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Everybody has heard of “J’accuse”–but ….

March 13, 2013

Eleanor Levieux begins her 1996 translation of Émile Zola’s writings on the Dreyfus Affair (largely translated from the collection edited by Alain Pagès: L’affaire Dreyfus:  Lettres et entretiens inédits) thus:

Everybody has heard of “J’accuse” – but how many people have actually read it?

That is a good question. 

“J’accuse” is so well known that the phrase has become a cliché, and yet I cannot recall having ever come across the letter itself in English translation before I read this book.  How many of us actually know the arguments – much less the powerful prose – that Zola actually used? 

It is a pity that Zola’s polemical work is not more read – especially considering that Zola was forced into exile by an unjust libel conviction.

While I have not read the original French letters, I found Leviuex’s translation to be a powerful work, and I wholeheartedly recommend it.

(Here is a review of the original French collection of letters, and here are two reviews (1, 2) of Levieux’s translation)


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