Blood, Sex And Money: The Life And Work Of Emile Zola

Monday 16 November



This programme, presented by double-Oscar-winning actress Glenda Jackson, offers an insight into one of France’s most prolific and influential writers, Emile Zola. The documentary precedes a serialisation of all 20 novels in Zola’s epic Rougon-Macquart family series, with a season of Radio 4 dramas for the three major themes of his books – blood, sex and money.

Glenda Jackson plays the 100-year-old matriarch of the Rougon-Macquart family and narrates the dramas in the season. In this programme she travels to Paris to get a flavour of the writer’s work and life, and how his experiences and the life around him informed his great commentary of novels on the Second French Empire. Zola's descendants describe how the reaction to J'Accuse and the Dreyfus affair, where Zola accused the French Army of a cover-up in an open letter to the press, still creates bad feelings for the family.

Glenda explores how the themes of blood, sex and money infiltrated his work and life. She travels to his country home in Medan and meets his great grand-daughter. This was the home where, with his wife, he entertained his friends, such as novelist Flaubert and painter Cezanne, where he set up a home for his lover and two children nearby, and where he would cycle every afternoon to visit them. She also visits key areas in the French capital where Zola lived in dire poverty, and where he gathered with his artist contemporaries – Manet, Monet and Cezanne – at the height of the impressionistic and naturalistic movement. Finally, she travels to Aix-en-Provence, in the south of France, where Zola and Cezanne grew up.

Presenter/Glenda Jackson, Producer/Pauline Harris for the BBC

BBC Radio 4 Publicity