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The Belly of Paris (Les Rougon-Macquart #3)

3.9  ·  Rating details ·  3,058 Ratings  ·  249 Reviews
Part of Emile Zola’s multigenerational Rougon-Macquart saga, The Belly of Paris is the story of Florent Quenu, a wrongly accused man who escapes imprisonment on Devil’s Island. Returning to his native Paris, Florent finds a city he barely recognizes, with its working classes displaced to make way for broad boulevards and bourgeois flats. Living with his brother’s family in ...more
ebook, 245 pages
Published May 12th 2009 by Modern Library (first published 1873)
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May 04, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

The cover of this novel should come with a warning. Well, may be not even just a warning, for it should be sold with a calorie counter. I am afraid I may have put on several kilos while reading this. Perhaps it would be advisable to read it while running on the treadmill. The lush descriptions of succulent food could well activate and stimulate the production of a peculiar kind of literary enzymes which multiply by ten the energy provided by ingested food if it has been deliciously described.

Translator's Note
Select Bibliography
A Chronology of Émile Zola

--The Belly of Paris

Explanatory Notes
May 21, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Zola gives us both sides of the famous food markets in Paris, the sublime to the disgusting, and sometimes in the space of one sentence of his flowing prose. The descriptive passages are so visual they are like viewing paintings. At times they seem to almost literally soar: at the start of one chapter I felt as if I were flying above the rooftops of the city. The vendors seem to become what they sell, from fish to flowers. I was reminded of Dickens at several points, and Balzac at another.

As muc
Alice Poon
Jul 03, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

I’m not going to lie: I was on the verge of giving up when I reached Chapter Three. The revolting description of the putrid smells of the Central Markets (present-day Les Halles), while evincing Zola’s extraordinary keen observation of details and his skills with words, was a major turn-off. I think I will avoid eating cheese for a long time to come.

Notwithstanding, I did slog along to reach Chapter Five, whence the action started to pick up steam, and by the time I finished the novel, tears fil
Michael Finocchiaro
Zola leaves us with a timeless description of Les Halles as it was before the current 20y construction mess that it has become. For several centuries, this area in the center of Paris was a thriving marketplace for all Parisians and this novel was a magnificent tribute to the various people that made their living here - both for good and for not so good purposes. It is an unforgettable story and for me perhaps the best book that Zola wrote.
Xenia Germeni
Oct 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Είναι αυτη η πίκρα που μένει ανάμεσα στα λαχανικα, τα λουλουδια, την αθωοτητα, τα ψαρια, τα κρεατα, τα πουλερικα....και τους νικητές Χοντρους και άδικα ηττημένους Αδύνατους...Η ανθρώπινη μικρότητα σε όλο το μεγαλείο της, η πολιτικη, η επανάσταση, το ψεμα...ολα ζωντατευουν για χαρη του αναγνώστη μεσα από ζωντανους ζωγραφικους πινακες λεξεων, "πηγμένους" σε λεπτομέρειες προσωπων, ρουχων, χαρακτήρων, οσμών, γεύσεων, χρωμάτων....τόσο δυνατο που στο τελος μένεις με ένα γιατί...αλλά ακόμη και σήμερα λ ...more
Greg Brozeit
Aug 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, zola
Florent Quenu “espoused an ideal of pure virtue and sought refuge in a world of absolute truth and justice” and “became a republican, entering the realm of republican ideals as girls with broken hearts enter a convent; and unable to find a republic where sufficient peace and kindness prevailed to soothe his troubled mind, he created one of his own.” His delusional, Christ-like (his brother being his only disciple) naiveté feeds and nurtures the petty intrigue of the families who inhabit the Pari ...more
César Lasso
Jun 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
El vientre de París es el hoy desaparecido Mercado Central de París o mercado de Les Halles que se construyó durante el Segundo Imperio francés. El escritor Zola nos lo describe con todo lujo de detalles y profusión de productos. Las verduleras, pescaderas, salchicheras, etc. son protagonistas absolutas junto con los innumerables artículos que venden. Parece que Francia en el momento de la trama atravesaba una ola de prosperidad burguesa. Es el triunfo de la comida, de las digestiones pesadas, d ...more
May 10, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Belly of Paris is an unusual literary feat, a seeming polemic with a virtually hidden message. In prose that describes the food markets of the city in glorious (and sometimes squalid) detail, Zola introduces us to this specialized world that feeds the rich and poor of the capital city. These descriptions are beautifully written and even the squalid details are often metaphorically lovely.

Beneath that surface, however, is the battle of the "Fats" and "Thins" (also an alternate title of the b
Luís C.
Aug 30, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I quote:

“…… these precious colours, toned and softened by the waves—the iridescent flesh-tints of the shell-fish, the opal of the whiting, the pearly nacre of the mackerel, the ruddy gold of the mullets, the plated skins of the herrings, and the massive silver of the salmon. It was as though the jewel-cases of some sea-nymph had been emptied there—a mass of fantastical, undreamt-of ornaments, a streaming and heaping of necklaces, monstrous bracelets, gigantic brooches, barbaric gems and jewels,
Feb 22, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
(first of all, this cover is CRAP)

I wrote some of my thesis about this book (!!!), in part on the imagery of smells in the sections describing Les Halles (Parisian central marketplace built in the mid-19th century). Zola writes incredible, wonderful, sometimes overpoweringly detailed and evocative portraits of the market goods, from silvery fish to pungent cheeses to flowers to fruit to meat to...there is a lot. In contrast with the main character Florent's physical/emotional leanness and consta
Aug 05, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The more Zola I read the more I just simply love his stories.I am seriously contemplating reading them in French just to see what its like in the original language.This 3rd installment of 20 in the Rougon-Macquart family saga.His descriptiveness reaches new heights in this book.I felt I was walking through "Les Halles" market with every sentence I read.This is what classic literature is all about.
Ce Ce
Apr 17, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

Paintbrush with oil paint on a classical palette, Hedda Gjerpen

Also known as 'The Fat and the Thin'*

Zola painted in words the Paris food market of Les Halles in the mid 19th century. I found his eloquent passages intoxicating...lapping them up like a purring cat with a bowl of cream...(oh, oh...that skews me to the chubby side)! I felt I was the paint at the end of the brush...lush & creamy...enjoying each stroke no matter what was being rendered whether it could be labeled ugly or beautiful
May 10, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: pork lovers
Shelves: kool-imports
A tale of two brothers: a revolutionary escaped from prison and his simpleton brother who blissfully butchers meat. Which one benefits the public more, the political martyr or the epicurean? That's the question Emile Zola poses in "The Belly of Paris", an outrageous, disturbing satire.

The showstopper of the book, however, is Florent’s recollection of escaping Devil’s Island told in a hot, suffocating basement while blood sausages are being made, to a small child in fairy tale fashion but soundin
Jul 22, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 1800s
How do I begin to describe the feelings this book left me…. *BURP*
I felt as though I gorged myself on 100 pounds of chocolate bacon and swallowed it down with 10 gallons of SICKLY sweet wine and afterwards swallowed an entire Tiramisu cake in one bite. It left me feeling fully satiated and yet I am still starving to discover more about the mysterious world of Old Paris.
I had to work at finishing this novel, as I felt my belly was full to the brim of descriptions of food and yet I couldn’t peel
Nov 11, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: france
Emile Zola’s The Belly of Paris is the third novel of his epic Les Rougon-Macquart cycle. I thought long about how best to sum up the novel, but concluded Brian Nelson’s excellent introduction could not be surpassed. He wrote:

"…The Belly of Paris (has) a high degree of ideological ambiguity. There is no equivocation, however, in Zola’s satirical critique of the bourgeoisie and the ‘high’ capitalism of the Second Empire. The last words of the novel – Claude’s exclamation ‘Respectable people…What
Cristina Ermac
Jan 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Prima carte finisata in acest an, a doua mea intalnire cu Zola. Sunt carti pe care le indragesti pentru continut, pentru emoțiile care ti le trezesc sau pentru deznodământul neasteptat. Si sunt carti, autorii cărora te vrajesc prin stilul lor nemaipomenit de frumos de a scrie. Cărțile lui Zola, cel putin pentru mine, fac parte din a doua categorie. Sunt acele carti pentru care am nevoie de liniste si o atmosfera ambianta ca sa le citesc si sa pot sa le savurez din plin.
In viziunea mea, Zola, e
BAM The Bibliomaniac
Otherwise titled "Obsessed with Vegetables"

Zola proves his point that there is a great divide between the high and low status quo through the discussion of food and its mongers. French society seems to have always been based on cuisine. The era of the French Revolution is no different. What's stunning is the grade of filth, rot, and stench related to it. Poor health, fetid atmosphere, mangy animals are all consequences. Politics, of course, are discussed over evening soup. "Scum dislike the emp
Dec 24, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Omnivores
Shelves: cuisine, france, zola

Zola seems to have borrowed a kind of effect, from poetry, with this effort: there are large technicolor blocks of description here, monumental scenic prose-backdrops, illustrated right down to the feel of the grit on the sidewalk. Sense of place is everything here. There is barely room to wedge the particulars of character and story into the gaps between atmosphere & scene... And like the painters of his era, he's also intrigued at the gradations wrought by time of day and weather change; a
Jul 25, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Pauvre Florent. A falsely accused escapee from French Guiana arrives home a much changed man - to a much changed Paris. It's Zola's third book and easy to see how this laid the foundation for his future works of art. While this book in no way compares to Nana, L'Assomoir, Germinal, or his other masterpieces, it is loaded with wonderful symbolism related to food and justice. Les Halles itself represents the gastronomic center of Europe, therefore the world. A character's description of local resi ...more
ebox readoncomp. 'Sumatra reader' does not allow copy/paste/highlighting *sob*

This story of the fat and the thin opens with:

THROUGH the deep silence of the desrted avenue, the carts made their way towards Paris, the rythmic jolting of the wheels echoing against the sleeping fronts of the houses on both sides of the road, behind the dim shapes of elms.

- Florent - the down and out found on the road
- Balthasar - the horse that didn't trample him
- Madame Francois - the owner of the horse that didn't
Erma Odrach
Aug 14, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I love Zola because he's always so much a part of his time, and so ready to describe life in Paris, and with such detail!

When innocent Florent Quenu escapes from prison on Devil's Island, he returns to his native Paris, to Les Halles marketplace, where the poor, downtrodden struggle to survive.

From page one, the reader feels as if he/she is right there in the heart of it all, smelling, tasting, hearing all that the mid-19th Century marketplace has to offer. The pictures are quite vivid, "
Paul Servini
Il faut lire ce livre des yeux et non de l'esprit. C'est un magnifique tableau impressionniste de la vie quotidienne des Halles. Mais en tant que roman il laisse à désirer à mon avis. L'intrigue est assez plat, et les personnages n'évoluent guère à travers le livre. Mais, et il faut le dire et le redire, la qualité des description est inégalée.

This book should be read with the eyes and not with the mind. It is a magnificent, impressionist picture of daily life in 'Les Halles'. But as a novel, I
Feb 01, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics
"Respectable people... what bastards!"
lyell bark
Apr 21, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
i as a huge fat slob appreciate a fat positive novel in these fat-shaming times.
I was so happy to finish this piece of Zola's Rougon-Macquart epic as quickly as I usually tear through his books, especially because I'm having so much trouble getting through La Fortune des Rougon. This is no l'Assommoir or Nana, but Le Ventre de Paris falls nicely in place within the series, almost as an aside. It's almost as if this book's purpose was to let Zola stretch his wings as nothing more than a typical novelist, a break from the intense tragedies he usually describes so vividly, a s ...more
Aug 29, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: dnf, audio, overdrive
This book had too much description for me. A lot if it read like the recitation of an inventory of a food market. I was a third of the way in and there still wasn't a plot, so I gave up.
Elizabeth (Alaska)
The story Zola offers us is a good one. The primary character, Florent, is a very sympathetic one, and I feared for him right from the start. By the midpoint, I had devised a hoped for outcome. I'll not tell you whether my fears were realized or my hopes for him fulfilled.

Zola's main English translator from Victorian times was Henry Vizetelly, whose son, Ernest Alfred Vizetelly, also enhanced or reworked many of his father's translations. I've been fine with the Vizetelly translations when that
Dec 20, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The main character of this book, Florent – a man who was deported during the days that followed Louis-Napoléon's coup – who returns (illegally) to Paris after some years in exile, does not belong to the Rougon-Macquart family. But his sister-in-law, Lisa, is. When he gets to the capital he goes to Les Halles, a new and gigantic market, where his brother who has become a butcher and has a shop with his wife. They soon try to accomodate him to a confortable life-style and try to make him gain weig ...more
Deborah Pickstone
Fabulously descriptive and evocative of the markets whether describing the revolting or the luscious. Not a book to read when hungry as there is so much glorious food involved! Ultimately a parable on the relative value of different roles to society - and the values perceived by the author do not correspond to the ascribed values society actually bestows.
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All About Books: The Belly of Paris by Émile Zola (Gill, LauraT, Jenny) 34 42 Sep 29, 2013 05:41AM  
Zola 7 42 Jan 19, 2013 05:26AM  
  • La Bonne Table
  • The Kitchen and the Cook
  • Between Meals: An Appetite for Paris
  • A Harlot High and Low
  • The Gods Will Have Blood
  • Pages from the Goncourt Journals
  • Thérèse Desqueyroux
  • The Mysteries of Paris
  • The Whole Beast: Nose to Tail Eating
  • La confession d'un enfant du siècle
  • Salammbô
  • Lucien Leuwen
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)
  • 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 Luck (Les Rougon-Macquart, #10)
  • The Ladies' Paradise (Les Rougon-Macquart, #11)
“Respectable people... What bastards!” 53 likes
“A silence fell at the mention of Gavard. They all looked at each other cautiously. As they were all rather short of breath by this time, it was the camembert they could smell. This cheese, with its gamy odour, had overpowered the milder smells of the marolles and the limbourg; its power was remarkable. Every now and then, however, a slight whiff, a flute-like note, came from the parmesan, while the bries came into play with their soft, musty smell, the gentle sound, so to speak, of a damp tambourine. The livarot launched into an overwhelming reprise, and the géromé kept up the symphony with a sustained high note.” 7 likes
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