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La Bête humaine (Les Rougon-Macquart #17)

4.05  ·  Rating details ·  6,850 Ratings  ·  252 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)
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Steven  Godin
Nov 05, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
After well over a century, Emile Zola still retains the power to absorb readers with his 'Les Rougon-Macquart' series of novels. This, regarded as one of his finest achievements is a tale full of rage that studies the dark haunting impressionistic nature of man's slow corruption by jealousy. Set against the backdrop of the industrial revolution, the story is set in the world of the railways. A lot of the main action takes place either on trains, or close by to the tracks, there is murder, passio ...more
"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."

So that trace of sanity is what made the public consider her mad. You can open Zola at a random page and find deep knowledge of the human machinery.

Since I finished Crime and Punishment, I have been meditating on La Bête Humaine over and over. I used to consider Jacques Lantier the most evil character imaginable: the incarnation of Death. After all, his emot
Alienor ✘ French Frowner ✘

Fail. After spending 3 hours trying to decipher if the story was meant to be that misogynic or if it was only the sad expression of the 19th Century, I decided that I did not care whatsoever. My diminished reading time is way too precious to be spent hating every male character in there while being annoyed by the way women are portrayed.

DNF as soon as I felt like I was supposed to feel sorry for that abusive jerk. Not happening. Zola relies way too much on telling rather than showing to pull th
Sep 10, 2012 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
Luís C.
Jacques Lantier, a train driver, attends the crime of the president of the railway company, Grandmorin.
The crime is committed by Roubaud, a Deputy Chief of station and Séverine, his wife. It's a crime of revenge to punish this character of abusing Severine since his childhood.
Jacques decided to shut up. Séverine and him fall in love.
But Jacques is inhabited by deadly impulses due to a heavy alcoholic heredity.
This one is passionate about his craft and he described his "La Lison" locomotive a
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
Note on the Translation
Select Bibliography

--La Bête Humaine

Explanatory Notes
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
Nov 08, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favoritos, my-bib
Émile Zola fazia parte da minha lista de leituras há muitos anos, mas só em 2014 li o primeiro deles - Naná. A partir daí todos os que li me pareceram melhores, todos se tornaram inesquecíveis, e A Besta Humana é, sem dúvida, o melhor de todos eles.
E no entanto, é uma história tenebrosa; tão crua, tão brutal, tão avassaladora! É um livro que nunca mais se esquece, que choca por revelar o Ser humano nas suas piores vertentes.
Aqui não há inocentes, todos são culpados; da inveja, da ganância, do ci
“Da mesi, lesinando sugli scrupoli dell’educazione e sulle idee di umanità lentamente acquisite e trasmesse, non era riuscito ad aspettare quell’uomo; e in dispregio del proprio interesse era stato trascinato dalla violenza ereditaria, da quel bisogno di uccidere che nelle primitive foreste gettava la bestia contro la bestia. Si uccide forse ragionando? Si uccide solo sotto l’impulso del sangue e dei nervi, un avanzo delle antiche lotte, la necessità di vivere e la gioia di essere forte “

Teresa Proença
"De um clássico toda a releitura é uma leitura de descoberta igual à primeira."
Italo Calvino

Li A Besta Humana quando tinha vinte e poucos anos e apaixonei-me por Emílio Zola. Na altura, li tudo o que encontrei dele (anos depois comprei mais alguns livros mas, não sei porquê, não os li). Sempre que apanhava algum potencial leitor a jeito impingia-lhe A Besta Humana, que foi tão lido que o meu primeiro exemplar está que parece um baralho de cartas (entretanto já comprei mais dois).
Agora, voltei a
Oct 06, 2009 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
Dec 29, 2010 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 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
Oct 24, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013, whatthe-hell
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
Jan 10, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016, french
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
Feb 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Hayvanlaşan İnsan, psikolojik romanın (ve hatta, kimi yönleriyle psikolojik gerilimin) öncülerinden biri sayılabilir. Zola, bu olgunluk dönemi başyapıtında, sadece toplumsal gerçekliği ve acımasız modern hayatı tüm yönleriyle kuşatmakla kalmıyor, derinlerdeki psikolojik gerçekliğe de dokunuyor. Roman boyunca, trenlerin mekanik mükemmelliğiyle yarış halinde, insan zaaflarının, karanlık içgüdülerin geçit töreni yaptığını görüyoruz. Sevme tutkusuyla yok etme tutkusunun iç içe geçtiği, her bir karak ...more
Apr 20, 2009 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
Teresa Proença
"De um clássico toda a releitura é uma leitura de descoberta igual à primeira."
Italo Calvino

Li A Besta Humana quando tinha vinte e poucos anos e apaixonei-me por Emílio Zola. Na altura, li tudo o que encontrei dele (anos depois comprei mais alguns livros mas, não sei porquê, não os li). Sempre que apanhava algum potencial leitor a jeito impingia-lhe A Besta Humana, que foi tão lido que o meu primeiro exemplar está que parece um baralho de cartas (entretanto já comprei mais dois).
Agora, voltei a
Jun 18, 2015 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
Sep 19, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, french
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.
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
Jun 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics
Zola se u svom serijalu Rugon-Makarovi bavi pitanjem uticaja genetike i nasleđa na karakter pojedinca i ne mogu da zamislim bolji roman od ovoga koji predstavlja naturalizam u književnosti. U prevodu, Zola ovim potvrđuje da u svađi "isti si otac" i "takva je bila i tvoja baba-tetka" zaista mogu imati smisla.

Žak je naizgled mirni mašinovođa koji u svakom dodiru sa ženom, pogotovo u naletu strasti ili bliskosti, oseća duboku telesnu potrebu da ubije. Opisi njegove poremećenosti su realni toliko da
Écouté en livre audio, merveilleusement lu par Éric Herson-Macarel.

Un roman intense, rempli de noirceur, qui interroge l'hérédité et la nature humaine. La plume riche et précise de Zola est toujours un plaisir.

J'ai toutefois trouvé l'intrigue assez longuette, surtout que je ne me suis absolument pas attachée aux personnages (aucun d'entre eux, même pas un petit peu, c'est fort quand même !). Je n'ai pas non plus été très sensible aux thèmes abordés – je crois que la période du développement indu
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
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
Feb 20, 2008 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
Rosa Ramôa
Apr 02, 2014 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”
Karine Mon coin lecture
Ouf... Un roman très dur, encore, qui ne donne pas une image très glorieuse de la nature humaine. Mais c'est Zola...
Jun 26, 2012 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
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  • Pierre et Jean
  • Bouvard and Pecuchet
  • The Chouans
  • Rameau's Nephew / D'Alembert's Dream
  • L'Abbé C
  • Albigenses
  • La mare au diable
  • Fantômas (Fantômas, #1)
  • The Princesse de Clèves
  • Manon des Sources
  • The Gods Will Have Blood
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 Luck (Les Rougon-Macquart, #10)

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“Don't go looking at me like that because you'll wear your eyes out.” 48 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…