compared alternately to a machine, a palace, and an entire city.
      Son Excellence Eugène Rougon (1876) traces the machinations and maneuverings of cabinet officials in Napoleon III's government.
      L'Assommoir (1877) shows the effects of alcoholism in a working-class neighborhood by focusing on the rise and decline of a laundress, Gervaise Macquart.
      Nana (1880) follows the life of Gervaise's daughter as her economic circumstances and hereditary penchants lead her to a career as an actress, then a courtesan.
      Au Bonheur des Dames (1883) depicts the mechanisms of a new economic entity, the department store, and its impact on smaller merchants.
      Germinal (1885) depicts life in a mining community by highlighting relations between the bourgeoisie and the working class. At the same time, the novel weighs the events of a miners' strike and its aftermath in terms of those contemporary political movements (Marxism, anarchism, trade unionism) that purport to deal with the problems of the proletariat.
      L'Œuvre (1886), explores the milieu of the art world and the interrelationship of the arts by means of the friendship between an innovative Impressionist painter, Claude Lantier, and a naturalist novelist, Pierre Sandoz. Unable to realize his creative potential, the painter ends up hanging himself in front of his final painting.
      In La Terre (1887), a particularly grim portrait of peasant life, Zola shows what he considers to be the sordid lust for land among the French peasantry.
      In La Bête humaine (1890) he analyzes the hereditary urge to kill that haunts the Lantier branch of the family, set against the background of the French railway systemt.
      La Débâcle (1892) traces both the defeat of the French army by the Germans at the Battle of Sedan in 1870 and the anarchist uprising of the Paris Commune.
      In Le Docteur Pascal (1893) Zola uses the main character, the doctor Pascal Rougon, armed with a genealogical tree of the Rougon-Macquart family published with the novel, to expound the theories of heredity underlying the entire series.
      In the early '70s Zola expanded his literary contacts, meeting frequently with Gustave Flaubert, Edmond Goncourt, Alphonse Daudet, and Ivan Turgenev, all successful novelists whose failures in the theatre led them to humorously refer to themselves as auteurs sifflés ("hissed authors"). Beginning in 1878 the Zola home in Médan, on the Seine River not far from Paris, served as a gathering spot for a group of the novelist's disciples, the best-known of whom were Guy de Maupassant and Joris-Karl Huysmans, and together they published a collection of short stories, Les Soirées de Médan (1880).
      As the founder and most celebrated member of the naturalist movement, Zola published several treatises to explain his theories on art, including Le Roman expérimental (1880) and Les Romanciers naturalistes (1881). Naturalism involves the application to literature of two scientific principles: determinism, or the belief that character, temperament, and, ultimately, behavior are determined by the forces of heredity, environment, and historical moment; and the experimental method, which entails the objective recording of precise data in controlled conditions.
      Zola's final series of novels, Les Trois Villes (1894-98) and Les Quatre Évangiles (1899-1903) are generally conceded to be far less forceful than his earlier work. However, the titles of the novels in the latter series reveal the values that underlay his entire life and work: Fécondité (1899), Travail (1901), Vérité (1903), and Justice (which remained incomplete).
Zola en-ligne en français:   
  • Germinal
  • Germinal
  • Contes à Ninon
  • J'accuse!
  • J'accuse!
  • L'Argent
  • L'Assommoir
  • L'Œuvre
  • La Bête humaine
  • La Curée
  • La Débâcle
  • La Terre
  • Le Docteur Pascal
  • Le Roman expérimental
  • Le Rêve
  • Le Ventre de Paris
  • Les Soirées de Médan
  • Lourdes
  • Nana
  • La Conquête de Plassans
  • Nouveaux Contes à Ninon
  • Pot-Bouille
  • Rome
  • Son Excellence Eugène Rougon
  • Une Page d'Amour
    Zola online in English translations:
  • Germinal,
  • Nana; The Miller's Daughter; Captain Burle;
    The Death of Olivier Becaille
  • Zola en allemand: Der große Michu       ^top^
    Emile Zola téléchargeable (choix de Acrobat, Claris, RTF) Au bonheur des dames / Germinal / J'accuse / Jacques d'amour / La bête humaine / La curée / La faute de l'abbé Mouret / La fortune des Rougon / La mort d'Olivier Bécaille / L'attaque du moulin / L'œuvre / Naïs / Nana / Pour une nuit d'amour / Son excellence Eugène Rougon