Inspiration is the key!
In October 1892 French journalist Michel Zévaco was jailed for having published these words: ”The bourgeois kill us with hunger; let’s steal, kill, dynamite, all means are good to get rid of this rubbish“. His interest in sociopolitical activism had surfaced in 1886, when he became secretary of Egalité‘s newsroom and the turbulent times ahead saw him as part of the anarchist attempt to overthrow the power of the rich and the wealthy. It is only in 1900 that he will give up his political opinion and will start working on novels: “Les Pardaillan” is a huge collection of novels which creates a stand alone cycle, published in newspapers for almost twenty years (from 1907 to 1926) and other notable works were released in between, even after his death in 1918.
Despite a change in the form and in the method of communication, Zévaco managed to translate his own ideas, mainly political or ant-clerical, into novels which could entertain and stimulate interest: he became one of the most notable authors of the cloak and dagger genre in France, despite having been forgotten in the following decades.
His novels spoke of War Religions in France in the XVI Century, centered around the historical figures of Philip II of Spain, Henry IV of France or Maria De Medici, and in the perspective of his own idea one can perfectly see the connection between these facts and figures and what message he really wanted to convey. He saw religion and political power in the worst way: the fact that he supported acts of terrorism by François Claudius Koenigstein, most notably known as Ravachol, show us that he supported one of the most violent embodiments of Anarchism in France. Curiously, the first Anarchist newspaper in France was published with the support of Louis Andrieux, a Prefect of Police, who justified his action by claiming that “giving the anarchists a newspaper is similar to placing a telephone connecting the conspiracy hall to the prefect of police’s office“. This is how “La Révolution sociale” came to be published in 1880.
Writers who are considered ‘dangerous‘ fill the history of Western Literature with many examples: Voltaire was imprisoned for having written the “Puero regnante“, De Foe wrote against British ministers and received the same treatment. Any intellectual mind who wrote against a regime followed the same path and this also applies to different parts of the world and different ages. But why is a pen so dangerous? What bad can come from sharing a point of view? Yes, perhaps Michel Zévaco was way too harsh, infringed the concept of respect, and that one mistake could not be overlooked as it turned his ideals into an insult to others. But if one’s polite and has no negativity of any sort, why deny one the chance to speak up? Many writers found satire or coded satire to be the smartest way to beat censorship, but would that really do the trick? If we really believe in our words, why should we hide them or present them as insults?