French Literature Of The 19th Century:
Literature Under The Empire 1852-1870
The Rise Of Realism
Literature Under The Republic-1870-1899
Read More Articles About: French Literature Of The 19th Century
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
Two novelists of equal talent and fame were born in 1840, Zola and Daudet. Both claim to be of the Naturalistic school. Both have sought to present life as they saw it, in all verity, and they are allowed to have succeeded to unusual perfection. Zola came first into a notoriety which was not then fame. He began as a journalist, then turned to novel writing for years on starvation wages. Experience of this kind is not a sweetener of disposition, especially of naturally gloomy temperaments. Zola might have been inspired by the spirit of revenge against his fellows high and low alike, so ruthlessly does he pillory them all.. The power of works such as "L'Assommoir," "Germinal " "La Terre," "Nana," "La Dębacle " is extraordinary. The degrees in which they are edifying, amusing, comforting, which are the three main ends of fiction, is to be determined by the reader and not for him. The courage behind the perseverance which created this burden of nominally light literature is not less extraordinary, and it is due to Zola to recognize that he insists on the worthiness of his intention. He declares he is not of the licentious school. The shoveling of filth in broad daylight before the public eye is not his chosen delight, yet he persists in it.
After a time Zola, having finished the long family history of the Rougon-Macquart tribe, turned to the subject of religion of the present day, as he views it. He prepared after his usual close studies a set of three books, "Lourdes," "Rome," and "Paris." A priest, named Froment, but practically Zola himself, finding his mind troubled, goes on a pilgrimage to Lourdes, but is disgusted with the worldly aspect of religion there. Then he goes to Rome to see the Pope and get his faith renewed. Again he is disappointed, and returns to Paris, where he devotes himself to self-sacrificing work in behalf of the afflicted and distressed. Zola, not content with his fame as an author, has drawn the attention of the world upon him-self by his interference in behalf of Captain Dreyfus, who has been unjustly condemned, as he alleges. Zola and his works, the degradation of naturalism, are phenomena of a curious transition period, to be studied scientifically, not to be enjoyed.