Émile Zola au pays de l'anarchie (review)
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Reviewed by
Frigerio, Vittorio, ed. Émile Zola au pays de l'anarchie. Grenoble: Éditions littéraires et linguistiques de l'Université Stendhal-Grenoble, 2006. Pp. 160. ISBN 2-84310-085-2

Vittorio Frigerio's intentions in this volume of the Archives Critiques series are to address what he identifies as a real gap in fin-de-siècle scholarship, mainly the relationship between the father of French naturalism and anarchism. As he states in his introduction: "On peut parcourir les ouvrages principaux consacrés à l'anarchisme français, on n'y trouvera pas de traces d'Émile Zola" (7). Frigerio thus proposes a study of the evolution of Zola's image as depicted in the anarchist press which flourished at the end of the nineteenth century. The volume is divided into three parts: a short historical introduction outlining the links between Zola and anarchism; twenty-three articles about Zola published in the anarchist press between 1892 and 1935; and three short stories written for anarchist newspapers and inspired by Zola's works.

Although rather short, the introduction does provide a solid foundation for further studies. Frigerio argues that Zola's tarnished image in the anarchist press subsequently became more favorable as the century drew to a close, especially after his heroic actions during the Dreyfus Affair. As Frigerio reminds his readers, Zola had several contentious encounters with anarchism starting as early as 1865 when he published a diatribe against Proudhon's Le Principe de l'art et sa destination sociale. Zola also criticized the anarchists for their perceived endorsement of violence as a means to social reform: "Par-dessus tout, Zola refuse fondamentalement l'idée que la violence peut avoir un rôle à jouer en politique, et se méfie de tout soupçon d'extrémisme potentiellement négateur" (11). Finally, as the President of the Société des gens de lettres, Zola admonished Jean Grave's unauthorized uses of literary works in his journal La Révolte. Their relationship was further strained in 1894 when Zola refused to sign a petition in favor of Jean Grave, who was condemned to two years in prison for publishing his book L'Anarchie et la société mourante. Needless to say, these events provided enough grist for the anarchist press who mocked and criticized Zola's bourgeois ideals as evinced in the latter's insistence in becoming a member of the Académie.

The tenor of the relationship changes, however, with Zola's "J'accuse." Frigerio writes: "C'est à ce moment que commence à se dessiner en filigrane, mais de plus en plus nettement, l'image d'un Zola anarchiste qui s'ignore" (28). Indeed, even if the anarchists' position during the Dreyfus Affair was different from Zola's, they perceived this act as redemptive of his earlier sins and as an opportunity to ally themselves with a man of high standing who could bring some needed respectability and publicity to the movement. A recuperation of Zola is operated in the anarchist press through a more careful reading of his works: Germinal achieves canonical status and Les Trois Villes and Les Quatre Evangiles receive special attention due to their utopian vision. As the anarchists' eulogies attest to, Zola's untimely death had the paradoxical effect of transforming the earlier rapprochement with anarchism into downright admiration: "Elle [la mort de Zola] a pour effet de modifier ultérieurement l'attitude anarchiste, qui perd ce qu'elle pouvait encore avoir de critique pour souligner surtout le côté positif de l'influence de Zola sur la vie sociale et littéraire de son temps" (43).

The twenty-three articles that follow the introduction read like a Who's Who of [End Page 368] the anarchist party at the end of the nineteenth century. Indeed, Frigerio has selected articles from the most important newspapers, including Jean Grave's La Révolte and Les Temps nouveaux, Zo d'Axa's L'Endehors, Emile Pouget's Le Père Peinard and Sébastien Faure's and Louise Michel's Le Libertaire. Curiously enough, no articles from the leading literary journals associated with anarchism - such as La Plume or La Revueblanche - appear in...


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