La Bête humaine (Les Rougon-Macquart, #17)
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La Bête humaine (Les Rougon-Macquart #17)

4.02 of 5 stars 4.02  ·  rating details  ·  3,352 ratings  ·  115 reviews
« L'essentiel de La Bête humaine, c'est l'instinct de mort dans le personnage principal, la fêlure cérébrale de Jacques Lantier, mécanicien de locomotive. Jeune homme, il pressent si bien la manière dont l'instinct de mort se déguise sous tous les appétits, l'Idée de mort sous toutes les idées fixes, la grande hérédité sous la petite, qu'il se tient à l'écart : d'abord des...more
Mass Market Paperback, Folio classique, 502 pages
Published May 16th 2001 by Folio (first published 1890)
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The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-ExupéryLes Misérables by Victor HugoThe Stranger by Albert CamusThe Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre DumasMadame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
Best French Literature
58th out of 467 books — 909 voters
L'Assommoir (The Dram Shop) by Émile ZolaThe Ladies' Paradise by Émile ZolaGerminal by Émile ZolaLa Bête humaine by Émile ZolaThe Belly of Paris by Émile Zola
Les Rougon-Macquart
4th out of 20 books — 20 voters

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Community Reviews

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Could you kill someone? (Shush now. That's a rhetorical question. Think the answer to yourself in your head. We don't want to hand over compromising evidence to the prosecution in your inevitable criminal trial.) Now I'm not asking you if you could kill in self-defense or to protect your loved ones from harm—because those cases are ethically cut-and-dried and very boring; I'm asking if you think you are capable of ending someone's life for pettier reasons: jealousy, revenge, or just good old-fas...more
Paquita Maria Sanchez
I am convinced that if Émile Zola had been alive and at work in the second half of the 20th Century, he would be known today as one of the greatest modern screenwriters France ever produced. Zola's novel La Bête Humaine, along with being a piercing analysis of violent proclivities and their influence on male/female sexual dynamics, has a rocket-speed plot leaving you tight-shouldered, gasping, and bug-eyed from its very first chapter. Despite a lull near the middle of the book which is necessary...more
K.D. Absolutely
Jan 13, 2013 K.D. Absolutely rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to K.D. by: 501 Must Read Books (Classics); 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die (2006-2012)
My first Emile Zola and I am impressed.

Emile Zola (1840-1902) was a French novelist who attempted to do an Honore de Balzac (1799-1850), another French novelist. The young Zola read Balzac's La Comedie Humaine (The Human Comedy) that consists of 91 finished and 46 unfinished works (stories, novels, essays and for some of the unfinished ones, just titles). Definitely inspired to have his own, Zola wrote interrelated 20 novels and collectively called them Les Rougon Macquart. The series follows a...more
Okay folks, my first 5-star rating in 2009. I'm stingy with 5-stars, but Emile Zola delivered, again, after about 25 other books this year. When I enjoy classic writers like Thoreau, Dickens, Hawthorne or playwrights like Shakespeare or Whitman, I sometimes overlook nuances or miss the unexpected metaphor or misinterpret the character flaw that destroys the protagonist. Not so with Zola. No way! His themes and messages come at you like an over-steamed locomotive. Zola's characters wield their Sh...more
Ben Loory
i avoided naturalism for a long time, i always thought it was going to be really dry and boring stuff, social criticism and whatnot, stories about people reduced to poverty by unfair labor practices who then get caught stealing shoes or something and get executed in the town square... but these zola books are the exact opposite, all the conflict is coming from inside the characters, everyone's bursting with hatred and jealousy and nebulous urges to kill and maim and destroy; everyone in this boo...more
Who knew, but Zola was a card carrying trainspotter. This, btw, is a sport alive and well in the UK. I think Zola may have started it though, but shhh....In any event, its quite clear to me the main character here is La Lison, the train engine on the Rouen to Paris track. Having lovingly endowed it with life, just like Jessica Rabbit, and perhaps in a fit of temporary insanity, Zola ‘kills’ it off at the halfway mark. Then...sheesh: whats one to do? Can’t rewrite at this late stage, bills are pr...more
I first read this book more than twenty years ago. It made an impression on me then, and still makes an impression on me -- in exactly the same way. La Bete Humaine is a strange work in that most of the main characters commit murder, are murder victims, or at the very least contemplate committing murder. All the characters are connected in some way with the railroad that connects Le Havre with Rouen and Paris. There is a certain bestial passion that drives their characters to contemplate and com...more
Elizabeth (Alaska)
This is a departure for Zola - at least for the 16 of 20 novels in the series I have read so far. "Set at the end of the Second Empire, when French society seemed to be hurtling into the future like the new railways and locomotives it was building, The Beast Within is at once a tale of murder, passion, and possession and a compassionate study of individuals derailed by the burden of inherited evil." This sentence from the GR description will help you understand what you might expect - what it do...more
Li este livro há muitos, muitos anos… e como tal a opinião que se segue não “nasceu” das sensações imediatas provocadas pela leitura, mas de alguma pesquisa que fiz sobre a obra.
Lembro-me de que foi um livro que me marcou profundamente e me levou a ler quase toda a obra de Emílio Zola, que considero um dos grandes génios da literatura.

"A personagem principal é Jacques Lantier, um maquinista na linha Paris-Le Havre. Ele sofre de enxaquecas e tem fortes impulsos assassinos. Só se sente bem na sua...more
So, I started this because I found it in a book bin, and because I'd read Zola's name quite a few times. I picked up speed with it because a friend on here was also reading it. These things gave me impetus to read it, which is good when approaching classical literature, as most of it is, for lack of a better phrase, a goddamn bore.

Now then, the reason I'm not giving this five stars is because there are a lot of times when it is a bore, and the lulls in the action are also lulls (not to be confus...more
A huge disappointment, given my high hopes that it would live up to its reputation as a sort of French "Crime and Punishment." Zola's work is aways praised for its penetrating psychological "realism," but his fiction has always struck me as being pretty thin in this regard, with the symbolism (and rhetorically-motivated characterization) so transparent that its pointillist social detail begins to look more like the mere fetishism of surfaces than penetrating "naturalism." I'm not sure how else t...more
Like most kids of my generation, I read a lot of Zola's famous novels - all classics in France. I loved them all, but I remember especially this one, maybe because of the wonderful Renoir's movie adaptation. When social realism meets human passions, you get Zola, a writer of immense talent and inspiration, who, from novel to novel, had an amazing gift to construct intricate stories, all linked to each other yet all unique, refracting French society in all its complexities, and dealing with raw e...more
Tom Meagher
Completely mind blowing, tense, tight and taut with wonderful imagery.

I cannot describe how good this book is, just read it.
Nu este primul meu Zola. Am mai citit şi Germinal acum mulţi ani şi îmi amintesc că descrierea suferinţelor şi mizeriei minerilor m-a deprimat.

Ei bine, "La Bête humaine" este mult mai interesant, cu sex şi violenţă, perversiuni şi crime. Am găsit în carte analize psihologice atât de fine cum numai la scriitorii ruşi găsesc.

Bineînţeles, concepţia naturalistă a autorului este prezentă şi în acest roman, violenţa este transmisă ereditar din vremuri imemoriabile, mediul social are influenţă decisivă...more
I've been giving away a lot of 5 stars lately (usually I'm pretty stingy with my fives) - but this book is phenomenal. I don't know why there isn't an English edition listed here on Goodreads - because I would have thought everyone would have been reading this book! Well they should ... It's about a natural born killer trying to suppress his urges. It takes us deep into the human psyche and explores what makes good people evil.

If you're like me, and can't read French, its title is 'The Beast in...more
Violence and the beast within. Zola exercises his very considerable talents on sex and murder.

Is it any wonder that a majority of violence against women is committed by a romantic partner of some sort? He hits the mark on a topic only too crucial and tragic and one that must be fought back against and understood.
Le Bete Humaine/The Beast Within is the best novel I have read since Crime & Punishment and The Brothers Karamazov.

I could not believe how good this book is.
Catherine Letendre
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Aug 15, 2008 Alistair rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: not to train spotters
as Liberace once said " let's return to the classics " and this is reassuringly classic in its 19th century setting and straight forward story telling and a real painting on the cover .
Not having tread Emile Zola before i did not know what to expect , except that he was a social realist type writer .
this story is set amongst railway workers in Le Havre and has murder , suicide ,infidelity ,jealousy , revenge , rape, greed , poisonings , knifings, plenty of sex , petty government officials , cove...more
Nancy Burns
This thriller was so easy to read. Action packed, psychological analysis of a killer and a moderate number of ornate descriptions about trains, tracks and stations. Crimes of passion run throughout the novel. Violence, blood, crime scenes and a train accident teem with vivid images.

I found it a refreshing change of pace in the Rougon-Macquart series!

Score: 5

Here is my review:

The soul is like a steam engine; build up sufficient pressure and the result will be devastating. Jacques Lantier is a railroad engineer with a hereditary predisposition towards murdering women. He avoids women out of fear for what he will do to them and seeks refuge in excessive care for his technical duties. But circumstances lead him to relax his defenses in front of a self-confessed murderess. He ends up killing both her and his beloved locomotive.
Zola wants to rid us of the illusion of free...more
Je n’ai donné que 3,5 étoiles, parce que j’ai eu un peu de peine parfois pour complètement me laisser aller dans l’histoire. Il faut aimer le chemin de fer pour vraiment et passionnément pouvoir suivre toutes ces descriptions longues et détaillées des route, horaires, préparations etc (par contre, j’ai trouvé les parallèles que Zola fait entre les machines et les humaines exceptionnelles, surtout comme il dépeint la locomotive comme une femme). Ceci dit, j’ai bien aimé ce livre, ses idées, le dé...more
Sam Jasper
The only book with a character that wasn't created on the original Rougon Macquart family tree, this is a bit of a departure in Zola-land, but he once again manages to make the space or the machine a character in itself. In this case, the train. In Germinal, the mine is a major character, it breathes fire. In L'Assomoir the still is a character. Ladies Paradise, the store, The Kill, the greenhouse, etc. In this book, the train seems sentient and moody becoming part of the plot and part of the ch...more
Starting out of the gate with a good old fashioned wife-beating and a plan for a cold-blooded murder, Zola's "The Human Beast" is an exciting, dark ride into the depravity of the human soul. Before we reach the end, there will be several murders and a sabotage-caused train crash, in all it's gory detail.

The story concerns Severine who is forced into confessing to her husband Roubaud that she had an affair with her godfather Grandmorin, a powerful railway director. He makes Severine write a lette...more
Esteban Gordon
Five stars. Five stars. Five stars. As a former railroad worker, the rail scenes from the 19th century are fascinating - almost as fascinating as an entire world's inner monsters bursting out upon unsuspecting 1860s France. If you take Zola's Pot-Bouille where everyone is trying to screw each other and change it to everybody is trying to kill each other - then you have the Beast Within. This certainly isn't the most optimistic novel about human nature you'll ever read...
L’ho iniziato spaventata dalla lingua originale, quasi certa di mollare dopo un paio di pagine, invece mi sono sorpresa, ho terminato la lettura e ho rispolverato il francese, posso essere un po’ orgogliosa? La Bête Humaine è un romanzo naturalista sulla ferrovia e sul crimine e la sua struttura è proprio come il percorso di questi grandi treni che partono da una stazione per raggiungerne un’altra, con rallentamenti e fermate ad ogni stazione, cioè ad ogni capitolo. I luoghi e lo spazio sono sca...more
Andrew McClarnon
Re-reading this after twenty years or so, I had another lesson in how much better my memory is at remembering moods and scenes, rather than the plot of a book. This book has some vivid set pieces which stay with you, particularly for me the episode where Jacques and Pecqueux are driving the train through a snowstorm, you sense the sheer physical effort needed, the contrasting heat of the engine and cold of the air, how difficult it would be to see ahead. This, and other set pieces are for me wha...more
Chris Lockhart
This is a violent book, but an extremely good one. There's a cast of unsavory characters with serious flaws. We sympathize with them as victims of their own afflictions and despise them for the harm they do. This is my second book by Zola, and won't be my last. I'm considering reading the whole of this collection in order.
Zola is a literary genius. I love how he animalizes his characters, and yet makes them so relatable to our own lives. I would highly recommend this book to any one who loves to analyze human beings' psychological desires.
J'adore Zola. C'est sûrement mon écrivain français préféré. J'aime beaucoup sa vision réaliste de l'être humain. Ce livre est mon deuxième préféré de cet auteur après Germinal.
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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
More about Émile Zola...
Germinal (Les Rougon-Macquart, #13) Nana (Les Rougon-Macquart, #9) Thérèse Raquin L'Assommoir (The Dram Shop) (Les Rougon-Macquart, #7) The Ladies' Paradise (Les Rougon-Macquart, #11)

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“Don't go looking at me like that because you'll wear your eyes out.” 35 likes
“She was a virgin and a warrior, disdainful of the male, which was what eventually convinced people that she really must be off her head.” 5 likes
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