Interested in writing from a very young age, Zola failed his baccalauréat twice. He began writing short literary reviews while working in Louis Hachette's library in the early 1860s. He immersed himself in the artistic world, frequenting painter friends of the impressionist movement, like Renoir, Pissarro, Sisley, and his childhood friend Cézanne.
Zola is remembered as the father of the naturalism literary movement, characterized by an emphasis on observation and scientific methodology in fictional depictions of reality. As such, Zola ever the realist, wrote extensively on every day life, mixing in his propositions on science (particularly, on the topics of heredity and evolution). His opus, a 20-novel study of five generations of the Rougon-Macquart family under France's Second Empire (of which he was a staunch opponent), dealt with questions such as the condition of the worker, poverty, disease, vice, violence, prostitution, and corruption. By documenting life as closely and objectively as possible, we would be left with a record of modern history.