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La Bête républicaine

Christopher Prendergast, 5 September 1996

The Dreyfus Affair: ‘J’Accuse’ and Other Writings 
by Emile Zola, edited by Alain Pagès, translated by Eleanor Levieux.
Yale, 208 pp., £25, June 1996, 0 300 06689 9
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ZolaA Life 
by Frederick Brown.
Farrar, Straus, 888 pp., £37.50, May 1996, 0 374 29742 8
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... The most famous of those who believed Dreyfus to be innocent and campaigned for his release was Emile Zola, and the most famous of his many journalistic interventions (gathered in The Dreyfus Affair along with interviews and private letters written in voluntary exile in 1898-9) was ‘J’accuse’, the open letter he addressed to Félix ...

A Spot of Blackmail

Douglas Johnson, 1 July 1982

by Graham Greene.
Bodley Head, 69 pp., £1.95, May 1982, 0 370 30930 8
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... the law behind, push out for new shores. It seemed curiously unimportant.’) It was said that Zola, when he took up the cause of Dreyfus, had dried up as a novelist and was looking for something to write about. Gide, when he wrote critically of Soviet Russia, was said to be smarting under Russian disapproval of his homosexuality. Mauriac, when he ...

Why so late and so painfully?

Frederick Brown: Cézanne, 21 March 2013

Cézanne: A Life 
by Alex Danchev.
Profile, 488 pp., £30, October 2012, 978 1 84668 165 3
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... Louis-Auguste professed liberal views and subscribed to L’Evénement, the paper for which Zola wrote an iconoclastic survey of the annual Salon in the 1860s (singling out for praise Manet, whose work had been turned down by the jury). Even before he acquired the Jas de Bouffan, his villa outside Aix, Louis-Auguste was not to be found with fellow ...

The man who was France

Patrice Higonnet, 21 October 1993

At the Heart of a Tiger: Clemenceau and His World 1841-1929 
by Gregor Dallas.
Macmillan, 672 pp., £25, January 1993, 0 333 49788 0
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... Company – an episode which nearly wrecked his career. He made up for it by becoming, along with Emile Zola, Captain Dreyfus’s most important apologist. And so it went, until his second prime-ministership in the last years of the First World War; his failure as a candidate for the Presidency of the Republic in 1919; and his death in 1929. A ...

At the Royal Academy

Julian Bell: Manet, 21 February 2013

... in two. It’s a livelier precursor to the better known but all too dutifully statement-like Emile Zola of 1868. Manet is at home with goofballs – and responsive both to solid, self-willed fellows and to the mysteries of women – because on a certain level he himself is goofiness personified. He is a well-meaning, well-heeled optimist who wants ...

‘J’accuse’: Dreyfus in Our Times

Jacqueline Rose: A Lecture, 10 June 2010

... than power? Do we want it to be? Imagine now the Palais de Justice in Paris in February 1898. Emile Zola has been charged with libelling the army in his famous letter, which we know today under the title ‘J’accuse’ (it was a stroke of genius of the editor of L’Aurore, the left-wing paper in which it appeared, to splay these words in a bold ...

Eat it

Terry Eagleton: Marcel Mauss, 8 June 2006

Marcel Mauss: A Biography 
by Marcel Fournier, translated by Jane Marie Todd.
Princeton, 442 pp., £22.95, January 2006, 0 691 11777 2
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... in 1872, the son of a sales representative and the grandson of a rabbi. He was the nephew of Emile Durkheim, and the two families lived cheek by jowl. As though to afford some amusement to future students of the human sciences, the families even collaborated at one point in a Mauss-Durkheim handmade embroidery company. The Durkheims were a devoutly ...

Their Affair and Our Affair

R.W. Johnson, 23 April 1987

The Affair: The Case of Alfred Dreyfus 
by Jean-Denis Bredin, translated by Jeffrey Mehlman.
Sidgwick, 628 pp., £20, March 1987, 0 283 99443 6
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Neither Right nor Left: Fascist Ideology in France 
by Zeev Sternhell, translated by David Maisel.
California, 416 pp., £38.25, December 1986, 0 520 05207 2
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... Alfred Dreyfus, who in 1894 was falsely accused and imprisoned for being a German spy. Once Emile Zola had written his famous ‘J’accuse’ open letter there was a great taking of sides, with the forces of the republican and anti-clerical Left ranged against the forces of the conservative Establishment, especially the Army and the Church. In the ...

A Preference for Torquemada

Michael Wood: G.K. Chesterton, 9 April 2009

Chesterton and the Romance of Orthodoxy: The Making of GKC 1874-1908 
by William Oddie.
Oxford, 401 pp., £25, November 2008, 978 0 19 955165 1
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The Man Who Was Thursday 
by G.K. Chesterton.
Atlantic, 187 pp., £7.99, December 2008, 978 1 84354 905 5
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... when genial old Ibsen filled the world with wholesome joy, and the kindly tales of the forgotten Emile Zola kept our firesides merry and pure, it used to be thought a disadvantage to be misunderstood.’ And even when he is not genial, he is very funny. ‘Mr Shaw is (I suspect) the only man on earth who has never written any poetry.’ George Moore ...

Like Leather, like Snakes

Julian Bell: Vermeer and Leeuwenhoek, 30 March 2017

Eye of the Beholder: Johannes Vermeer, Antoni van Leeuwenhoek and the Reinvention of Seeing 
by Laura Snyder.
Head of Zeus, 448 pp., £14.99, December 2016, 978 1 78497 025 3
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... say, Samuel Johnson and David Garrick set off together to conquer London from Lichfield, or that Emile Zola and Paul Cézanne were once classmates in Aix, but it’s not clear that such coincidences demand joint biographies, let alone overarching hypotheses.Snyder is proper in her scholarship. She is at pains to point out that although only a few blocks ...


A.D. Moody, 19 June 1980

Henry James. Letters. Volume II: 1875-1883 
edited by Leon Edel.
Macmillan, 438 pp., £15, March 1980, 0 333 18045 3
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Henry James: The Later Novels 
by Nicola Bradbury.
Oxford, 228 pp., £12, December 1979, 0 19 812096 6
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... a decent woman but had passed his life exclusively ‘avec des courtisanes et des rien-du-tout’. Zola’s naturalisme he execrated: ‘I heard Emile Zola characterise [Daudet’s] manner sometime since as merde à la vanille. I send you by post Zola’s own last – merde au ...

Aids and the Polio Vaccine

Edward Hooper: New evidence, 3 April 2003

... this article, entitled ‘Dephlogistication, Imperial Display, Apes, Angels and the Return of Mr Emile Zola’, is available online at ...

Ladies and Gentlemen

Patricia Beer, 6 May 1982

The Young Rebecca: Writings of Rebecca West 1911-17 
by Jane Marcus.
Macmillan, 340 pp., £9.95, April 1982, 0 333 25589 5
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The Harsh Voice 
by Rebecca West, introduced by Alexandra Pringle.
Virago, 250 pp., £2.95, February 1982, 0 86068 249 8
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The Meaning of Treason 
by Rebecca West.
Virago, 439 pp., £3.95, February 1982, 0 86068 256 0
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by Rebecca West.
Weidenfeld, 190 pp., £10, February 1982, 9780297779636
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... 31st, 1900, as the ninth Marquess of Queensberry lay dying in his magnificent house in town, Emile Zola in France lovingly dusted the medal he had received a fortnight earlier for his services in the Dreyfus affair, and thousands of miles away Mafeking awoke to its hundred-and-first day of siege.’ Almost any historical novel that happened to ...

Stewing Waters

Tim Parks: Garibaldi, 21 July 2005

Rome or Death: The Obsessions of General Garibaldi 
by Daniel Pick.
Cape, 288 pp., £16.99, July 2005, 0 224 07179 3
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... even worse when ‘decisions about the Tiber were once more frozen’. Little wonder then that Emile Zola wrote ‘a sustained post mortem on the eternal city’. And so on. The irony is that if there was a man in 19th-century Italy who had set his spirit against received ideas and the thrall in which they held the minds of ordinary people, it was ...

Running on Empty

Christopher Hitchens: The Wrong Stuff, 7 January 1999

A Man in Full 
by Tom Wolfe.
Cape, 742 pp., £20, November 1998, 0 224 03036 1
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... poseur if you liked, but the planter-suited chap from Richmond was here to say that Émile Zola was the man. Wolfe had emitted earlier diatribes, against modern architecture and – most klutzily of all – against the Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial in Washington, which he described as a ditch of shame. (He still can’t manage to be ...

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