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Émile François Zola – J’Accuse!

Émile François Zola, born in April 2 1840, was a French writer and one of the most important people of the literary school of naturalism and an important contributor to the development of theatrical naturalism. He also became a major figure in the political liberalization of France and in the exoneration of the falsely accused and convicted army officer Alfred Dreyfus. J’Accuse means “I accuse”, and this was exactly what Zola did when he defended Dreyfus who was falsely convicted. On February 23 1898, Zola was imprisoned in France after writing this letter to the French Government.

Zola was born in Paris and his father, François Zola (Francesco Zolla), was an Italian engineer. With his French wife, Émilie Aurélie Aubert, the family moved to Aix-en-Provence in the southeast when Émile was 3 years old. Four years later, in 1847 his father died leaving his mother on a small pension. The family moved back to Paris where also Émile’s childhood friend, a painter named Paul Cézanne joined them. Here Zola started to write in romantic style.

Before his breakthrough as a writer, Zola worked as a clerk in a shipping company, in the sales department for a publisher (Hachette) and would write literary and art reviews for newspapers. According to one story, Zola was sometimes so broke that he ate sparrows that he trapped on his window sill. During his early years, Émile Zola wrote several short stories and essays, four plays and three novels. After his first major novel, Thérèse Raquin (1867), Zola started the long series called Les Rougon Macquart, about a family under the Second Empire.

Dreyfus affair

Although Zola and Cézanne were friends from childhood and in youth, they broke in later life over Zola’s fictionalized depiction of Cézanne and the Bohemian life of painters in his novel L’Œuvre (The Masterpiece, 1886). Then from 1877 onwards with the publication of l’Assommoir, Émile Zola became a wealthy man. He became a figurehead among the literary bourgeoisie and organized cultural dinners with Guy de Maupassant, Joris-Karl Huysmans and other writers at his luxurious villa in Medan near Paris after 1880.

With L’Assommoir (1877, Drunkard), a depiction of alcoholism, Zola became the best-known writer in France, who attracted crowds imitators and disciples, to his great annoyance: “I want to shout out from the housetops that I am not a chef d’ecole, and that I don’t want any disciples,” Zola once said. His personal appearance – once somebody said that he had the head of a philosopher and the body of an athlete.

Captain Alfred Dreyfus was a Jewish artillery officer in the French army. When the French intelligence found information about someone giving the German embassy military secrets, anti-Semitism seems to have caused senior officers to suspect Dreyfus, though there was no direct evidence of any wrongdoing. Dreyfus was court-martialled, convicted of treason and sent to Devil’s Island in French Guiana.

Lt. Col. Georges Picquart, though, came across evidence that implicated another officer, Ferdinand Walsin Esterhazy, and informed his superiors. Rather than move to clear Dreyfus, the decision was made to protect Esterhazy and ensure the original verdict was not overturned. Major Hubert-Joseph Henry forged documents that made it seem that Dreyfus was guilty and then had Picquart assigned duty in Africa. Before leaving, Picquart told some of Dreyfus’s supporters what he knew. Soon Senator August Scheurer-Kestner took up the case and announced in the Senate that Dreyfus was innocent and accused Esterhazy. The right-wing government refused new evidence to be allowed and Esterhazy was tried and acquitted. Picquart was then sentenced to 60 days in prison.

Émile Zola risked his career and even his life on January 13th 1898, when his “J’accuse“, was published on the front page of the Paris daily, L’Aurore. The newspaper was run by Ernest Vaughan and Georges Clemenceau, who decided that the controversial story would be in the form of an open letter to President, Félix Faure. Émile Zola’s “J’Accuse” accused the highest levels of the French Army of obstruction of justice and anti-Semitism by having wrongfully convicted Alfred Dreyfus to life imprisonment on Devil’s Island. The case, known as the Dreyfus affair, divided France deeply between the reactionary army and church, and the more liberal commercial society. For this he also wrote and said: Dreyfus is innocent. I swear it! I stake my life on it and my honour! At this solemn moment, in the presence of this tribunal which is the representative of human justice, before you, gentle. men, who are the very incarnation of the country, before the whole of France, before the whole world, I swear that Dreyfus is innocent. By my forty years of work, by the authority that this toil may have given me, I swear that Dreyfus is innocent. By all I have now, by the name I have made for myself, by my works which have helped for the expansion of French literature, I swear that Dreyfus is innocent. May all that melt away, may my works perish if Dreyfus be not innocent! He is innocent. All seems against me — the two Chambers, the civil authority, the most widely-circulated journals, the public opinion which they have poisoned.”

For this, Zola was brought to trial for criminal libel on 7 February 1898, and was convicted on 23 February, sentenced, and removed from the Legion of Honour. Rather than go to jail, Zola fled to England. Without even having had the time to pack a few clothes, he arrived at Victoria Station on 19 July. After his brief and unhappy residence in London, from October 1898 to June 1899, he was allowed to return in time to see the government fall. The government offered Dreyfus a pardon, which he could accept and go free and so effectively admit that he was guilty, or face a re-trial in which he was sure to be convicted again. Although he was clearly not guilty, he chose to accept the pardon. Emile Zola said, “The truth is on the march, and nothing shall stop it.” In 1906, Dreyfus was completely exonerated by the Supreme Court.

The 1898 article by Émile Zola is widely marked in France as the most prominent manifestation of the new power of the intellectuals (writers, artists, academicians) in shaping public opinion, the media and the state.

The death of Zola

Zola died at the age of 62 of carbon monoxide poisoning caused by a stopped chimney while sleeping in September 29th 1902. His enemies were blamed because of previous attempts on his life, but nothing could be proven. Decades later, a Parisian roofer claimed on his deathbed to have closed the chimney for political reasons. Addresses of sympathy arrived from all parts of France; for an entire week the vestibule of his house was crowded with notable writers, scientists, artist and politicians, who came to inscribe their names in the registers. On the other hand, Zola’s enemies used the opportunity to celebrate in malicious glee. Zola was in the end buried in the Cimetière de Montmartre in Paris, but on 4 June 1908, almost six years after his death, his remains were moved to the Panthéon, where he shares a crypt with Victor Hugo and Alexandre Dumas. At Zola’s funeral Anatole France declared, “He was a moment of the human conscience.”

What was special about Zola is that he did not believe in the possibility of individual freedom, but emphasized that “events arise fatally, implacably, and men, either with or against their wills, are involved in them. Such is the absolute law of human progress.”

I have for me only an ideal of truth and justice. But I am quite calm; I shall conquer. I was determined that my country should not remain the victim of lies and injustice. I may be condemned here. The day will come when France will thank me for having helped to save her honour.” Émile François Zola

Types of Smiles

We have 135 distinct gestures and expressions of our face, head and body. A British research team has catalogued these and registered that 80 of them are head gestures. It takes 64 muscles to frown and only 13 muscles of face are used to smile. Though we generally consider smiling is the expression of happiness and pleasure, we should also remember that smiles are not always associated with happy moments. The basic smiles are

Simple Smile

This type of smile takes place with teeth unexposed, generally found in persons busy with any outgoing activity.

Upper Smile

In this type of smile, the upper incisors are exposed and people make this smile while meeting others keeping eye to eye contact. It is done during greeting, meeting friend etc.

Broad Smile

During this type of smile, both the upper and lower incisors are exposed. It happens during a goal in football match or in any other games and sports. Generally no eye to eye contact takes place during this type of smile.

Oblong Smile

Oblong smiles are not a real smile and generally made as a part of courtesy or politeness. During this type of smiles the lips are drawn fully back from both the upper and lower teeth and thereby making the oblong with the lips. During formal moments, these types of smile are seen more as to give feelings that the joke was very nice.

Spotting a Genuine Smile

French scientist Guillaume Duchenne de Boulogne used electrodiagnotics and electronic stimulation to distinguish the smile of real enjoyment and other kinds of smiling by experimenting with the heads of people who were executed in the guillotine testing how facial muscles reacted. He found out there is two sets of muscles that control the way we genuinely smile, zygomatic major muscles which run down the side of the face and connect to the corners of the mouth, and the orbicularis oculi muscles that pull back the eyes. The zygomatic majors pull the mouth back exposing the teeth and enlarging the cheeks, the orbicularis oculis however make the eyes narrower and cause wrinkles in the corners of them.

The zygomatic major muscles can be consciously controlled allowing people to show insincere friendliness or subordination through fake smiles, the orbicularis oculis however can’t be controlled acting independently when feeling pleasure and reveal our true feelings…if you want to know how to distinguish genuine enjoyment smiles, observe the wrinkles in the corner beside the eyes, the eyebrows will also slightly dip down. Ever wonder why they ask you to say “Cheese” when taking a photo? Pronouncing the word pulls back on your zygomatic muscles but they forget about the orbicularis oculis resulting in a fake smile.

Common Types of Smiles

Apart from the above mentioned zygomatic majors/orbicularis oculis sincere smile (known simply as ‘Duchenne’), and the fake smile, there’s around 50 different types of smiles that have been found, the following are the most commonly used:

Tight Lipped

In this one, the lips are tightly stretched across the face forming a straight line and concealing the teeth, this smile is not so much used by liars as by people who have secrets or are withholding their true opinion or attitude towards something. It’s also used as a polite smile by someone who doesn’t like her company but doesn’t know how to get rid of them.


This is a funny one, smirking is when someone displays two different emotions on their face, the zygomatic muscles on, let’s say the right side of the face for this example, will pull the right side cheek and lip upwards, but the right side of the brain controls the left side of the face and will have the opposite effect of pulling downwards on those same muscles of the other side, giving a smile/frown contradiction effect. Try looking at the example picture on the side, if you put a piece of paper right through the middle covering the right or left side, you’ll see two different types of emotions in the faces are expressed. This type of smile displays sarcasm.

Shy Smile

This one works marvels on men with the head turned slightly downwards and facing away while looking upwards and holding a Tight Lipped smile, it will make the person look more innocent, juvenile, playful and secretive and was used by Princess Diana.

Compulsive Smile

There are some people who smile a lot for no reason all the time displaying most of their teeth as they are thought of as being suspiciously happy, because they either know something you don’t or they are being fake with everyone to gain something out of it. This type of smile can be noticed by the lack of wrinkles around the eyes when they do. There are people who are constantly genuinely happy and even when they aren’t, they will still smile.

Teeth Display

Some people will widely open their mouths and simply display their upper teeth in hopes it appears they are laughing or are playful all the time, it usually works as it makes them appear happier, friendlier and therefore more likable amongst others and easier to approach.


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