The Disappearance of Émile Zola: Love, Literature, and the Dreyfus Case

Pegasus. Sept. 2017. 320p. photos. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781681775166. $27.95; ebk. ISBN 9781681775807. LIT
OrangeReviewStarIn writing J'Accuse, French novelist Émile Zola (1840–1902) sought justice for Alfred Dreyfus, a French Jewish army officer imprisoned for treason with no evidence. Zola accused the French government and military of anti-Semitism and corruption in their conviction of the innocent Dreyfus. His altruistic actions resulted in a jail sentence Zola intended to serve. However, in July 1898, he fled to London and remained exiled for 11 months. Rosen (children's literature, Goldsmiths, Univ. of London; We're Going on a Bear Hunt) uses this period of exile as the main focus of this remarkable book. Drawing on correspondence, biographies, and newspaper accounts, he presents this difficult time in the author's life. Zola spoke little English and despised British cuisine. Separated from his wife and also his mistress (and the children produced from that relationship), Zola managed to continue writing despite his misery. Rosen not only captures Zola's despair but also describes the inaccuracies found in newspaper accounts about his whereabouts. This work further reveals the divisiveness of French society during this period, exacerbated by the Dreyfus affair. Includes English translations of J'Accuse and a short story written during Zola's time in exile.
VERDICT For all readers interested in 19th-century France and French literature.
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