Emile Zola was one of the giants of 19th century literature. Of his vast output, sometimes described as a 'river of ink', a cycle of twenty novels, written with stark realism, remains as his outstanding literary monument - the Rougon-Macquart.
Although he was a realist and the leading theorist of the Naturalist movement in literature, Zola was a lyrical and poetic writer. The subjects of his novels demanded an immense breadth of first hand experience and observation of life that he did not always possess, forcing him to draw from his astonishingly fertile imagination. Thus the novelist, who had never even talked to a prostitute, created Nana, perhaps the most famous harlot in literature. His fiction readily suggests the extended metaphor of some wild garden, in which the reader will encounter the brilliant blooms among rank weeds, nightmarish growths and decaying compost. Little wonder he was branded the 'poet of the cesspit'.
Aside from his importance as a writer, Zola is a fascinating study as a character. He grew up with Cezanne, was a close friend of Flaubert, Turgenev, Daudet and the Goncourts, and recorded one of the most exciting chapters of French history in his novels. He was also a gifted critic of literature, theatre, and art, ans was the first to champion the Impressionists.
He loved Controversy, and battled throughout his life with the Church, the Army and the Establishment. His most famous public act was to intervene in the Dreyfus affair in 1898 with a dramatic front-page newspaper editorial, 'J'accuse...!' - a cry never to be forgotten by journalists engaged in causes celebres.
Graham King has steeped himself in Zola and his writing to produce this riveting and comprehensive account of his life and work. But, unique in the field of Zola criticism, the novelist's work is examined from the point of view of the non-French reader. Zola's books were translated into most languages but above all into English, which attracted and still attracts his largest and most enthusiastic public. Each novel is explored in detail with extensive quotations so that GARDEN OF ZOLA leaves one with a superb insight into this extraordinary man's achievement.