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L'Œuvre (Les Rougon-Macquart #14)

3.94  ·  Rating Details ·  2,247 Ratings  ·  134 Reviews
Camarade de jeunesse de Cézanne, ami et défenseur de Manet et des impressionnistes, Zola a résumé dans L'Œuvre toute son expérience du milieu et des problèmes de la peinture sous le Second Empire et les premières décennies de la IIIe République. Document de premier ordre sur ces « Refusés », ces « plein-airistes » que nous considérons comme les fondateurs de la modernité, ...more
Mass Market Paperback, Folio classique, 512 pages
Published by Gallimard (Folio) (first published 1886)
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Strange how life imitates art in so many ways.

When Zola wrote his artist novel, he could look back on decades of creative pain, shared with the painters of the era, and most notably with his childhood friend Paul Cézanne. Would Zola have been THE realist writer of his time if he hadn't attempted to describe the struggle of the emerging impressionist movement in at least one of his installments of the Rougon-Macquart series? Would he have been Zola if he hadn't succeeded in describing it in such
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
Rakhi Dalal
Aug 10, 2016 Rakhi Dalal rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Those interested in art
Shelves: favorites, classics

'Ah! life! life! to feel it and portray it in its reality, to love it for itself, to behold in it the only real, lasting, and changing beauty, without any idiotic idea of ennobling it by mutilation. To understand that all so-called ugliness is nothing but the mark of individual character, to create real men and endow them with life, yes, that's the only way to become a god!'

Perfection is the sole intention of an artistic endeavor striving towards greatness. In this effort lies the innate desire
Alice Poon
Oct 21, 2016 Alice Poon rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

Including L’Oeuvre (The Masterpiece), I’ve so far read five of the twenty-volume Rougon-Macquart series by Emile Zola (the other four being: La Curee (The Kill), L’Assommoir (The Dram Shop), Nana (Nana) and Le Ventre (The Belly of Paris)). All five are set in kaleidoscopic Paris. The period is some time during the semi-aristocratic and semi-bourgeois Second Empire epoch. I love that each of the five portrays a different and unique social and cultural aspect of the times.

In the Preface, Ernest Al
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.
Note on the Translation
Select Bibliography

--The Masterpiece

Explanatory Notes
David Lentz
May 16, 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
Aug 18, 2008 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
Sep 15, 2016 qwerty rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Το έχω πει ξανά και θα το λέω συνέχεια: ο Emile Zola είναι ένας ΠΟΛΥ μεγάλος συγγραφέας. Με τη σειρά των 20 μυθιστορημάτων του με τίτλο "Les rougon Macquart" έχει καταφέρει να απεικονίσει ολόκληρη τη γαλλική κοινωνία (παρισινή και επαρχιώτικη) της εποχής του. Καθένα από αυτά τα μυθιστορήματα καταπιάνεται και με ένα διαφορετικό ζήτημα, όπως π.χ. ο αλκοολισμός(Ταβέρνα), η Τέχνη (Το δημιούργημα), η ματαιότητα(Η χαρά της ζωής), η εκμετάλλευση της εργατιάς (Ζερμινάλ), το χρήμα, η γη, η φτώχεια, η πολ ...more
Jun 13, 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
Feb 22, 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
Oct 29, 2016 Scarlett rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, classics
Zola za mene postaje kralj tragedije. Ovo mi je njegov 10. roman koji čitam, svaki mi je draži od prethodnog, ali ovaj me je duboko potresao.

Junak romana je Klod Lantije, slikar koji je toliko posvećen umetnosti da sve aspekte života podređuje toj nekoj budućoj, savršenoj slici, remek-delu koje nikako da stvori. On radi bez sna, često ne jede, zaljubi se i oženi, ali ta prava žena je samo zamena za Ženu koju slika i koja je savršenija od njegove žive supruge, dobije dete koje vidi samo kao prep
Andrei Tamaş
Jun 26, 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.
Jun 07, 2008 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
Gary Inbinder
Jun 16, 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
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
Jason Furman
Aug 14, 2012 Jason Furman 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
Greg Brozeit
Mar 02, 2017 Greg Brozeit rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, zola
I must confess to having somewhat of a schoolboy crush with Zola’s writing. Or more precisely, because of my age, it’s probably more of a compulsive yearning to recapture something I missed in my youth. Surely, if my younger self knew how much his writing would one day mean to me, I would have taken my French studies much more seriously and not abandoned them. As with the other Zola novels I have read, this one starts slowly, almost ponderously, only to hit its stride with a compelling narrative ...more
Ce livre dénote réellement dans la série des Rougon-Macquart; on passe d'un travail de journaliste très poussé à une oeuvre ultra-personnelle (trop)... J'ai été extrêmement déçue, ce livre manque de poésie et les passages sur le processus créatif sont trop rares. J'ai eu l'impression de lire une auto-biographie sur Zola et sa bande de potes. A mon avis, il l'a écrit dans une période de blocage, de stress par rapport à son métier et ça se sent... Néanmoins un très bon livre! De très belles images ...more
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
Mar 27, 2017 Bbrown rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The first five chapters of The Masterpiece are some of the best pieces of Zola I've read (pieces, plural, because Zola's practice of publishing these chapters in serialized form makes itself felt here), but the rest of the book is less interesting and less impactful. I think it's because, while Zola's writing and story structure mask it at first, The Masterpiece eventually reveals itself to be a rather by-the-numbers story of a tortured artist. Strong scenes and imagery, along with Zola's charac ...more
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!

Apr 03, 2017 Abeer rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
الرواية تتميز بأنها تسبر أغوار وعقول فئة خاصة من البشر ، الفنانين والرسامين تحديداً ، تدخلك داخل عالمهم ، صراعاتهم النفسية ، جنوحهم وجنونهم ، مشاعرهم الفياضة ومعاناتهم أثناء عملية الإبداع وخلق الفكرة من رحم الطبيعة أو من وحي الخيال ومن وحي النماذج الإنسانية المحيطة بهم
قصة الحب تبدأ بداية عجيبة وتنتهي نهاية أعجب
هل البطل ضحية أم جاني ، أم ترى أفعاله يتفق وطبيعته كفنان ، لا يخضع لقانون ، يحطم التابوهات ، ما يكاد يصل لهدفه حتى ينقض كل ما بُني ليعاود البدء من جديد ..
وترى ما مصير هذل العمل الفني الر
Karine Mon coin lecture
Feb 04, 2014 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
Feb 12, 2014 Bettie☯ marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: published-1886
Project Gutenberg

Zola by Manet

Opening: CLAUDE was passing in front of the Hotel de Ville, and the clock was striking two o'clock in the morning when the storm burst forth. He had been roaming forgetfully about the Central Markets, during that burning July night, like a loitering artist enamoured of nocturnal Paris. Suddenly the raindrops came down, so large and thick, that he took to his heels and rushed, wildly bewildered, along the Quai de la Greve. But on reaching the Pont Louis Philippe he
Matthew White
May 20, 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
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
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
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 " .
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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  
  • Cousin Pons
  • A Parisian Affair and Other Stories
  • Mademoiselle de Maupin
  • Thérèse Desqueyroux
  • Aphrodite
  • The Temptation of St. Antony
  • Pages from the Goncourt Journals
  • En Route
  • A Balcony in the Forest
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 (Les Rougon-Macquart, #4)
  • 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 Luck (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!” 66 likes
“The past was but the cemetery of our illusions: one simply stubbed one's toes on the gravestones.” 35 likes
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