Émile Zola was born on April 2, 1840 in Paris. He spent most of his childhood in
southern France. He went to school in Lycee Saint-Louis in Paris and failed the Baccalaureate
exam. In 1863 Zola became unemployed for two years. In 1865 he was hired as a clerk to work
in L.-C.-F Hachette where he then worked in advertising. His first novel was La Confession de
Claude (Claude’s Confession). He then went on to journalism. He continued to write many
works such as Therese Raquin(1867), Madeleine Ferat (1868), La Fortune des Rougon
(Beginning in 1870), Fécondité (1899) Vérité (1903) and Justice (which remained incomplete).
He defended the art of Cézane, Manet, Claude Monet, Edgar Degas and Pierre-Auguste
Renoir in newspaper articles. However, his novel L'Oeuvre (1886; The Masterpiece) depicts the
life of a ingenious painter who is unable to realize his potential and hangs himself in front of his
painting. This novel ruined the friendships he had with these artist, especially Cézanne who
chose to see the novel as disguised commentary against his own talent. In 1870 Zola married
Gabrielle-Alexandrine Meley. He also had an affair of fifteen years to a woman named Jeanne
Rozerot, who bore him his only children. In 1898, during the time of the Dreyfus Affair, Zola
published a bold denunciation of the French general staff in J'accuse (I accuse). Zola was
prosecuted for libel and found guilty. After his appeal in 1899,
Zola fled to England until he found out the case would be reopened bring him back to France.
In 1902, Zola died unexpectedly by coal gas asphyxiation from a blocked chimney flue. The
event was determined to be a tragic accident; However, there are those who believe that anti-
Dreyfusards arranged his chimney to be blocked. Zola was a man of truth and a champion of the
poor. His works have changed the course of French history.
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