(K. Brent Tomer),
The Disappearance of Emile Zola: Love, Literature and the Dreyfus Case. By Michael Rosen. Faber & Faber; 302 pages; £16.99.
EMILE ZOLA came to London in 1893 and was “received like a prince”. Some disapproving bishops and headmasters thought his novels, particularly “La Terre” (“The Earth”), to be corrupting. But with his wife, Alexandrine, he stayed in the Savoy Hotel, met leading literary figures and addressed thousands at banquets at Crystal Palace and the Guildhall. By contrast, when he arrived at Victoria Station in July 1898 he was alone, a fugitive, carrying a nightshirt wrapped in newspaper. In “J’accuse”, his open letter in L’Aurore, a French newspaper, he had attacked the authorities for their shameful anti-Semitic conduct in the political scandal that came to be known as the Dreyfus affair. Found guilty of libel and sentenced to prison, Zola fled to England with no idea of when it might be safe to return.
He was to stay for almost a year, and it is the story of this little-known episode that Michael Rosen tells in…Continue reading