Paris has a monument to Emile Zola in the 15th arrondissement, which honours his support for Alfred Dreyfus, a military office of Jewish descent who was wrongly imprisoned on a charge of treason. Zola’s letter to a newspaper in support of Dreyfus was considered libellous and he had to seek exile in England for several months to avoid imprisonment.
Dreyfus was imprisoned several times, but was finally cleared of all charges in 1906. The monument which explains Zola’s part in the Dreyfus Affair is in the Place Alfred Dreyfus which is at 123 Avenue Emile Zola.
Just south of the Gare Saint-Lazare is the busy shopping area centred on the Boulevard Haussmann. Zola’s second novel in the Rougon-Macquart series, called La Curee (or The Kill), describes the upheaval that accompanied the construction, in the mid nineteenth century, of the new wide avenues across Paris as planned by Baron Haussmann.
Thousands of dark, unsanitary, dilapidated buildings were removed to make way for the new tree-lined streets. Zola admired the modernisation of Paris, but in his novel tells the darker tale of the corruption and greed involved in the buying and selling of property that accompanied the new construction.
The funeral of Emil Zola, in October 1902, was also attended by thousands of people. Zola was buried in Montmartre Cemetery, and then six years later his remains were moved to the Pantheon next to the tomb of Victor Hugo.
Zola had completed his remarkable series of novels that traced the history of one family, Les Rougon-Macquart, in 1893. La Bette Humaine (or the Beast Within), published in 1890 towards the end of the 20 novel series, is set in the area surrounding Saint-Lazare station. The main protaganists in the novel are railway workers and the dark plot involves murder and political intrigue.
The Gare Saint-Lazare is one of six large railway terminus stations in Paris, and the second busiest.
In 1881, when Victor Hugo was 79 years old, the city of Paris honoured him with an enormous parade, which travelled for six hours through the streets, passing the author’s house.
Hugo was such an important figure in 19th century France, that on his death in 1885, a huge crowd joined his funeral procession from the Arc de Triomphe to the Pantheon. His tomb is in the crypt of the Pantheon, and in subsequent years, Emile Zola and Alexandre Dumas were buried beside him.
The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Victor Hugo’s other famous novel, is set in Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris in the 15th century. The hunchback, Quasimodo, is the cathedral’s bell ringer and he spends most of his life within the confines of the church.
Access to the towers of Notre Dame Cathedral is from the outside of the church in Rue du Cloitre Notre Dame. Visits to the tower start at 10am, but it is a good idea to go earlier as there is often a long queue. It is a long climb to the top (387 steps), but worth it for the close up view of the gargoyles.
It’s not often that exhibitions about European authors come to Australia. To coincide with the new stage production of Les Miserables currently on in Melbourne, the State Library of Victoria has an exhibition of rare items from French museums including Victor Hugo’s original hand written manuscript of Les Miserables.
We have the Victor Hugo Museum on our list of places to visit during our next trip to Paris. On past trips we have visited many sites related to Les Miserables and The Hunchback of Notre Dame. One of the most evocative is Les Egouts de Paris (Sewers of Paris) at Pont de l’Alma. In Les Miserables, Jean Valjean carries Marius to safety through the sewers.
Also not from Sydney but appearing on the Writers Walk at Circular Quay is poet, author, actor, comedian, script writer and film producer, Barry Humphries. He has the distinction of being a writer in his own right, and also as his alter ego Dame Edna Everage. Dame Edna’s book My Gorgeous Life was a best seller and she well deserves the tribute to her of a statue at Melbourne’s Docklands.
From 1922 until his death in 1938, C.J. Dennis worked as a journalist for the Melbourne Herald, writing poetry and short articles. His home was a property called Arden in the Dandenong Ranges. The house was destroyed by fire, but the garden can still be visited in the village called Toolangi.
The garden is now known as the Singing Gardens and is the location of a quaint café. The C.J. Dennis Society will hold a poetry festival in the gardens on 18 October 2014.
The annual Save the Children Fund book sale is on now at Winthrop Hall at the University of Western Australia. We went this afternoon and enjoyed rummaging through the huge collection of second hand books that have been pre-sorted into fiction, history, health, fitness, cook books, children, Australiana and lots of other categories.
We picked up an almost new copy of Parisians An Adventure History of Paris by Graham Robb who has come up with a novel way of writing about this wonderful city. His only slightly fictionalised accounts of historical places and figures make for interesting reading.
The book sale continues until Wednesday 20 August.
Visitors to Sydney have also been included in the Writers Walk at Circular Quay. The poet, C.J. Dennis, was not a Sydneysider but was a regular contributor to the Bulletin magazine. His book of poetry, The Songs of a Sentimental Bloke, sold 65,000 copies in 1916.
C.J. Dennis was born in September 1876 in Auburn, South Australia, where his father owned a hotel. Every year in September, the town celebrates his birthday with a festival. and in 2014 it will be on the 13 and 14. On the Saturday morning of the festival there will be a free poetry reading at the Rising Sun Hotel.
Auburn, SA, the birthplace of C.J. Dennis