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(Paris, 1840-1902) French novelist, leading figure of literary naturalism. Son of Francesco Zola, Italian, and Emilie emigrant engineer Aubert, from the small French bourgeoisie, spent his childhood in Aix-en-Provence and studied at the College Bourbon. He was a companion of Paul Cézanne, with whom he had a solid friendship, and took contact with the romantic literature, especially narrative of Victor Hugo and the poetry of A. De Musset, your favorite.
On the death of his father in 1847, he moved to Paris with her mother and continued his studies at the Institute Saint-Louis. After failing in its review of graduation, in 1859 he got an administrative job at a Customs Office and began work for the Department of publicity of the Hachette publishing house in 1862. He became interested in poetry and theatre, and worked for newspapers including Le Figaro, Le Petit Journal and Le Salut Public.
His first published books were a set of short stories titled tales with Ninon (1864), and an autobiographical novel influenced by romanticism, the confession de Claude (1865). He wrote two plays which were not represented, the ugly (1865) and Magdalena (1865), and in 1866 he was sacked from Hachette. He began to work as a literary and artistic chronicler in the newspaper L' Événement, and published the works of critical pictorial my hatred (1866), and my living room (1866), where he made a vigorous defense of Manet, questioned at the time by the academic sector.
Thereafter he devoted himself entirely to writing, moved gradually away from romanticism and felt affinity with realistic movement and positivism. She applied her journalistic experience in the mysteries of Marseille (1867), a these novel, and published his first important work, Teresa Raquin (1867), which gained some prestige in the literary environment.
The novel Madeleine Férat (1868) was consolidating his style, and reading Introduction to experimental medicine, of Claude Bernard, inspired him to conceive a set of written novels "with scientific rigor", where I wanted to describe the natural history of several generations of a family under the second empire.
Thus was born monumental series The Rougon-Macquart, integrated by the fortune of the Rougon (1871), the ilk (1871), the belly of Paris (1873), La conquête de Plassans (1874), the fall of the Abbé Mouret (1875), His Excellency Eugene Rougon (1876), La taberna (1877), a page of love (1878), Nana (1879), what is spent (1882), the ladies paradise (1883), joy of living (1884) Germinal (1885), work (1886), Earth (1887), sleep (1888), La bête humaine (1890), money (1891), defeat (1892), and Doctor Pascal (1893).
In thirty-one volumes which comprise the twenty novels it traced the genealogy of more than two hundred characters and their texts were so praised as criticized. It received hard questions by Catholic writers such as M. Barrès, L. Bloy and B. d'Aurevilly who saw signs of decadence, dogmatism and an "absolute lack of spirituality" in the positivist nature of his work.
His essay work includes theoretical volumes on naturalism, as the experimental novel (1880), naturalism in the theatre (1881), our dramatic authors (1881), naturalistic novelists (1881), literary documents (1881), and a campaign (1882); as well as texts of criticism and controversy, including return journey (1892), new campaign (1897), and basically I accuse! (1898), a lengthy article directed to the head of State French and originally published in the newspaper l'Aurore, which defended the innocence of Jewish origin Captain A. Dreyfus, accused of high treason by military anti-Semites.
The effect caused by his involvement in the Dreyfus affair positioned him as the leader of progressive forces (Republicans and Socialists) that the right-wing Government claimed the defence of human rights in the Republic. The Government, backed by conservative parties, the Nationalist army and the Catholic Church, accused him for slander and pursued it, so it went into exile in England until he was shown the final innocence of Dreyfus and the military plot.
In 1899 he returned to Paris and he could see pardoned Dreyfus, and on 29 September 1902 died asphyxiated by the defective combustion of a fireplace, fact that sparked many suspicions, given the repeated death threats he had received.
His influence on subsequent generations of writers was not only literary, since his attitude be involved both in the literature and in the social reality was transformed into a paradigm of the committed writer and dominated the cultural scene of the West until the 1970s. It is also author of the series of three cities, made by Lourdes (1894), Rome (1896) and Paris (1898), and the four Gospels, composed of fertility (1899), work (1901), truth (posthumous, 1903) and justice (unfinished).