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Das Werk (Les Rougon-Macquart #14)

3.94  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,876 Ratings  ·  107 Reviews
Seine Freunde halten den Maler Claude Lantier für ein Genie. In der Pariser Kunstszene sorgt er mit seinen ganz und gar unkonventionellen Bildern für Aufsehen. Warum aber wird der junge Künstler von derartig quälenden Selbstzweifeln geplagt, woher rührt seine permanente innere Unruhe? Unersättlicher Schaffensdrang und Blockierung der schöpferischen Kräfte liegen in Lantier ...more
Paperback, 451 pages
Expected publication: August 1st 2022 by Aufbau Taschenbuch Verlag (first published 1886)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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MJ Nicholls
You have this friend, a writer. He’s written this terrible bildungsroman about his tedious student exploits, I Want Vagina. You tell him tactfully that a 900-page, unspellchecked homage to sexual frustration doesn’t fly in the marketplace. Your friend scurries off and signs up for a Creative Writing MA at Dorset Polytechnic, taught by Vernon D. Burns. He returns, a few months later, with a new 900-page spellchecked homage to sexual frustration, I Want to Squeeze Bosoms. You arrange for him to lo ...more
L'Œuvre/The Masterpiece is a wonderfully horrible tale of obsession which highlights and (in the case of Claude) amplifies the frustration, desperation and despair of 19th century artists at having their work rejected by the Paris Salon or disparaged by the viewing public.

This was a re-read, and I decided to keep this review brief as several excellent reviews have been posted.
David Lentz
Jul 20, 2014 David Lentz rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"The Masterpiece" is itself a masterpiece from Emile Zola about the utter anguish of an artist over the gap between life and art. Claude is a French artist living in Paris when naturalism was just beginning to give way to Impressionism. By a naturalist we mean "one who studies nature" itself in the same way in which Seamus Heaney wrote in "The Death of a Naturalist" and the depiction of nature in a strictly natural way: that is, the quest of the artist was to show life within nature through a ph ...more
Jan 28, 2013 Robert rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: french
There's a character in this novel who decides to embark on an ambitious project to write a series of novels that "scientifically" demonstrate the effects of heredity and environment on a large family living during the regime of Napoleon III. (Whatever happened to Napoleon II?) The idea is that each book will examine some specific aspect of society and feature one member of the extended family as main protagonist. Which is odd, because Zola wrote a series of 20 books that examine the effects of e ...more
Jul 11, 2015 Gill rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
This is the 14th novel that I've read in the Rougon-Maquart series, and the first that I have given five stars to. It hasn't moved me as much as some of the other books that I've given five stars to in the past, but I still think it deserves that rating. Here's why:

The descriptions of Paris are excellent. I enjoyed them so much.

I felt that the characters in this novel are more rounded and multi dimensional than in some of the other novels I've read in the series.

I felt that Zola had more sympat
Andrei Tamaş
Dec 17, 2015 Andrei Tamaş rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Citisem Zola. Citisem cateva volume bune de dansul, dar ma repugna oarecum obiectivitatea dusa la extrem de care dadea dovada (desi poate asta reprezinta si un argument in plus al geniului sau), dar recent am dat de volumele sale in care exprima biografii romantate. Chiar el -Zola- spunea ca in spatele ilustrului si blestematului personaj Claude Lantier nu e ascuns nimeni altul decat legendarul Paul Cezanne.
Aug 13, 2014 kate rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
First of all, I understand that Zola - and this novel in particular -- do not appeal to all readers. However, The Masterpiece is a fantastic tour of the French art world in the latter half of the nineteenth century. Zola's main character is a synthesis of Cezanne/Manet/Monet -- a trained eye will recognize that Lantier's opening painting closely resembles the aesthetic of Manet's Le Dejeuner sur l'Herbe, that his city "sketches" recall Monet's urban series work, and that Lantier's eventual frust ...more
Elizabeth (Alaska)
This is Zola's most autobiographical novel and is the world of art and artists he knew well. His life long friend from school age was impressionist painter, Paul Cezanne. When he and Paul left Aix-en-Provence for Paris, Zola was introduced further into the art world and, in fact, was an art critic in his early years.
Edouard Manet was so appreciative of an article favoring the new style of art that he painted Zola.

As to this novel, there can be no doubt that the novelist Sandoz represents Zol
Aug 20, 2012 Jason rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, novel, classic
This book is a masterpiece, so to speak. It centers around the "open air" (i.e., impressionist) Claude Lantier and his struggles to create a masterpiece. The counterpoint is his depressing and tragic relationship with Christine, who ends up a near-martyr to his art. Claude is surrounded by a La Boheme-like group of artists, writers, journalists, and others--including a character based on Zola who is writing a cycle of novels like the Rougon-Macquart cycle.

Zola sets out to write a naturalistic, s
Mar 03, 2012 Marija rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics, favorites
I think this is one of the most depressing stories I have ever read. Like Jude the Obscure, this is the kind of story that leaves you feeling cold...almost like you’ve been punched in the experience akin to a kind of betrayal. The Masterpiece is truly an awful story, yet Zola somehow manages to infuse a kind of beauty into his prose that counteracts the harsh naturalistic point of view that typically dominates Zola’s work. To reflect the artist Claude’s internal conflicts between romant ...more
Gary Inbinder
Jul 04, 2014 Gary Inbinder rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a story about how a creation destroys its creator, and the fine line between genius and madness. In that regard, it reminded me of Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein."

Zola's descriptions of late 19th century Paris are astounding; you see, breathe, taste, and feel it. His characters are flesh and blood men and women. They leap off the page and bore into your consciousness. His observations of the human condition are compelling, his philosophical musings on the creative life profound. But it's a
Fra' Emme
Oct 01, 2015 Fra' Emme rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Zola era amicissimissimo con gli impressionisti, no, erano veramente un sacco amici, Cézanne, Monet, Renoir e compagnia bella, no. Li sosteneva, scriveva articoli in loro favore ed era tra i pochi, perché all'epoca tanti critici d'arte non capivano - i geni vengono quasi sempre apprezzati dopo, no? Mangiavano insieme, passeggiavano insieme per le strade di Parigi, Zola gli faceva compagnia mentre dipingevano, loro facevano compagnia a Zola men
Matthew White
Jul 23, 2015 Matthew White rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: paris
The Masterpiece is many things, but standing clear above its winding threads of ideas and creativity are two main pillars of meaning that serve as a testament to the importance of Zola’s writing.

The first is seemly arbitrary; an exploration of the bohemian lifestyle as a means to an end. Artists of various modes are the players in this story, and their successes and failures are sporadic, reflecting the uncompromising and unpredictable metropolitan backdrop of Paris. Zola tackles criticism of a
Jan 19, 2016 Lisa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
For most of us who know a little about Zola’s life, the man is a hero. He is famous for denouncing the anti-Semitic persecution of Dreyfus, and he’s a literary lion for his championing of a realism which portrayed French life warts and all – and bravely spent a lifetime cocking a snook at the regime into the bargain. But in The Masterpiece he bares his soul and shares the struggle that underlies all work in the creative arts. He shows us the loneliness of innovation and the despair that accompan ...more
Joseph Adelizzi, Jr.
I wanted to hate this book because I had read of the life of Cezanne and genuinely liked the artist, the man. I had read of Cezanne's childhood friendship with Emile Zola, a friendship which continued well into adulthood - until Zola published this book. I had read of the sensitivity of Cezanne, his dedication to his work, to his art and how he maintained that dedication in spite of very little positive feedback from society at large. I had read how Zola, flush with success from his novels seeme ...more
Abeerr Shiihab
اليأس المبكر لامرٍ ما قد يساعدكَ كثيراً بتغير وجهة نظركَ و زواية تفكيرك ، و قد يسهل عليكَ البدء من جديد ، اذ لا جدوى من المحاولات المتكررة التي تنتهي بالانتحار ! لكون الشخص قد بنى عليها كل حياته و اصبح من الصعب عليه تخيل ما قد يكون عليه ان ضاع ذاك الامل ، في هذه الرواية يحاول الكاتب ان يقول لك لا تتمثل الراحة في طريق انت لم تضمن حتى ربعه ، و قد يتحقق قول الشاعر " و لكن تؤخذ الدنيا غلابا " .
Zoha Trabelsi
وعدها أخيراً قبل أن تنام أن يترك الفن الذي وهب روحه له، فأوفى بوعده لها لتستيقظ هي منتصف الليل وتجده قد شنق نفسه على اللوحة .. فمات هو وأصيبت هي بالجنون..

بالفعل هكذا هو الفن.. سيد مستبد، فإما أن تعطيه روحك ونفسك وكل شيء تملكه، وإلا حطمك أو أدبر عنك!

Dec 16, 2013 Stuart rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People who like arts and letters
Recommended to Stuart by: no one
I thought I would check out some Zola after reading Madame Bovary, and Last of the Mohicans. Might as well wallow in the same century for a while, right?

The book is set in Bohemian Paris of the mid-19th century. Zola was a renowned art critic before he was a famous writer, and he knew this world intimately. It's about a group of young artists and writers who come to Paris thinking they're going to take it by storm, and the book traces this circle from their youth to middle age. (And yeah, I was
J.M. Hushour
One of the weaker R-M novels, but that doesn't carry the resonance it might have for another author since it's still quite superb. This is Zola's account of the rise of Impressionism and the stirrings of the ideas of the "modern" and the "new" in art during the Second Empire. He used his friendship with Cezanne and the lives of Manet, Monet and a few others to populate this book, which apparently pissed them all off! The poor schmuck of the titular obsession is Claude Lantier (Nana's half-brothe ...more
Nov 12, 2008 Namrirru rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: les-grenouilles
The beginning was excellent. It has all the intensity and humor you'd expect from Zola. But then something happened to the writer. I've never seen anything like it in any of his other books. After an amazing first chapter, his protagonist turns into a 2-dimensional stick figure. His wife fares a little better as a cartoon. And what's worse, everyone else seems rather realistic.

FYI: the inspiration for the main character is Zola's childhood friend, Paul Cezanne.

I don't think Zola was in his rig
Diana Long
Apr 17, 2015 Diana Long rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Written when artists (painter's, explorer's, writer's, etc.) were trying to break though with new thoughts and expressions this novel details the trials and anguish relative to them. The author focused most of all on a artist and how he was effected and passionately driven by his art. The despair in not being able to realize his ambition, his absorption and decline, his fall into madness. Zola based the writer in the novel on himself, but what of the others? It was said that his protagonist was ...more
Mar 13, 2013 Daisy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I thought I would like this book much more, although I guess I shouldn't be surprised that I disliked it, because I knew going into it that Zola's dismal portrayal of the state of art in the late 19th century is frequently blamed for ending his friendship with Cezanne.

I enjoyed reading about Paris and the Impressionist gatherings in the first half, but then the book turns awfully bleak, and I began to dread picking it up. I can see why Cezanne might interpret Zola's treatment of the Impressioni
Apr 18, 2010 Gabe rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In 'The Masterpiece,' Zola makes clear what he thinks of the Parisian art scene in the mid 19th century- of the young artists who, in their effort to capture the truth in 'Art' and 'Nature,' lose grasp of what is real, of the museum curators and art dealers who turn art into a commodity for their status and financial gain.

For the first half of the book, I thought that this was Zola's critique of the artist's ego-centrism. However, as I kept reading, I was reminded that with Zola there are no vil
Feb 16, 2015 Yves rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: xixe-siècle, france
L'oeuvre c'est l'histoire de Claude Lanthier, un peintre rempli de génie mais qui est incapable de terminer ses oeuvres car il ne veut que faire des chefs-d’œuvre. Claude est complètement obsédé par l'oeuvre ultime qu'il en vient à négliger son entourage. Ce roman de Zola est aussi une grosse critique du milieu artistique qui un jour peut encenser une personne et de détruire le lendemain. C'est à cause de ce livre que Zola s'est brouillé avec Cézanne, son ami peintre. Ce n'est pas le meilleur de ...more
Aug 04, 2011 Laura rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This Masterpiece follows the story of Claude Lantier, a talented but obsessive artist whose passion and drive for perfection in art ultimately leads to tragedy. Said to be the most autobiographical of Zola's novels, it offers a fascinating insight into the ambience of the time, and the sorts of discussion and debate that would no doubt have been held amongst Zola and his friends in the cafes and bars of Paris. Typical of Zola, an inherent sexism is never very far from the surface, but on the who ...more
Peter Jakobsen
Apr 04, 2016 Peter Jakobsen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
(by Émile Zola)*

Zola wanted to say something about the art world and the seismic shift on western art wrought by impressionism, and he thought he'd plumb the lives and minds of his artistic friends in order to enrich the tragedy of the story. Where that got a bit willing was the central character of Claude Lantier, in Zola's phrase "a sublime dreamer paralyzed by an inborn flaw", clearly based in some ways on the author's lifelong friend, Paul Cézanne.

It's typical Zola, good and fast, lots of ma
Oct 29, 2015 Helen rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
i decided to read this book because of my lifelong interest in art in general, and of the impressionists in particular. Zola was part of the in-crowd that included Monet, Cezanne, Renoir among others so reading this roman-a-clef novel provides a ring side seat for discovering what this crowd of later-to-be-recognized geniuses were about when they first began to gather together to paint, talk, brag, make their reputations, and criticize those who had already become successes in the art world for ...more
Andrew Carr
Apr 30, 2014 Andrew Carr rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If books are valuable, and tourism is enjoyable, books about the locations one is a tourist in are a winning combination. Thus I picked up Zola's The Masterpiece while recently in Paris on vacation.

This beautiful, funny, philosophical and ultimately tragic story is at heart a treatise on ambition. While it centres on a painter, it involves a cast of writers, sculptors, architects, musicians and could apply to anyone who is bound by larger visions for their life's purpose. Less a mere 'goal' but
Wessel van der Merwe
Clearly an attempt to describe the fate and difficulties of the impressionist painters in France. The struggle they experienced with the traditional Salon selections. He also touched on all the other arts going through some changes music, writing and journalism. One can glean some historical social facts about the and artists generally but from a story or a storyline point of view - very longwinded with here and there some real brilliance. As a whole won't bother to read it unless you are an art ...more
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All About Books: His Masterpiece by Émile Zola (Jenny, Laura and Gill) 31 24 Aug 25, 2015 12:38PM  
Is Cezanne´s life portraited in this book? 1 2 Mar 23, 2013 01:36PM  
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Émile François Zola was an influential French novelist, the most important example of the literary school of naturalism, and a major figure in the political liberalization of France.

More than half of Zola's novels were part of a set of 20 books collectively known as Les Rougon-Macquart. Unlike Balzac who in the midst of his literary career resynthesized his work into La Comédie Humaine, Zola from
More about Émile Zola...

Other Books in the Series

Les Rougon-Macquart (1 - 10 of 20 books)
  • The Fortune of the Rougons (Les Rougon-Macquart, #1)
  • La Curée (Les Rougon-Macquart, #2)
  • The Belly of Paris (Les Rougon-Macquart, #3)
  • La Conquête de Plassans
  • La Faute de l'abbé Mouret (Les Rougon-Macquart, #5)
  • Son Excellence Eugène Rougon (Les Rougon-Macquart, #6)
  • L'Assommoir (The Dram Shop) (Les Rougon-Macquart, #7)
  • Une page d'amour (Les Rougon-Macquart, #8)
  • Nana (Les Rougon-Macquart, #9)
  • Pot-Bouille (Les Rougon-Macquart, #10)

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“From the moment I start a new novel, life’s just one endless torture. The first few chapters may go fairly well and I may feel there’s still a chance to prove my worth, but that feeling soon disappears and every day I feel less and less satisfied. I begin to say the book’s no good, far inferior to my earlier ones, until I’ve wrung torture out of every page, every sentence, every word, and the very commas begin to look excruciatingly ugly. Then, when it’s finished, what a relief! Not the blissful delight of the gentleman who goes into ecstasies over his own production, but the resentful relief of a porter dropping a burden that’s nearly broken his back . . . Then it starts all over again, and it’ll go on starting all over again till it grinds the life out of me, and I shall end my days furious with myself for lacking talent, for not leaving behind a more finished work, a bigger pile of books, and lie on my death-bed filled with awful doubts about the task I’ve done, wondering whether it was as it ought to have been, whether I ought not to have done this or that, expressing my last dying breath the wish that I might do it all over again!” 60 likes
“The past was but the cemetery of our illusions: one simply stubbed one's toes on the gravestones.” 34 likes
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