Zola: A Life

Overview

Among the short list of authors whose lives were as exciting as their books, Emile Zola is one of the most eminent. Bestselling author of a series of novels, close companion of C& eacute;zanne and Manet, critic of politicians, clergy, bankers, and businessmen, he acted with a courage that earned him enduring fame when he took on the most venerable of all institutions: the military. But, climactic as it was, the Dreyfus Affair was only the most famous of events in Zola's tumultuous life. In this detailed ...

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Overview

Among the short list of authors whose lives were as exciting as their books, Emile Zola is one of the most eminent. Bestselling author of a series of novels, close companion of C& eacute;zanne and Manet, critic of politicians, clergy, bankers, and businessmen, he acted with a courage that earned him enduring fame when he took on the most venerable of all institutions: the military. But, climactic as it was, the Dreyfus Affair was only the most famous of events in Zola's tumultuous life. In this detailed biography, Frederick Brown discloses Zola's development as an author, and the moral consciousness that led him to invest himself in one social and political problem after another. Brown also shows Zola's human side--his failings, his superstitions, his private joys and dilemmas. At a time when a career could be made by a well-timed review or be broken by a rebuttal, Zola carved out his place in the literary pantheon through a series of struggles against ever more powerful enemies.

Few writers have been political hero, intellectual master and literary giant. Emile Zola's monumental cycle of 20 novels extended the reach of fiction for all subsequent generations. This magisterial biography of a great but strangely private and unknown man is also a superb history of the social, political and intellectual world through which Zola traveled so unforgettably. Illustrations.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
French novelist Emile Zola (1840-1902), who believed the fiction writer should observe reality dispassionately, like a scientist, led a messy emotional life. Obsessed with death ever since the death of his father when he was seven, the fanatically orderly novelist relied on superstitious rituals to avert danger. At 48, Zola, a married man, took as his mistress his 21-year-old ex-chambermaid, Jeanne Rozerot, setting her up in a flat near his own and secretly having two children with her. His clandestine double life, which his wife, Gabrielle Mely, discovered only through an anonymous letter, brought Zola ecstasy and torment. He saw every novel he wrote as a victory over impotence, over death and over guilt, according to Brown, professor of French and French literature at the State University of New York. This shrewd, arresting, monumental biography, with discussions of all the novels set against the seamy politics of the Second Empire, makes one appreciate Zola's greatness and originality anew. The Dreyfus Affair, Brown maintains, was a natural elixir for Zola, who had championed the victim and the outcast in many novels, and his heroic articles defending Alsatian Jewish army captain Alfred Dreyfus against false charges of espionage helped revive his waning creativity. Photos. (May)
Booknews
A biography integrating the writer's life with an analysis of all his major works, weaving the history and politics of late-19th century France and Zola's prodigious correspondence throughout. Fine b&w photographs. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780801854637
  • Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press
  • Publication date: 8/22/1996
  • Edition description: REPRINT
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 888
  • Product dimensions: 6.15 (w) x 9.27 (h) x 2.14 (d)

Meet the Author

Frederick Brown is professor of French language and literature at the State University of New York at Stony Brook. He is the author of An Impersonation of Angels: A Biography of Jean Cocteau, Theater and Revolution, and translator of Paul Val& eacute;ry's Occasions.

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