xxxxxThe French writer Émile Zola gained his first notable success with his novel Thérèse Raquin of 1867, a grim story of passion and murder, but it was his series of 20 novels known as Les Rougon-
ÉMILE ZOLA 1840 -
Zola: by the French painter Édouard Manet (1832-
xxxxxThe French novelist and social reformer Émile Zola came to prominence as a writer with his Thérèse Raquin of 1867, a grim story of passion and murder. Four years later, following the end of the Franco-
xxxxxZola was born in Paris, the son of Francesco Zola, an Italian civil engineer, and Émile Aubert, the daughter of a glazier. When he was three years old the family moved to Aix-
xxxxxIn 1868 Zola conceived the idea of a series of novels, similar to Balzac’s The Human Comedy, but seen as a vehicle for his interest in genetics and psychological analysis. Unfortunately for him the Franco-
xxxxxHe called this new approach to fiction naturalism, an extension of realism which, in order to meet the needs of a pseudo-
xxxxxFollowing the publication of L’Assommoir in 1878 -
xxxxxZola’s later works, such as the trilogy The Three Cities (1894-
xxxxxZola’s novels -
xxxxxIt would seem that Zola died of a tragic accident in 1902, killed by fumes from a bedroom fire, though many at the time believed that the chimney was deliberately blocked by anti-
xxxxxIncidentally, Zola’s wife Alexandrine, whom he married in 1870, survived him. His two children, Denise and Jacques, were the product of his long affair with his wife’s housemaid Jeanne Rozerot, who became his mistress in 1888. This photograph of her was taken by Zola himself. He became a keen photographer towards the end of his life. ……
xxxxx…… Because of his close friendship with Cézanne, Zola became a staunch supporter of Impressionism, and got to know a number of the movement’s leading members. He frequently visited the Café Guerbois, where they met, and in 1866, as a freelance journalist, he wrote a series of articles praising the works of Édouard Manet and Claude Monet, and criticising the narrow mindedness of the Salon’s selection committee. Two years later, to show his gratitude, Manet painted Zola’s portrait (illustrated above), shown at the Salon of 1868. In 1886, however, his friendship with the Impressionists came to an abrupt end. His novel of that year, The Masterpiece, contained a far from sympathetic portrayal of the Bohemian life of a typical painter, and this offended a number of his artist friends, including Cézanne.
xxxxxThe French decadent novelist Joris-
xxxxxA contemporary French writer who was a friend of Émile Zola and knew him well, was the decadent novelist and art critic Joris-
xxxxxHis first publication of note, his Dish of Spices of 1874 -
xxxxxBut by 1883, Huysmans’ disgust and distaste for modern life, and his deep pessimism brought a change in direction. Utterly bored with his existence, and finding Zola’s “naturalism” shallow and restrictive, he produced his Against the Grain (À rebours) the following year, and put himself firmly in the French Decadent Movement. Its hero, the Duc Jean des Esseintes -
xxxxxEventually Huysmans found “salvation” by a return to faith. After dabbling with Satanism and the occult in his The Damned (Là-
xxxxxApart from his work as a novelist, Huysmans was also a recognised art critic, and gained fame with his two books, Modern Art in 1883 and Certains in 1889. And, like Zola, he was, from the beginning, a strong supporter of the Impressionist movement and a severe critic of the Salon de Paris. He was also one of the founders of the Goncourt Academy, established in 1903 to encourage French literature, and served as its first president. Apart from Zola, Huysmans numbered among his friends and acquaintances the French writers Gustave Flaubert, Edmond Goncourt and Guy de Maupassant, and the French poets Paul Verlaine and Stéphane Mallarmé.
xxxxxIncidentally, Huysmans served for a while in the Franco-
xxxxx…… Huysmans’ novel The Damned (a study of Satanism) had the dubious distinction of being cited during the trial of Oscar Wilde in 1895. It was then referred to as a “sodomitical” book. And it also played a part in Wilde’s novel The Picture of Dorian Gray, being known there as the “poisonous” yellow book.