Thursday, May 23, 2013


One of my all time favorite authors is the writer, Emile Zola. His work is so incredibly descriptive. His love of photography shaped his writing. In his great novels and all of them were great novels, his writing is visual, photorealistic to the point of trying to make you experience tastes, odors, the very quality of light. More than not, he succeeded, though, for his descriptions of the cheese cellars in his novel Le Ventre de Paris (The Belly of Paris) really need to have the frame of reference that most modern Americans, in the sanitized, individually wrapped sliced world they are obsessed with, sadly will never experience. Zola's critics dissected his work and said that though his descriptive writing was unique, he lacked the ability to create memorable characters, like Balzac. I would argue that Zola created memorable characters, but really what he did was to take symbols, like the coal mine in Germinal,  the alcohol still in L'Assommoir, the locomotive, La Lison in La Bete humaine and of course Les Halles, the grand produce market of Paris and and give them the characters of living beings. He refused to make any character larger than life, but the focus of his novels, the market, the mine, the still, the train all become the real personalities of his great works.
Emile Zola
One has to read the Rougon-Macquart series of 20 novels, a psychological and social history of a family in Second Empire France, from 1851 to 1871 to understand what he was really trying to achieve. The novels contain over 300 major characters are an unprecedented attempt to, in his words, present a social and natural history of a family under the Second Empire. The series culminates in Nana and the nations humiliating doom in the Franco Prussian War. Zola was concerned with the transformation of society. He was ultimately an optimist. He promoted the rise of Socialism as a path to a greater society and more just world. He became the conscience of France, celebrated by the humanists and derided by the conservatives. All of this came to a head in the Dreyfuss Affair.  If you need to know about the Dreyfuss Affair and the rise of anti Semitism in France follow this link. It became the issue that destroyed families and ruined friendships. Everyone felt passionately, one way or the other. Dreyfuss was framed and made a scapegoat and his Jewish identity became the means to destroy him. He spent years as a prisoner, sentenced to life imprisonment on Devils Island. Zola became his passionate advocate and finally in 1898, he wrote his public letter to the President of France, Felix Faure which was published in L'Aurore with the scandalous headline, J'Accuse...(I Accuse) in which he layes out his charges and proofs stating that Dreyfuss was framed and  unjustly accused and must be freed!
Zola had previously received The Legion of Honor, which was taken from him and then charged and tried for criminal libel because he had embarrassed the government. After the conviction, Zola left france with out even having time to pack his clothes and lived in exile in London until June 1899. He came back as the Faure Government collapsed and shortly after wards, Dreyfuss was freed, but it wasn't until 1906 that Dreyfuss was totally exonerated. In 1902, sadly, Zola died of carbon monoxide poisoning. It was considered an accident, but his detractors celebrated his death and claimed he had committed suicide because he knew that Dreyfuss was really guilty. Zola was mourned as a national hero and his supporters claimed that he was murdered. He was buried in Montmarte, but in 1908, he was re interred in The Pantheon, sharing a crypt with Victor Hugo and Alexander Dumas. Interestingly enough, in the 1920's a man who was a roofer working on Zola's house claimed on his death bed that he had been paid to seal Zola's chimney, causing his death.
The letter, J'Accuse is marked as the rise of the power of intellectual ideas in shaping the power of the state. At the time of Dreyfuss' release, Zola said, "The truth is on the march, and nothing shall stop it."
I have been reminded of the power of Zola's quest for truth and intellectual justice over the last few months here in France seeing the unholy alliance of the extreme right, the neo fascist racists and the conservative catholic church in their attempt to use Francois Hollande's Socialist Governments Commitment to The Freedom Of Marriage as a political tool to seize power. France has become a very tolerant country for Gay Rights in the decades following WW2. France legalized homosexuality, abolished the death penalty and legalized abortion. Each of these social advancements were made over the kicking and screaming protests of the same conservative religious and political blocs. Paris has the biggest and the most flamboyant Gay Pride Parades on the planet. The Mayor of Paris is openly gay. France has had a legal Union for persons of all sexes for years called the Pacte Civile. In fact, the actual statistics for marriages was declining as more couples opted for the flexibility of a Pacte Civile. I have a very good friend who is now openly gay and has been the very popular Mayor of a small South Western French Village for 3 terms now. The disorganized factions of the UMP Party, which had been in power under Sarkozy is trying to co opt the Neo Nationalist Front National, which has been gaining strength again as they try to become more "mainstream". The FN doesn't really have a platform, they,
The Poster which appeared all over France
attacking The  Present Socialist  Minister or Justice,
Christiane Taubira. 
as they always have are playing off of the economic problems and appealing to the racist masses. They could be compared to the American Tea Party as they are just plain against almost everything and seem to be yearning for the authoritarian fascism of the Petain years and the faded glory of Frances colonial past. They don't like Jews or Arabs and are for the most part conservative catholics. Another portion of this disorganized mess is the Royalist Party...Conservative Catholics clinging to faded titles who still dream of restoring the monarchy and their inherited class system! Again, they are rich, deluded conservatives who yearn for the fascist order of Occupied France under Petain and for the most part haven't even accepted that the catholic church stopped celebrating mass in Latin since the 1960's. The church itself has been actively recruiting youth using the supposed liberal hipper image of the new Pope who ins spite of his statements about the poor, is a rabid homophobe. One more ingredient, the Front National, which is trying to change it's image from the rabidly racist corrupt image of it's founder, Jean-Marie LePen who led the party into disgrace and almost total bankruptcy. They tried even to rename the party Le Blue-Marine after the daughter of Jean-Marie, Marine LePen, who is the new leader.These groups have coalesced, each trying to play the other. There is a spokesperson, a born again trashy actress and failed pop singer who calls herself Frigide Barjot...a pun on Bridgette Bardot, I suppose, but the word Barjot is French Slang for crazy. Elle est totalement Barjot! She has jumpstarted her failed career getting free publicity, TV appearances and what looks like a healthy kickback from the conserative catholic groups to be the Jeanne d'Arc of homophobic hate. She makes more and more extreme statements calling for violence. The swastika and SS symbol tattooed neo nazi skinhead thugs have started to come out of their caves and create chaos at the rallies and target gay men and women on the streets. Gay Bars have been trashed. The law passed last week. In a "protest" the 78 year old crypto fascist propagandist, Dominique Venner committed suicide by shooting himself in the head with a shotgun in the crowded Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris on Tuesday. He had been a member of the fascist and extremely racist domestic terrorist group, OAS, which tried to assassinate DeGaulle on a few separate occasions. Of course, the act by this deranged monster, who was not a catholic in any traditional sense will be seized on as propaganda fodder by the anti homosexual groups, but the act by Venner reveals the where this is heading. The champion of the Marriage Equality Law has been the present Minister of Justice, Christiane Taubira. I have profiled her in this blog. There will be another protest in Paris on the 26th of May and the posters that are popping up on the internet and furtively on the streets have taken a decidedly undeniable racist turn. Most French support gay rights and the majority support the new law and gay adoption, but the mood of the country has become very ugly. We aren't seeing the violent massive homophobia and racism of Eastern Europe or even America, but this is what these groups are trying to mobilize. They are creating hate. They are creating an atmosphere of domestic terrorism. They are using homophobia and racism to destroy the Socialiste Hollande Government. If Emile Zola was alive today, he would be screaming J"Accuse! I will do it for him:
This is the present poster being used to promote the anti Marriage Equality Law protest
this weekend. In it, Taubira has been photo shopped into a monstrous. racist version
of King Kong. 

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