| Émile François Zola (2 April 1840 – 29 September 1902) was a French writer, the most important exemplar of the literary school of naturalism and an important contributor to the development of theatrical naturalism. He was a major figure in the political liberalization of France and in the exoneration of the falsely accused and convicted army officer Alfred Dreyfus, which is encapsulated in the renowned newspaper headline J'Accuse.
More than half of Zola's novels were part of this set of 20 collectively known as Les Rougon-Macquart. Unlike Balzac who in the midst of his literary career resynthesized his work into La Comédie Humaine, Zola from the start at the age of 28 had thought of the complete layout of the series. Set in France's Second Empire, the series traces the "environmental" influences of violence, alcohol and prostitution which became more prevalent during the second wave of the Industrial Revolution. The series examines two branches of a family: the respectable (that is, legitimate) Rougons and the disreputable (illegitimate) Macquarts for five generations. As he described his plans for the series, "I want to portray, at the outset of a century of liberty and truth, a family that cannot restrain itself in its rush to possess all the good things that progress is making available and is derailed by its own momentum, the fatal convulsions that accompany the birth of a new world."
"J'accuse" ("I accuse") was an open letter published on January 13, 1898, in the newspaper L'Aurore by the influential writer Émile Zola. In the letter, Zola addressed President of France Félix Faure, and accused the government of anti-Semitism and the unlawful jailing of Alfred Dreyfus, a French Army General Staff officer sentenced to penal servitude for life for espionage. Zola pointed out judicial errors and lack of serious evidence. The letter was printed on the front page of the newspaper, and caused a stir in France and abroad. Zola was prosecuted and found guilty of libel on 23 February 1898. To avoid imprisonment, he fled to England, returning home in June 1899.
As a result of the popularity of the letter, even in the English-speaking world, J'accuse! has become a common generic expression of outrage and accusation against someone powerful.
Source: Wikipedia, "Émile Zola", available under the CC-BY-SA License.