Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “La Bête humaine (Les Rougon-Macquart, #17)” as Want to Read:
La Bête humaine (Les Rougon-Macquart, #17)
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Read Book* *Different edition

La Bête humaine (Les Rougon-Macquart #17)

4.04  ·  Rating Details  ·  5,177 Ratings  ·  160 Reviews
Did possessing and killing amount to the same thing deep within the dark recesses of the human beast?

La Bête humaine (1890), is one of Zola's most violent and explicit works. On one level a tale of murder, passion and possession, it is also a compassionate study of individuals derailed by atavistic forces beyond their control.

Zola considered this his `most finely worked' n
Kindle Edition
Published (first published 1890)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about La Bête humaine, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about La Bête humaine

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Sep 20, 2012 David rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: france
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
MJ Nicholls
Nice to be back in the Zolan bosom: multiple histrionic murderers, meticulous locomotive nous, and a splash of hopeless determinism. The seventeenth novel in the Rougon-Macquart series features some of Zola’s most breathtaking descriptions of bleak rural backwaters, trains in their brutal firebreathing phallic infancy, hopeless provincials devising schemes to escape their predetermined lives of hate and misery, implausible gruesome murders committed by almost every character, and humorous courtr ...more
Feb 20, 2016 Jason rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 5-stars
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
K.D. Absolutely
Jan 13, 2013 K.D. Absolutely rated it really liked it  ·  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
Ben Loory
Dec 31, 2012 Ben Loory rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Nov 18, 2013 knig rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: whatthe-hell, 2013
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
Oct 28, 2011 Jim rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Jun 27, 2015 Cheryl rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Although it was written in 1890, this book has the elements of a classic film noir - love, sex, and murder. Others must have thought so, too, since it's been made into films five times. The story is set in and around railways, with trains being an important element of the plot. This translation of the novel was written by Roger Whitehouse, published in 2007. I recommend reading a modern translation, since the sex scenes - while not very explicit - are essential to the plot, and might not be as p ...more
The novel is dark and brutal with plenty of fights, sex and more murders than in any modern book. The story begins with a brutal scene between a married couple. Then, it just escalates into a crescendo of violence. ”The beast within” is such a contrast to the prudent writing of Victorian England.

Zola is examining the cause of violence. Jeaolusy, hatred and egoism are common factors, as well as the more unusually emphasized concept of atavism. Not one person is good. Every single one is very flaw
Jan 24, 2016 Jenny rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: zola-project, french, 2016
The best so far in the Rougon-Macquart cycle for me. Mostly because this time around I didn't feel he constructed and manipulated the psychology of his characters to serve the plot so forcefully, which sometimes makes his character studies lack depth or consistency in other books. Yes, he's not the most subtle of authors by far, but I am getting used to that (well, I've had the previous 16 books of the cycle to practice on). Zola hardly ever opts for less then the portrait of a society in crisis ...more
Joana Marta
Seria que isso provinha de muito longe, do mal que as mulheres tinham feito à sua raça, do rancor acumulado de macho em macho, desde a primeira traição no fundo das cavernas? E sentia também, na sua loucura, uma necessidade de batalha para conquistar a fêmea e domá-la, a necessidade perversa de a pôr morta às costas, como uma presa que se arranca aos outros para sempre. O crânio rebentava-lhe com o esforço, não conseguia encontrar uma resposta, demasiado ignorante, pensava ele, o cérebro demasia ...more
Rosa Ramôa
Oct 19, 2014 Rosa Ramôa rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
O abominável ser humano...besta humana!!!
"Que importavam as vítimas que a máquina esmagava no caminho! Não ia ela também para o futuro, indiferente ao sangue derramado? Sem condutor no meio das trevas, fera cega e surda, indómita, rodava, atulhada dessa carne para canhão, desses soldados já estupidificados de fadiga e embriagados, que cantavam."
Émile Zola, “A Besta Humana”
Feb 07, 2012 Conor rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-fiction
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
Sep 13, 2014 Marius rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 20, 2008 Flora rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels, not-so-much
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
Sep 19, 2011 Hadrian rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: french, fiction
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.
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
Dec 01, 2008 Denis rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
May 20, 2014 Rowena rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Gláucia Renata
Aug 27, 2015 Gláucia Renata rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Li uns poucos títulos do autos e só agora descubro que este, publicado em 1890, é o 17º título (em um total de 20) de um projeto literário do autor chamado "Os Rougon-Macquart: História natural e social de uma família sob o Segundo Império". São livros avulsos focados numa grande família onde o autor pretendia usar suas teses literárias chamadas de naturalistas.
O protagonista é o maquinista Jacques Lantier, responsável por comandar a locomotiva Lison, onde ele costuma se esconder a fim de refrea
Tom Meagher
Oct 26, 2007 Tom Meagher rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Completely mind blowing, tense, tight and taut with wonderful imagery.

I cannot describe how good this book is, just read it.
Jan 13, 2016 LauraT rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: bingo-2016
"e che ci giunga un giorno ancora la notizia
di una locomotiva, come una cosa viva,
lanciata a bomba contro l' ingiustizia"
I think that for us Italian it's impossible to read this book without overlapping the Lison to the "Locomotiva" of Guccini.
Great book, with a spectacular description of the relationship man-machineLibro. Maybe Zola has lingered too much on the inheritance of some violent drives, to be opposed to technology represented by the locomotive; on the whole the book is one of the best
Aug 11, 2012 Eric rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Dorothy Bandusky
This violent, disturbing novel eloquently expresses the devastating truth that, given time, people who at first seem nice will reveal their true colors. In this regard, the book is depressing, yet somehow succeeds even with a shortage of characters whom readers can legitimately root for.

On the surface, the story makes for a pleasant read when one is having a bad day. But on a deeper level, it shows how lust (for anything) can destroy so much and that we can never truly fix ourselves on our own.
Jul 19, 2015 Lama rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
رواية رائعة تستحق القراءة، في هذه الرواية نرى الإنسان في خضم حياته بين الآلات والمحركات، تدخلنا في عالم إنسان الحديد والمستودعات والعربات والمحركات التي يطغى صوتها على صوت الطبيعة والبشر في مشاهد كثيرة.. هل أراد زولا أن يخبرنا أن هذا التقدم التكنولوجي قد أيقظ الوحش البشري الكامن فينا ؟! ربما..عندما تصبح علاقة الإنسان بالآلة و"عاطفته" تجاهها أقوى من علاقته بغيره من بني البشر، وعندما يستغلها لارتكاب جرائمه ضد الآخرين. أستغرب أن هذه الرواية لم تنل ما تستحق من تقدير بين قراء العربية، أنصح جميع أصدقا ...more
Oh, this is the best Zola yet!

La Bête Humaine is No 15 in the recommended reading order for the Rougon-Macquart cycle, (and I’ve already read Germinal which is No 16, see my review) so I think I’m in a good position to judge. This novel has a narrative drive which will have your pulse racing – and the ending, oh! the ending is so powerfully dramatic!

According to the excellent introduction by Roger Pearson, the novel received a fierce critical reaction, including the complaint that there were ‘to
Catherine Letendre
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Aug 15, 2008 Alistair rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
  • Pierre et Jean
  • Bouvard and Pecuchet
  • Lost Illusions (La Comédie Humaine)
  • Ormond
  • Manon des Sources
  • La mare au diable
  • The Gods Will Have Blood
  • The Charterhouse of Parma
  • Albigenses
  • The Stechlin
  • Jacques the Fatalist
  • Les Diaboliques
  • Claudine's House
  • Castle Richmond
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)

Share This Book

“Don't go looking at me like that because you'll wear your eyes out.” 44 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.” 9 likes
More quotes…