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

Michael Rosen. Pegasus, $27.95 (320p) ISBN 978-1-68177-516-6
Rosen (We’re Going to a Bear Hunt) reveals two Émile Zolas in this frustrating but absorbing read. In 1898 the French novelist published an inflammatory open letter, the famous “J’Accuse,” in a Paris newspaper, protesting that Jewish army officer Alfred Dreyfus had been wrongly convicted of espionage. Zola was convicted of libel and, at the advice of friends, fled to England to avoid a prison term. What he thought would be a brief exile turned into almost a year away. Rosen chronicles that time: Zola disliked England’s food, climate, and architecture and missed his family, a complicated ménage that included his childless wife and the much younger mistress with whom he had two children. He comes across in the book’s early sections as a spoiled, self-absorbed narcissist, but later on Rosen brings to life a different man—the brilliant, fearlessly honest novelist and courageous opponent of anti-Semitism. This section includes material on Zola’s earlier visit to England, in 1893, when he triumphantly defied calls to censor his work. One wishes Rosen had started here, supplying this background to ameliorate the difficult domestic Zola. All the same, this is a worth account, with the added treat of a reprint of both a short story Zola wrote while in England and a translation of “J’Accuse.” (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 05/29/2017
Release date: 09/01/2017
Genre: Nonfiction
Open Ebook - 320 pages - 978-1-68177-580-7
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