Born: 2 April 1840
Died: 29 September 1902 (carbon monoxide poisoning)
Birthplace: Paris, France
Best known as: The author of "J'Accuse"
Emile Zola was a French journalist and novelist known for his series of 20 novels known collectively as Les Rougon-Macquart
(1871-93). Zola's style was called literary naturalism; his novels were attacked and even banned for their frankness and sordid detail, and caused quite a bit of controversy in their day. The same traits made him a best-selling author and a star of French literature in his day. In 1898 he then further incurred the wrath of French officials when he published the open letter "J'Accuse," in defense of Alfred Dreyfus
, an Army officer who had been convicted of treason. Zola was sentenced to prison for libel, fled to England, and was granted amnesty a few months later. He died in Paris from carbon monoxide poisoning -- the victim of a stopped-up chimney -- a few months before Dreyfus was officially exonerated.
Zola’s death is listed as September 28th by some sources, September 29th by others. He died overnight when the chimney on a bedroom stove stopped working, asphyxiating him and nearly killing his wife as well. We accept the 29th, based on a New York Times account in which Madame Zola says both were still alive in the early morning of that day.
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