An Anniversary Appreciation of Emile Zola

Dave Astor on Literature

Emile Zola, painted by Edouard Manet, in 1868.

The almost-over 2021 is the 150th anniversary of the first of the 20 novels in EmileZola’s Rougon-Macquart cycle. So, I’m writing this appreciation of the French authorjust in time. 🙂

Zola is nowhere near the best-known novelist of the 19th-century, but he’s in the top couple dozen — and I’m a big fan.

While Zola had some writing success before 1871, notably with the 1868 potboiler Therese Raquin, it’s the Rougon-Macquart cycle for which he’s most remembered. Those vivid novels are considered “naturalist” and realistic, with each heavily researched book focusing on a specific theme — art, trains, laborers, retailing, alcoholism, prostitution, etc., in 19th-century France — while also offering gripping plots and compelling three-dimensional characters. The Rougons and Macquarts are two family branches, the first more upper class and the second more working class, whose members share various hereditary tendencies…

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