Émile Zola

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Émile François Zola (French pronunciation: [emil zɔˈla]; 2 April 1840 – 29 September 1902) was a French writer, the most important exemplar of the literary school of naturalism and an important contributor to the development of theatrical naturalism. He was a major figure in the political liberalization of France and in the exoneration of the falsely accused and convicted army officer Alfred Dreyfus, which is encapsulated in the renowned newspaper headline J'Accuse.


Early life

Zola was born in Paris in 1840. His father, François Zola (originally Francesco Zolla), was an Italian engineer. With his French wife, Émilie Aurélie Aubert, the family moved to Aix-en-Provence, in the southeast, when he was three years old. Four years later, in 1847, his father died, leaving his mother on a meager pension. In 1858, the Zolas moved to Paris, where Émile's childhood friend the painter Paul Cézanne soon joined him. Zola started to write in the romantic style. His widowed mother had planned a law career for Émile, but he failed his Baccalauréat examination.

Before his breakthrough as a writer, Zola worked as a clerk in a shipping firm, and then in the sales department for a publisher (Hachette). He also wrote literary and art reviews for newspapers. As a political journalist, Zola did not hide his dislike of Napoleon III, who had successfully run for the office of President under the constitution of the French Second Republic, only to misuse this position as a springboard for the coup d'état that made him emperor.

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