Unpacking Texts: Émile Zola’s Pages d’exil as Suitcase Narrative
This article focuses on Pages d’exil (1898), Émile Zola’s journal recounting his escape from France after being sentenced to prison following the Dreyfus Affair and his eleven-month exile in Britain. Inspired by Edward Said’s writings on exile and recent scholarship in museum studies examining migration, exile, and relocation, the article argues that Pages d’exil can be considered a “suitcase narrative.” It performs an object-focused reading centering on items of dress—things typically contained in a suitcase—to illuminate the conditions that Zola faced during these tumultuous months and their impact on his creative production. It posits that Pages d’exil is a personal crisis narrative taking form across modes of expression, including the journal, Zola’s correspondence, and his photographs. As such it holds a unique place within Zola’s works, provides compelling insights into the textual-visual turn of the author’s late years, and anticipates characteristics of twentieth-century modernist literature.