Interview with Emile Zola
On Christmas Day, 1897, 1 arrived in Paris, and took a room in a small hotel, frequented mostly by country people, and situated in Rue St. Louis-en-l’Ile, behind Notre Dame Cathedral, in the centre of old Paris. I had letters of intro duction from Eleanor Marx to M. Charles Longuet and M. Paul Lafargue, who had married daughters of Karl Maix. Both had lived in London for some years. Longuet, as a refugee from the Commune in 1871, had been appointed French lecturer at King’s College, London; Lafargue had come to London in 1867, as a young medical undergraduate, after having been expelled from the French universities on account of his republican agitation among the students. He completed his medical studies in London and graduated as M.B. He was in touch with the London Positivists, who befriended French intellectuals, and won the friendship of Professor E. S. Beesly, of University College. At an interview I had with Professor Beesly in 1901, with which I shall deal later on, he related to me that it was Lafargue who, in 1868, had introduced Marx to him. Longuet was a journalist, working mainly for Clemenceau’s La Justice and later for UAurore. He was not a socialist, but an adherent of Proudhon, believing in private property and mutual exchanges of goods on the basis of equal values; in politics he was a Radical and patriot, like his famous editor in chief. Lafargue, a pamphleteer gifted with a dry sarcasm, was, on the other hand, a revolutionary Marxist with a Bakunist strain. It was to him that Marx said: Moi, je ne suis pas Marxiste. Lafargue, indeed, was largely responsible for the mechanization of Marx’s philosophy of history. When I called upon them they both lived in com fortable circumstances, as Frederick Engels had left them legacies of about £3,000 each. Longuet was a widower and
had to care for several children; the Lafargues had no chil dren. Madame Laura Lafargue was a great lady, very different in appearance and character from her London sister, Eleanor. The latter took after her father, the former after her mother, a Baroness von Westphalen, and was welcome in the best French Society and much praised by that prince of antiSemitic writers, M. Edouard Drumont, a man of great know ledge and sparkling wit, who, strange to say, enjoyed reading Marx’s Communist Manifesto. The Lafargues lived in a country house at Draveil, where one could meet on a Sunday various personalities from many countries. Three weeks after my arrival in Paris there appeared in
VAurore (January 13, 1898) Emile Zola’s sensational letter “ J’accuse,” which opened up the Dreyfus affair and convulsed France, dividing the nation into two passionately warring camps-Dreyfusards and anti-Dreyfusards. The whole of Paris seemed to be charged with inflammable material. It was highly dangerous for a Jew to express his opinion on the affair, and Lafargue warned me to keep my views to myself, for there was no telling what Frenchmen would not do in such a mood. On the evening of January 13th and 14th, I witnessed in the Quartier Latin the burning by excited students of bundles of VAurore-an auto-da-fe made more weird on that bleak and cold evening by the loud and angry shouts of the dark masses of onlookers as the flames shot up from the ignited papers: A has Zola! A has lesjuifs!