Publication of Zola's "J'accuse" manuscript

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La lettre "J'accuse" d'Emile Zola, publiée en 1898 dans L'Aurore. (Crédit : WikiCommons)
The letter "J'accuse" by Emile Zola, published in 1898 in L'Aurore. (Credit: WikiCommons)

The manuscript of the letter on anti-Semitic machinations against Captain Dreyfus will be published Saturday, 120 years, to the day, after its publication in L'Aurore

These are 39 slips of indignation. The manuscript of Émile Zola's letter to President Félix Faure denouncing the plot against Captain Dreyfus is published Saturday, 120 years, to the day, after its publication in the newspaper Dawn under the title "J'accuse".

"I have only one passion, that of the light in the name of humanity that has suffered so much and has the right to happiness," writes Zola with an alert pen, almost without erasures, in his petition to posterity .

The editions of Saints Fathers, a house specializing in the publication of manuscripts, offers (in a limited edition of a thousand copies) the facsimile of this letter which belongs to the history of the press and has become a symbol of fight for justice and truth.

When Zola wrote his letter, Dreyfus, one of the few Jewish officers in the French army, was sentenced to life imprisonment for "espionage" and languished for three years on Devil's Island.

Convinced of the innocence of the captain, the anarchist journalist Bernard Lazare soon followed by "intellectuals" like Charles Péguy, André Gide or Marcel Proust fights for the revision of the trial. Émile Zola is one of those.

His style is limpid, his argument goes crescendo. He plays the anaphora by punctuating his text with "J'accuse", specifically putting the perpetrators of the plot into question.

J'Accuse, by Emile Zola, in the Dreyfus Affair (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
J'Accuse, Emile Zola. (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

It's Clemenceau, then director of Dawnwho will find the famous accusing title that will block the front page of his diary.

The Traitor: The Degradation of Alfred Dreyfus, '' by Henri Meyer, who depicts the ceremony of removal of his military ranks from the Jewish soldier. (Credit: Wikimedia commons / public domain)

In the preface to the edition published by the Holy Fathers, Academician Jean-Marie Rouart recalls the courage it took the author of Germinal to write this letter.

"Nothing but the love of truth predisposed Zola to exchange his comfortable position as a successful writer (...) for an adventure full of pitfalls, insults and worries that might jeopardize his work as a writer "Says Jean-Marie Rouart.

Pursued after the publication of his letter, Zola will be sentenced to one year in prison and will be exiled to England.

He will be "insulted as few writers have been," says Jean-Marie Rouart.

In 1987, the great-granddaughter of Zola, the owner of the manuscript had tried to auction it but the Minister of Culture, François Léotard had opposed it. Acquired by the National Library of France (BnF) in 1991, it is available for free on Gallica, the digital library of the BnF.

Source: © Publication of Zola's "J'accuse" manuscript

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