The Life and Times of Emile Zola
Emile Zola was born in 1840 in Paris, France. He spent his early childhood in Provence and later moved to Paris. He was friends with such influential people as Paul Cezanne and began writing at a young age. His mother had ambitions for him to become a lawyer, however, unlike most good little French children, Zola failed his baccalauréat. Zola began his career as a journalist and art critic. He began by writing short stories and essays. However, his projects soon lengthened. After his first novel was published, catching the attention of the entire country, he started the series, Le Rougon-Macquart which consisted of twenty volumes about a family during the Second Empire. Zola was also quite a philosopher and sociologist. He spent much of his time observing society and interpreting it in literary form. Zola is even called by some, the father of naturalism. He had a frank and sordid writing style and had no use for sparing the public any details that he felt were essential, no matter how explicit. His novels were attacked and banned and caused a great deal of controversy. His biggest offense was with his open letter "J'Accuse" which defended Alfred Dreyfus who was a French Jewish army officer falsely accused of giving military secrets to the Germans. After this publication, Zola was sentenced to prison for libel and fled to England where he was later granted amnesty. Dreyfus was eventually exonerated of the charges, however, Zola did not live to see it due to his death from carbon monoxide poisoning in 1902.
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