Emile Zola

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Knowing this author only by name, I recently browsed through a few of the books the local library had, and decided to go with "L'Oeuvre" ("The Masterpiece"/"The Masterwork" or something along those lines)
But when I came home, I read some of the foreword, and came to the realization that it's a late book in an extended series he'd written, inspired by Balzac's.
So my question: is this a series that can be read in just about any order, ie are the links between books pretty tangential? Or should I really go grab the first one and work my way up? I noticed that at least some of the books seemed to have rather strong links, such as one book being about the daughter of a couple that the previous book had focused on etc.

Any fans of Zola here? Any detractors?

Øystein H-O (Øystein H-O), Tuesday, 24 February 2004 00:56 (twenty years ago) link

I'm a pretty big if sporadic fan (haven't been back to Emile for about 18 months). Best stand-alones of his tend to be the big tomes -- I think Nana has been my favorite so far. She's a sorta koff fille publique, sorta but not quite -- a professional mistress? Come to think of it, she sort of ties to the Rosanette character in L'Education Sentimental... but who here said Zola was pulpier than Flaubert? You're right, kinda. Oh I'm babbling again, I should get bakc to work...

Ann Sterzinger (Ann Sterzinger), Tuesday, 24 February 2004 01:34 (twenty years ago) link

i am certainly no expert on zola - i've only read the dram shop & in translation - but i found it generally mediocre. there were some good scenes, but it was obviously written based on this philosophy that it is impossible for the working classes to rise up & that their situation oppresses them, etc. i felt like most of the action was just a transparent excuse to prove that thesis, which doesn't really paint a realistic or interesting picture for me. that is, i think he exaggerated certain traits of the characters to make his point - like, for instance, that no one really loves/cares for other people(at least in the lower classes) but merely uses & competes with them. or that this perfectly stable working class couple must fall into misery & death simply because it's INEVITABLE. or how none of them could appreciate the art in the lourve.

as a text on social structure i think it's great, but as a novel i was bored. though there's a whipping scene at the beginning that is ACES.

j c (j c), Tuesday, 24 February 2004 02:18 (twenty years ago) link

Hmm... Dram shop is pretty good, and Nana's okay but it's certainly very influenced by Madame Bovary. I mean, as fun as it is to read about the decline of a quixotic prostitute for three hundred pages, it can be a little too meandersome for the 21st c. reader.


I really really liked The Earth, which is positively King Learish, and it's got a laugh-out loud funny subplot about flatulence which occupies dozens of pages over the coarse (heh, intentional) of the novel. And La Bete Humaine (Human Beast) is my favorite since it's the most melodramatic and reads like a cheapo early film reel with a mustache twirling baddie rerouting traintracks (really! only it's a woman and she derails the train of a man who spurned her because he had psychopathic urges!)

Anything in the Rougon-MacQuart cycle is good, and there's really no need to read them in order. Or read more than one or two, unless you really like them... and that's not terribly hard to do.

The Second Drummer Drowned (Atila the Honeybun), Tuesday, 24 February 2004 03:53 (twenty years ago) link

You should read Germinal. It's very good. And "L'Oeuvre", even though I don't know French, would mean The Work(s). "chef d'oeuvre" would be master work.

B. Michael Payne (This Isnt That), Wednesday, 25 February 2004 15:51 (twenty years ago) link

I was in the Peace Corps and spent some time in a mission that had vols 1-14 (or so) of the "Rougon Macquart" series (in French) and read them all in sequence. Eventually read a couple of the others in French and a couple more in English.

Reading them in sequence after reading the first one was helpful as there is some continuity - but hardly necessary - the books stand well on their own.

I found them compelling and unforgettable - but not as good in translation as in French.

I'd like to recommend "Au Bonheur Des Dames" (in english as "The Ladies Paradise") from the series as being one of my favorites.

jefu, Sunday, 29 February 2004 19:20 (twenty years ago) link

"L'Assamoir" (spelled incorrectly I'm sure) is great and Nana is entertaining as well. Better than most French writing types.

adam (adam), Sunday, 29 February 2004 22:53 (twenty years ago) link

not a fan of zola at all really, trite pseudo-sociology

gareth (gareth), Monday, 1 March 2004 14:34 (twenty years ago) link

nineteen years pass...

recently discovered this. i have but haven't read Germinal and was looking up the book that the film Human Desire was based on (bete humaine) and, hey ho, here's a set of 20 books and i do love a list.

Oxford World Classics has translated all of them recently, surprisingly the first full translation since 18xx, which was half-arsed by all accounts. penguin has 8 or so of them, much cheaper. but they are all 600+ pages. i should read the one i already have, see how it goes.

koogs, Sunday, 22 October 2023 12:19 (five months ago) link

my favourite writer!

I attempted to blog my way through Les Rougon-Macquart a while back, here's the ones I got through

introduction

#1 – La Fortune des Rougon (1871)

#2 – La Curée (1871-2)

#3 – Le Ventre de Paris (1873)

#4 – La Conquête de Plassans (1874)

#5 – La Faute de l’abbé Mouret (1875)

the world is your octopus (Camaraderie at Arms Length), Sunday, 22 October 2023 12:45 (five months ago) link

fuck off gareth

the world is your octopus (Camaraderie at Arms Length), Sunday, 22 October 2023 12:52 (five months ago) link

i think you might have more choice of translation now

https://www.kobo.com/gb/en/series/oxford-world-s-classics-12

https://www.penguin.co.uk/search-results?tab=books&q=Emile-Zola&x9=author&q9=Emile-Zola 7 here

koogs, Sunday, 22 October 2023 16:03 (five months ago) link

Haven't read his books, but was recently impressed by his heroic part in the Dreyfus Affair, which may have cost him his life---see epic wiki article on the Affair.

dow, Monday, 23 October 2023 00:12 (five months ago) link


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