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A Love Episode by Émile Zola
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Zola passed his early youth in the south of France, continuing his
studies at the Lycee St. Louis, in Paris, and at Marseilles. His sole
patrimony was a lawsuit against the town of Aix. He became a clerk in
the publishing house of Hachette, receiving at first the modest
honorarium of twenty-five francs a week. His journalistic career,
though marked by immense toil, was neither striking nor remunerative.
His essays in criticism, of which he collected and published several
volumes, were not particularly successful. This was evidently not his
field. His first stories, _Les Mysteres de Marseilles_ and _Le Voeu
d'Une Morte_ fell flat, disclosing no indication of remarkable talent.
But in 1864 appeared _Les Contes a Ninon_, which attracted wide
attention, the public finding them charming. _Les Confessions de
Claude_ was published in 1865. In this work Zola had evidently struck
his gait, and when _Therese Raquin_ followed, in 1867, Zola was fully
launched on his great career as a writer of the school which he called
"Naturalist." _Therese Raquin_ was a powerful study of the effects of
remorse preying upon the mind. In this work the naturalism was
generally characterized as "brutal," yet many critics admitted that it
was absolutely true to nature. It had, in fact, all the gruesome
accuracy of a clinical lecture. In 1868 came _Madeleine Ferat_, an
exemplification of the doctrine of heredity, as inexorable as the
"Destiny" of the Greek tragedies of old.

And now dawned in Zola's teeming brain the vast conception of a
"Naturalistic Comedy of Life." It was to be Balzac "naturalized," so
to speak. The great cycle should run through the whole gamut of human
passions, foibles, motives and interests. It should consist of human
documents, of painstaking minuteness of detail and incontrovertible

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