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Tutter, A. (2018). A Veritable Murder: Émile Zola, His Friend Paul Cézanne, and His Book L’Œuvre. Am. Imago, 75(1):67-103.

(2018). American Imago, 75(1):67-103

A Veritable Murder: Émile Zola, His Friend Paul Cézanne, and His Book L’Œuvre

Adele Tutter, M.D., Ph.D.

It is for you alone that I write these pages. I know you will read them with your heart, and that tomorrow you will love me with even greater affection.

—from Zola's dedication of Mon Salon to Cézanne

I “A Magnificent Book”

In March 1860, the nineteen-year-old Émile Zola (1840-1902) wrote to Paul Cézanne (1839-1906), his dearest childhood friend:

[25 March 1860]

[I] had a dream the other day. I had written a beautiful book, a magnificent book for which you had done beautiful, magnificent engravings. Our two names shone together in gold letters on the title page, and, in this brotherhood of genius, were inseparable for posterity. Unfortunately, this is as yet only a dream (Cézanne, 1995, p. 55).1

Twenty-six years later, Zola partly realized his dream with the 1886 publication of the novel L’Œuvre. The fourteenth volume in the mammoth Rougon-Macquart cycle, the book would indeed bind him to Cézanne “for posterity”—not, however, by marking the immortality of their brotherhood, but by marking its end.


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