Today in history: Emile Zola

Today in 1840, Émile Zola, a renowned French writer, was born.

Zola was born into a wealthy French family and was framed for an engineering-business career. However, Zola soon discovered that his interest and true talent were in writing, and a series of novels he wrote became very popular. Zola was a naturalist, and his writings were characterized by extreme realism and graphic images, popular among the masses and perceived as scandals in the eyes of high society; Zola was a prominent candidate for the Nobel Prize in Literature in the early years of the prize. But the important turning point in Zola’s life was political, with the outbreak of the Dreyfus Affair, which shook French society and exposed its darkest and most anti-Semitic sides (and greatly influenced the Zionist movement). Zola studied the affair in depth and became convinced of Dreyfus’s innocence, and after Dreyfus was convicted unjustly and his appeal was rejected, Zola decided to put his full weight into the affair: In January 1898, one of the leading newspapers in France published a front page article entitled “I Blame!”, in which he accused the French government of a miscarriage of justice. The French government sued Zola and convicted him of libel, and he was forced to flee to England; but the article stirred up the affair, and opened the process that eventually led to Dreyfus’s complete acquittal.

Photo Source: Wikipedia

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