by Emile Zola
A century ago Emile Zola was well on his way to becoming one of the classic writers. Of course, he was dead by then, but everyone had started to love him, which was a little bit of a complicated process. He was a social muckraker who would be perfectly at home today, and probably not as well known. He famously wrote "J'accuse" to condemn the mistreatment of a suspected traitor, very late in his career, writing books about various injustices. Germinal is his best-known work, and yet it's pretty obscure, though it deals with coal miners (one would think that more people might rediscover it now, considering). I came across Zola most recently in a survey of Academy Awards winners, specifically The Life of Emile Zola, released in 1937, a movie which itself has fallen into obscurity. (In France, Germinal finally became a movie in 1993.) After reading the book, I will hopefully be able to say whether or not he deserves this fate.