Zola, Émile (b. 1840)

Zola, Émile, a noted French novelist of the realistic school, or of what he prefers to call the naturalist school, born in Paris, of Italian descent; began literature as a journalist, specially in the critical department, but soon gave himself up to novel-writing, ultimately on realistic lines, and an undue catering, as some think, to a morbid interest on the seamy side of life, to which he addressed himself with great vigour and not a little graphic power, but in an entire misconception of his proper functions as an artist and a man of letters, though, it may be pleaded, he has done so from a strong conviction on his part that his duty lay the other way, and that it was high time literature should, regardless of merely dilettante æstheticism, address itself to exposing, by depicting it, the extent to which the evil genius is gnawing at and corroding the vitals of society; and it is not for a moment to be supposed he has done so from any pleasure he takes in gloating over the doings of the ghoul, or that he is in sympathy with those who do; of his works suffice it to mention here some recent ones, as the story of “Lourdes,” published in 1894, “Rome” in 1896, and “Paris” in 1897; he has recently distinguished himself by his courage in connection with the Dreyfus affair and his bold condemnation of the sentence under which Dreyfus was condemned; (b. 1840).

Definition taken from The Nuttall Encyclopædia, edited by the Reverend James Wood (1907)

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