ZOLA, EMILE EDOUARD CHARLES ANTOINE (184o-1902), French novelist, was born in Paris on April 2, 1840, his father being an engineer, part Italian and part Greek, and his mother a Frenchwoman. The father seems to have been an energetic, visionary man, who, dying while his only son was a little lad, left to his family no better provision than a lawsuit against the municipality of the town of Aix. It was at Aix, which figures as Plassans in so many of his novels, that the boy received the first part of his education. Thence he proceeded, in 1858, to Paris. His first book, Contes a Ninon, appeared on Oct. 24, 1864, and attracted some attention, and in Jan. 1866 he determined to abandon clerking and take to literature. Vigorous and aggressive as a critic, his articles on literature and art in Villemessant's paper L'Evenement created a good deal of interest. So did the gruesome but powerful novel, Therese Raquin (1867). Meanwhile, with characteristic energy, Zola was projecting some thing more important: the creation of a world of his own, like that of Balzac's Comedie Humaine—the history of a family in its various ramifications during the Second Empire. The history of this family, the Rougon-Macquart, was to be told in a series of novels containing a scientific study of heredity—science was always Zola's ignis fatuus—and a picture of French life and society. The first novel of the series, La Fortune des Rougon, appeared in book form at the end of 1871. It was followed by La Curee (1874), Le Ventre de Paris La Conquete de Plassans (1875), La Faute de l'Abbe Mouret (1875), Son Excel lence Eugene Rougon (1876)—all books unquestionably of im mense ability, and in a measure successful, but not great popular successes. Then came L'Assommoir (1878?), the epic of drink, and the author's fortune was made. Edition followed edition. He became the most discussed, the most read, the most bought novelist in France—the sale of L'Assommoir being even exceeded by that of Nana (188o) and Le Debacle (1892). From the Fortune des Rougon to the Docteur Pascal (1893) there are some 20 novels in the Rougon-Macquart series, the second half of which includes the powerful novels Germinal (1885) and La Terre (1888). In 1888 Zola departed from his usual vein in the idyllic story of Le Reve. Zola also wrote a series of three romances on cities, Lourdes, Rome, Paris (1894-98), novels on the "gospels" of population (Fecondite) and work (Travail), a volume of plays, and several volumes of criticism.
Zola played a very important part in the Dreyfus affair, which convulsed French politics and social life at the end of the 19th century. At an early stage he came to the conclusion that Dreyfus i
was the innocent victim of a nefarious conspiracy, and on Jan. 13, 1898, with his usual intrepidity, he published in the Aurore newspaper, in the form of a letter beginning with the words J'accuse, a terrible denunciation of all those who had had a hand in hounding down that unfortunate officer. Zola's object was a prosecution for libel, and a judicial inquiry into the whole affaire, and at the trial, which took place in Paris in February, a fierce flood of light was thrown on the case. The chiefs of the army put forth all their power, and Zola was condemned. He appealed. On April 2, the Cour de Cassation quashed the proceedings. A second trial took place at Versailles, on July 18, and without awaiting the result Zola, by the advice of his counsel and friends, and for reasons of legal strategy, abruptly left France and took refuge in England. Here he remained in hiding, writing Fecondite, till June 4, 1899, when, immediately on hearing that there was to be a revision of the first Dreyfus trial, he returned to Paris.
On the morning of Sept. 29, 1902, Zola was found dead in the bedroom of his Paris house, having been accidentally asphyxiated by the fumes from a defective flue. He received a public funeral, at which Captain Dreyfus was present. Anatole France delivered an impassioned oration at the grave. At the time of his death Zola had just completed a novel, Verite, dealing with the incidents of the Dreyfus trial. A sequel, Justice, had been planned, but not executed. Zola's literary position would have more than quali fied him for the French Academy. He was several times a candi date in vain. (F. T. M.) See Emile Zola, Novelist and Reformer (1904), giving a full account of his life and work, by E. A. Vizetelly, who translated and edited many of his works in English ; also P. Alexis, Emile Zola, Notes d'un ami (1882) ; F. Brunetiere, Le Roman Naturaliste (1883) ; Journal des Goncourt (1888-92) vols. iii., v. and vi. ; E. Hennequin, Quelques Ecrivains francais (1890) ; R. H. Sherard, Emile Zola: a biographical and critical study (1903) ; A. Laporte, Emile Zola, l'homme et l'ceuvre (1894) with a bibliography. L. Deffoux and E. Zavie, Le Groupe de Medan, Emile Zola, Guy de Maupassant, etc. (1920) ; R. Oehert, E. Zola als Theaterdichter (192o) ; E. Rostand, Deux Romanciers de Provence: H. d'Urfe et E. Zola (1921) ; E. A. A. L. Seilliere, E. Zola (1923) ; A. Baillot, E. Zola, nomme, le penseur, le critique (1924) ; M. Josephson, Zola and his Time (1929). For the proceedings against Zola see Le Proces Zola (2 vols., 1898).