"J'accuse!," Emile Zola's impassioned defense of army Capt. Alfred Dreyfus, which shook French society to its roots in 1898, has been bought by the National Library.
The 39-page open letter to President Felix Faure condemning establishment anti-Semitism in the case of Dreyfus, a Jewish officer falsely accused of spying for Germany, was sold by the widow of Zola's grandson.Library officials, who confirmed the acquisition, declined to disclose the price. The Paris daily Le Monde said $1 million was paid for the manuscript.
"J'accuse!" ("I accuse!") is the title and opening phrase of Zola's broadside against hypocrisy and racism, published Jan. 13, 1898, in the daily newspaper L'Aurore.
Dreyfus was sentenced to death after being falsely accused of espionage by the French army chiefs of staff, but the sentence was commuted and he was sent to the forbidding Devil's Island penal colony off South America.
Zola, a realist author and influential intellectual, leaped to his defense. Dreyfus was eventually pardoned, resuming his career and rising to the rank of colonel.
National Library administrator Emmanuel Leroy-Ladurie said the document was priceless.
"Zola's `J'accuse!' represents a symbolic turning point in French political and intellectual life which shook the country at its highest level," he said.
"We're very grateful to Zola's family for not having gone through the auction system."
Officials said the letter, dubbed by Faure at the time as "the century's most revolutionary act," would go on display at the National Library.