The penultimate novel of the Rougon-Macquart cycle, The Downfall (1892) takes as its subject the dramatic events of the Franco-Prussian War.
The Downfall seeks to explain why the Second Empire ended in an overwhelming military defeat and revolutionary violence.
Zola focuses on ordinary soldiers, showing their bravery and suffering amid circumstances they cannot control, and includes some of the most powerful descriptions ever written.
Often compared to War and Peace, The Downfall has been described as a foundational work for all modern representations of war.
Publication sparked controversy that made it a best-seller overnight, and it has long reigned as a classic of French literature.
EMILE ZOLA (1840-1902) was a French writer, a major figure in the literary school of naturalism and a major contributor to the development of the modern novel. Zola was nominated for the first and second Nobel Prize for Literature in 1901 and 1902.