Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Now that's how you write a letter: English translation of Emile Zola's classic J'accuse

I have but one passion, the search for light, in the name of humanity which has suffered so much and is entitled to happiness. My fiery protest is simply the cry of my very soul.
Shelley Temchin and Jean-Max Guieu of Georgetown University have kindly made available to the Internet their translation of Emile Zola's "J'accuse' - his classic open letter to the French President from 1898 on the Dreyfus Affair.

It's an example (rare, it seems these days) of a first rate writer putting their reputation and career on the line for a point of political principle without compromising his artistic talents. Zola was removed from the Legion of Honour and had to flee to England to avoid prison for criminal libel, while history is still divided on the question as to whether his death in 1902 was an accident or not.

And the issues resonate as much as ever - we haven't stopped locking people up without sufficient evidence for reasons of state in the last 100 years [cough Guantanamo cough].

It'd be great to do something with J'accuse, whether that's a straight reading or a Burroughs-style cut-up as one of my occcasional left-brain digressions. Let's see what time and inspiration brings.

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