Closed to the public for 10 years, Emile Zola’s house, in Médan, in the Yvelines, has been restored and reopens its doors from October 28. Backed by the house of the famous author of “J’accuse”, adds the Dreyfus Museum, inaugurated by President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday, October 26.
“I am very moved, Zola has been my idol since I was 13”, loose the novelist Tatiana de Rosnay who does not hide her emotion when she discovers the house where the famous writer wrote part of his work. The visit takes place in preview, with Martine as a guide The blond-Zola, the writer’s great-granddaughter. “I discovered Zola with Germinal, and since then I have read all of his work”breathes Tatiana de Rosnay, hardly daring to put her hand where Zola was probably resting hers, on the banister of the narrow wooden staircase that he used every morning for 24 years to climb into his office.
Tatiana de Rosnay discovers for the first time a place that she imagined and staged in her voice with the project Intimate territories, a series of sound fictions, initiated by producer and director Audrey Siourd. The idea of this series of audio books is to “work on the transmission of literature“, underlines the producer. “I think that audio can make it possible to bring people who do not read, or who no longer read, to come or come back to literature“.
Three modules thus offer to discover the worlds of three authors, chosen by Tatiana de Rosnay: Emile Zola, Daphné du Maurier, and Virginia Woolf. In this “sound fiction” cut into three episodes of 35 minutes and available as an e-book, the novelist invites the listener into the “intimate territories” of these three authors, through the places where they lived, where they wrote, like here in Medan, for Zola.
Passage of a train, the buzzing of insects, the rustle of a falling letter, the scratching of a feather on paper, the texts written by Tatiana de Rosnay are staged in sound and musical atmospheres. “The idea is to create an immersion in a universe, an evocation, through sounds, music, but without supporting”, explains Audrey Siourd.
In Médan, the visit continues with the discovery of the famous Zola office, monumental, with a mezzanine and a huge bay window overlooking the Seine. “Not a day without a line”, the motto is inscribed in letters painted on the fireplace. A large desk, a large armchair, the Maison Zola – Musée Dreyfus association wanted to recreate the atmosphere of this place where the author of Rougon- Macquart spent half of the year, the one in which he took refuge in writing. “Every day he went up at 9 am with his dog Pimpin, and he wrote until 1 pm, with the aim of writing four manuscript pages. The same ritual for 24 years”, tells his great-granddaughter, from the love story between Zola and Jeanne Rozerot, the lingère of Medan.
“We didn’t want to put up cartels, didn’t want the place to look like a museum”, emphasizes Martine The blond-Zola. Living room, bedroom, kitchen … “We tried to find the original authentic furniture when possible, and to buy others in the spirit of the time. The idea is that the visitor feels like a guest at Zola. lacks that kitchen smells “, she rejoices.
This house, Émile Zola bought it in 1878, with the rights of The stunner. “Then, he enlarged it with the rights of his literary successes, and gradually, he baptized the new buildings with the names of his novels: Germinal tower, Nana tower …”, explains the great-granddaughter of the novelist. “There was a form of social revenge that was expressed in this house, because Zola experienced misery in his childhood, after the death of his father, and in his youth. A misery which then nourished his work. spent lavishly in this house, but Zola was not what one calls a bourgeois. He was an artist “, insists her great-granddaughter.
“He was the architect, he designed everything and he himself chose the furniture, the elements of the decoration, he made very specific requests to the craftsmen, as for the stained glass windows in the reception room, on the ground floor. – on the floor, we have exchanges of letters in which he specifically asked for a small fly here, a small bird, there… “, laughs Martine Le Blond-Zola. “Zola was a nature lover. Here there was a farm, with a vegetable patch, rabbits, a cow. Zola was a defender of the living, and that’s also why he liked to come and work here”, she adds.
“Zola had a very difficult end of life, he did not expect such reactions when he defended Dreyfus”, emphasizes his great-granddaughter. “Zola was a man sensitive to misery and injustice. For him it was natural to try to get an innocent man out of prison. It was a human reaction before being political. For him, it was visceral. and he didn’t hesitate to sacrifice everything for that, including his comfort. That’s also why he wrote, with the hope of changing society “, adds Martine Le Blond-Zola. “He was really very sad at the end of his life”, she adds.
“This is the reason why the association decided to open a museum dedicated to the history of Dreyfus in the house of Médan”, explains Louis Gautier, President of the Maison Zola – Musée Dreyfus Association. Place of pilgrimage and homage to the author of “J’accuse”, it was “natural to establish a museum there”, believes Louis Gautier, logical to make “an emblematic place of thought committed to its century”. This museum, carried by Pierre Berger and sponsored by Elie Wiesel, was installed in the part built after Zola’s death, when the house was donated to public assistance.
Very beautiful and very educational, the museum traces the roots of the affair and questions its extensions throughout history, until today, “whether it is about anti-Semitism, racism and exclusion, the functioning of justice, the role of the media and social networks, the place of intellectuals in democracy”. If the museum has first and foremost an educational vocation, aimed at the younger generations, “it is also an additional offer for all those who come to visit Zola’s house”, concludes Louis Gautier.
“Intimate territories, In the footsteps of Daphné du Maurier, Virginia Woolf and Émile Zola”, unpublished sound fiction, written and read by Tatiana de Rosnay, directed by Audrey Siourd. (Duration: 110 minutes. Original Kobo / Grimm & Co. production Original soundtrack).