Image of  Emile Zola


Lifetime: 1840 - 1902 Passed: ≈ 121 years ago


Novelist, Journalist, Playwright, Poet



Emile Zola

Émile Édouard Charles Antoine Zola was a French novelist, journalist, playwright, the best-known practitioner of the literary school of naturalism, and an important contributor to the development of theatrical naturalism. According to major Zola scholar and biographer Henri Mitterand, "Naturalism contributes something more than realism: the attention brought to bear on the most lush and opulent aspects of people and the natural world. The realist writer reproduces the object's image impersonally, while the naturalist writer is an artist of temperament." 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…! Zola was nominated for the first and second Nobel Prize in Literature in 1901 and 1902.

Zola was born in Paris in 1840 to François Zola (originally Francesco Zolla), and his wife Émilie Aubert. His father was an Italian engineer with some Greek ancestry, who was born in Venice in 1795, and engineered the Zola Dam in Aix-en-Provence; his mother was French. The family moved to Aix-en-Provence in the southeast when Émile 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 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 twice.

Before his breakthrough as a writer, Zola worked for minimal pay as a clerk in a shipping firm and then in the sales department for the 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 use this position as a springboard for the coup d'état that made him emperor.

In 1860s, Zola was naturalized as a French citizen. In 1865, he met Éléonore-Alexandrine Meley, who called herself Gabrielle, a seamstress, who became his mistress. They married on 31 May 1870. Together they cared for Zola's mother. She stayed with him all his life and was instrumental in promoting his work. The marriage remained childless. Alexandrine Zola had a child before she met Zola that she had given up, because she was unable to take care of it. When she confessed this to Zola after their marriage, they went looking for the girl, but she had died a short time after birth.

In 1888, he was given a camera, but he only began to use it in 1895 and attained a near professional level of expertise. Also in 1888, Alexandrine hired Jeanne Rozerot, a seamstress who was to live with them in their home in Médan. Zola fell in love with Jeanne and fathered two children with her: Denise in 1889 and Jacques in 1891. After Jeanne left Médan for Paris, Zola continued to support and visit her and their children. In November 1891 Alexandrine discovered the affair, which brought the marriage to the brink of divorce. The discord was partially healed, which allowed Zola to take an increasingly active role in the lives of the children. After Zola's death, the children were given his name as their lawful surname.

Zola died on 29 September 1902 of carbon monoxide poisoning caused by an improperly ventilated chimney. His funeral on 5 October was attended by thousands. Alfred Dreyfus initially had promised not to attend the funeral, but was given permission by Mme Zola and attended. At the time of his death Zola had just completed a novel, Vérité, about the Dreyfus trial. A sequel, Justice, had been planned, but was not completed.

Books by Emile Zola

L'Assommoir Cover image



L'Assommoir is the seventh novel in Émile Zola's twenty-volume series Les Rougon-Macquart. Usually considered one of Zola's masterpieces, the novel—a study of alcoholism and poverty in the working-class districts of Paris—was a huge commercial succes...

The Flood, L'Inondation Cover image

The Flood, L'Inondation

Fiction Novel Tragedy
Short Stories Naturalism

A well-to-do French farm family is destroyed by a flood. The story, thrilling to the very end, is told from the point of view of the family's 70-year-old patriarch. The story speaks of the helplessness of mankind in the face of the forces of nature.

Therese Raquin Cover image

Therese Raquin

Crime Fiction Novel
Murder Supernatural Naturalism Punishment

Thérèse Raquin is an 1868 novel by French writer Émile Zola, first published in serial form in the literary magazine L'Artiste in 1867. It was Zola's third novel, though the first to earn wide fame. The novel's adultery and murder were considered sca...

His Masterpiece Cover image

His Masterpiece

Fiction Novel
Fictional Autobiography

L'Œuvre is the fourteenth novel in the Rougon-Macquart series by Émile Zola. It was first serialized in the periodical Gil Blas beginning in December 1885 before being published in novel form by Charpentier in 1886. The title, translated literal...

The Ladies' Paradise  Cover image

The Ladies' Paradise

Fiction History
19th century Love Historical Fiction Paradise Historical

The novel uses the lives of two principal characters – Mouret and Denise – to illustrate societal dislocations as a new order slowly destroys the old order. This includes the suffering of people unable to adjust and make way for the new and the hold...

Lourdes  Cover image


Fiction Religion
Pilgrimage Faith Society Childhood Religious Spirituality Relationships Tragic

Lourdes is a market town situated in the Pyrenees. It is part of the Hautes-Pyrénées department in the Occitanie region in southwestern France. Prior to the mid-19th century, the town was best known for the Château fort de Lourdes, a fortified castle...

The Markets of Paris  Cover image

The Markets of Paris

Paris Literature Cooking Marketing French

The Markets of Paris is a remarkable work, and is the one which Zola calls his very best novel, and of which he is far more proud than of any others in his Rougon-Marquart series – prouder than of L’Assommoir.

Nana Cover image


Nature Faith Madness Sex Life Wealth Prostitution Literary Fiction

Nana tells the story of Nana Coupeau's rise from streetwalker to high-class prostitute during the last three years of the French Second Empire. Nana first appeared near the end of Zola's earlier novel Rougon-Macquart series, L'Assommoir (1877), where...

Germinal (English) Cover image

Germinal (English)

Fiction Novel
Young Idealism Historical Fiction Courage Violence Struggle Hope Social Justice

In the darkness of a coal mine, a spark of hope ignites a firestorm of revolution. Germinal is a novel by Émile Zola that tells the story of a group of coal miners who go on strike in 19th century France. The novel is a powerful indictment of the ex...

Son Excellence Eugène Rougon Cover image

Son Excellence Eugène Rougon

Fiction History
Morality Power Historical Fiction Struggle Ambition Political Intrigue French Literature

Plongez au cœur des couloirs du pouvoir et de l'intrigue avec "Son Excellence Eugène Rougon" d'Émile Zola, où l'ambition prospère et les machinations politiques se dévoilent au sein de la France du Second Empire. Découvrez la montée inexorable et la...

The Mysteries of Marseilles Cover image

The Mysteries of Marseilles

Adventure Fiction Novel
Murder Love Action Crime Revenge Violence Suspense Corruption

In the bustling port city of Marseille, love and betrayal, crime and corruption, poverty and wealth collide in a deadly web of intrigue. The Mysteries of Marseilles is a novel by Émile Zola, first published in 1867. It is a dark and suspenseful tale...

The Jolly Parisiennes and Other Novelettes Cover image

The Jolly Parisiennes and Other Novelettes

Love Young Short Stories Passion Life Experiences Naturalism Gambling

What if you could peek behind the curtain of Parisian high society and see what really goes on? The Jolly Parisiennes and Other Novelettes by Émile Zola is a collection of short stories that offers a glimpse into the lives of the rich and famous in...

J'accuse...! Cover image


J'accuse est le titre d'un article rédigé par Émile Zola lors de l'affaire Dreyfus et publié dans le journal L'Aurore du 13 janvier 1898 sous forme d'une lettre ouverte au Président de la République Félix Faure. Il s'est inspiré d'un dossier fourni e...

Flood Cover image


A well-to-do French farm family is destroyed by a flood. The story, thrilling to the very end, is told from the point of view of the family's 70-year-old patriarch. The story speaks of the helplessness of mankind in the face of the forces of nature....

Germinal Cover image


Fresque sociale qui décrit les conditions de vie des mineurs au XIXème siècle, Germinal est le treizième roman de la série des Rougon-Macquart. Le roman retrace la vie d'Etienne Lantier, jeune mineur amoureux de Catherine Maheu, et de son combat pour...

Germinal Cover image


TBA - Summary by Martin Geeson

Fortune of the Rougons Cover image

Fortune of the Rougons

The Fortune of the Rougons (French: La Fortune des Rougon), originally published in 1871, is the first novel in Émile Zola's monumental twenty-volume series Les Rougon-Macquart. In his introduction Zola indicates that this series is intended to demon...

Rome Cover image


The Abbe Pierre Froment, after his experiences in Lourdes, has written a book expressing a vision of a new enlightened papacy. He visits Rome to defend this book against condemnation and seeks audience with the Pope. He is introduced to aristocratic...

ensueño Cover image


El ensueño es una obra que forma parte de la serie de veinte novelas que Zola tituló “Les Rougon- Macquart”. Entre “La tierra y La bestia humana” surge “Le rêve” en ella nos cuenta una enternecedora historia de amor entre una niña huérfana y un noble...

L'Assommoir (la taberna) Cover image

L'Assommoir (la taberna)

Gervasia es planchadora y amante del sombrerero Lantier con quien tiene dos hijos, pero Lantier es vago y vividor lo que hace que Gervasia tome la decisión de abandonarle. Gervasia conoce a su vecino Coupeau que se muestra amable con ella y con sus h...

fortune des Rougon Cover image

fortune des Rougon

La Fortune des Rougon est le premier volume de la série Les Rougon-Macquart. Il se déroule dans une petite ville appelée Plassans, et à Lorgues, dans le Var. Ce livre débute la généalogie des Rougon-Macquart, et se situe dans les jours qui suivent l...

ataque del molino Cover image

ataque del molino

La vida transcurre plácida en un pequeño pueblo francés donde el tio Merlier gestiona hábilmente su molino. Los preparativos para el enlace entre su hija Francisca y el joven Domingo se verán interrumpidos por la llegada de un batallón francés que de...

Fortune of the Rougons, Book One of Rougon-Macquart Cycle Cover image

Fortune of the Rougons, Book One of Rougon-Macquart Cycle

The first book in the 20-novel Rougon-Macquart Cycle. A monument of French naturalism. The sprawling tale of a family in Provence, during the Second Empire, the family that grew out of the liaisons between Adelaide Fouque and her husband Rougons, a...

Rush for the Spoil, Book Two of Rougon-Macquart Cycle Cover image

Rush for the Spoil, Book Two of Rougon-Macquart Cycle

Book Two of Zola's 20-volume Rougon-Macquart Cycle. "The Rush for the Spoil" ("La Curee") concerns Aristide Siccard (once Aristide Rougon) and his family, who come to Paris during the Second Empire, and "make a killing", as they say, in land specula...

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