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Favourite Authors > Émile Zola

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message 1: by Nigeyb (new)

Nigeyb | 8561 comments Mod
A thread to discuss the life and work of Émile Zola


message 2: by Nigeyb (new)

Nigeyb | 8561 comments Mod
Chrissie wrote: "I am now reaching the end of Germinal and my, it is exciting. Not surprised this has been filmed several times..."

I've never read any Zola that I can remember however I have been drawn to one of the film adaptations of Germinal but, again, never seen it


message 3: by Nigeyb (last edited May 10, 2020 11:06PM) (new)

Nigeyb | 8561 comments Mod
Elizabeth (Alaska) wrote: "Do October and November work for you? L'Assomoir followed by Nana?"

Roman Clodia wrote: "Sounds perfect. I've been reading so many modern/contemporary books, It'll be good to do some Zola."

Off to investigate..

L'Assomoir

and

Nana


message 4: by Jonathan (new)

Jonathan | 15 comments Zola is one of my favourite authors. You can't go wrong with the ones mentioned so far. If you're just starting out it's best to read the well-known ones or the ones you're drawn to. All the Rougon-Macquart novels now have modern translations. Best to avoid any freebie editions as they'll be the older Victorian translations - some were censored.


Elizabeth (Alaska) Zola's 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.




message 6: by Chrissie (last edited May 11, 2020 12:44AM) (new)

Chrissie | 1431 comments Thanks for the thread, Nigeyb. I have not seen any of the films, but I do recommend the book.


message 7: by Nigeyb (new)

Nigeyb | 8561 comments Mod
Thanks to you Chrissie - I like the sound of the book


message 8: by Nigeyb (new)

Nigeyb | 8561 comments Mod
Elizabeth (Alaska) wrote: "Do October and November work for you? L'Assomoir followed by Nana?"

Roman Clodia wrote: "Sounds perfect. I've been reading so many modern/contemporary books, It'll be good to do some Zola."

I've set up discussion threads for both books. I've left them unlocked so you can contribute as soon as you get to them

Looking forward to reading your musings, and possibly joining in too


message 9: by Susan (new)

Susan | 9074 comments Mod
Just out of interest, are you reading the books in order? Does it matter? I have read any Zola, although, of course, he has long lingered in my 'to be read at some point,' list of books.


message 10: by Roman Clodia (new)

Roman Clodia | 4190 comments Mod
There are actually two orders of the Rougon-Macquart series: one is the published order, and the other is Zola's suggested reading order which he noted in the preface of one of the earlier books.

The issue is that the 'best' books, and the best known, aren't necessarily the earlier ones, some of which are quite slight. When I started the series from the beginning a year or two back, I was a little disappointed in comparison with some of the 'big' books which I'd already read.

I'd say it's fine to dip in and out but that it's fun to get to grips with the family tree (on wiki, I seem to recall) as there are interesting relationships: though Zola's straightforward view of hereditary qualities is old-fashioned now.

I've been reading Zola since school (we did a book of his short stories for A level) so am surprisingly behind on getting through his books! Good to hear there might be more interest in the buddy reads from you lovely people!


message 11: by Susan (new)

Susan | 9074 comments Mod
I'll have a look. I would probably go by the published order, I think. That was how original readers came across them.


message 12: by Roman Clodia (new)

Roman Clodia | 4190 comments Mod
It would be interesting to see what Elizabeth thinks as she's read the whole series.

I rated a couple of the earlier books (1st: The Fortune of the Rougons, 2nd: His Excellency Eugène Rougon) as only 3-stars, whereas some of the later ones are 4- and 5-stars.

I know this is one of your 'things', Susan, about reading in order but it's not that there are overarching stories that carry across books, it's just that the Rougon-Macquart are a large, spreading, multigenerational family who represent a cross-class view of France. I'd be worried that reading the not-great books might put you off reading the brilliant ones.

One thing I'd add is that Zola's books are so different in tone: something like La Bête Humaine is a creepy foreshadowing of sexual serial killer thrillers (but better!) while Thérèse Raquin (not part of the Rougon-Macquart series) is closer to Crime and Punishment or even Macbeth.

Just some thoughts :)


Elizabeth (Alaska) As to order of reading ... (and this turned into a longer post than I thought it would, and I apologize.)

I first read L'Assommoir, Nana, and The Ladies Paradise in that order. I did not know how taken I would be and it was after reading these that I decided to read the series. So, if you don't plan to read all 20, it probably doesn't matter which you read when. All of the novels are standalone.

I believe it was not Zola, but Vizatelly who published the recommended reading order. I don't recall if it was due to a conversation between them. We can fault Vizatelly for some poor translations that took place for a Victorian audience, but he did make Zola available in English for the first time. I'll look forward to more recent translations - I understand Zola can get rather racy, and Vizatelly *was* translating for a Victorian audience.

As I read it in the recommended order, I don't know how reading in the published order would have affected my experience. I honestly think Zola wrote the stories as his imagination was able to work, but I also think he didn't skip around a lot.

I just looked at the two reading orders, and the important admonitions (below) are kept in both. I'll just say that I think the continuity of the novels is better represented and more easily understood with the recommended order. I see a couple of later entries in the original published order that if you haven't taken notes, or your memory isn't sterling (and mine no longer is), you might lose some context.

Keep in mind this is a family saga and the relationships of the characters are intertwined throughout. I think these are the exceptions to not paying attention to any order:

L'Assomoir should really be read before Nana. I got lucky - I think I would have missed some context in Nana without having done so.

Pot Bouille (or Pot Luck) should really be read before The Ladies Paradise. I was a bit disappointed when I read Pot Bouille because I sort of knew how it turned out.

Absolutely, positively do not read Dr. Pascal until you know for certain you will not read any other of the series. This is Zola's conclusion. There are not a *lot* of spoilers of the earlier novels, but there are some. Also, context would be entirely lost and this novel would lose a lot.


message 14: by Roman Clodia (new)

Roman Clodia | 4190 comments Mod
Thanks Elizabeth, very interesting. And now you've said it, it sounds familiar that it was Vizatelly who put together the recommended reading order, not Zola as I said above.

Worth noting that I read Nana (twice) without having read L'Assommoir. Looking forward to doing them right this time!


Elizabeth (Alaska) I'm glad you want to read those in particular, RC, and with a more modern translation. Vizatelly must have had a hard time presenting Nana to the Victorians and getting by the censors.


message 16: by Roman Clodia (new)

Roman Clodia | 4190 comments Mod
For sure! I've found a free French edition of L'Assommoir, hope to find the same for Nana so I can switch between French and English.


Elizabeth (Alaska) Roman Clodia wrote: "For sure! I've found a free French edition of L'Assommoir, hope to find the same for Nana so I can switch between French and English."

Oh, I'm so jealous. But your doing so will make the discussion that much more interesting!


message 18: by Chrissie (new)

Chrissie | 1431 comments I just finished this---Germinal by Émile Zola. I really, really liked it.

My review. https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...


message 19: by Nigeyb (new)

Nigeyb | 8561 comments Mod
Germinal sounds splendid


message 20: by Chrissie (new)

Chrissie | 1431 comments It is!


message 21: by Chrissie (last edited May 27, 2020 09:50AM) (new)

Chrissie | 1431 comments At the moment I am crazy about the author Émile Zola. This month I have read two of his and both I have given four stars. Years ago I read the wrong one. This got me off track. Nana was not a winner for me.

My review of The Masterpiece: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...

After immediately closing one book by Émile Zola, I have picked up another, this time it's The Drinking Den / L'Assommoir.


message 22: by Chrissie (last edited May 29, 2020 08:20PM) (new)

Chrissie | 1431 comments Another Zola for me. This time it has been The Drinking Den / L'Assommoir

My review: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...

I have preferred the two I read earlier this month more.


Elizabeth (Alaska) Chrissie wrote: "Another Zola for me. This time it has been The Drinking Den / L'Assommoir"

This is our October buddy read, followed in November by another you didn't especially like, Nana.


message 24: by Chrissie (new)

Chrissie | 1431 comments Elizabeth, I know.


Elizabeth (Alaska) Several years ago when I was reading the series, I started reading Frederick Brown's biography, Zola: A Life. I didn't get too far into it. It is long and I decided to spend my reading time in other ways. I'm thinking about picking it up again. You all have gotten me interested in Zola again.


message 26: by Chrissie (new)

Chrissie | 1431 comments Ages a g I considered that. A friend told me that despite its being lengthy, it still managed to miss important stuff. Good luck, people have different opinions, I hope you like it! You can mention here the interesting tidbits you discover.


Elizabeth (Alaska) As I didn't get too far in the biography before I set it aside for a time when I would be more motivated in reading it, I have only gotten through the same pages read 6 years ago. I was reminded, however, that Zola was orphaned at age 7, his father leaving his family in near poverty. Zola's father was an engineer working on a canal project. It was finished after his death.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zola_Dam

Zola was able to attend a school, but perhaps not a very good one. He was one of the scholars while most of the other boys were there putting in time. Those dullards bullied Zola, not only for his brains, but also because he was so abjectly poor, being able to attend because of a scholarship his mother begged for at the hands of the council at Aix en Provence. But scholars will recognize others of similar ability. Zola, the artist Paul Cezanne and Jean-Baptiste Baille. who became a professor of optics and acoustics, were all scholars and they formed a strong friendship, becoming known as The Three Inseparables. In a knapsack when they went into the mountains to play and explore was always a book by Victor Hugo.

I'm not sure boys today take a book with them when they go outside to play and explore - those boys who live where such can be done. But if they did, I wondered who they would take with them. I'm not conversant with boys adventure novels, so all I could think of was Jules Verne, but surely there are others more recent.


message 28: by Roman Clodia (new)

Roman Clodia | 4190 comments Mod
Harry Potter? Anthony Horowitz? David Walliams? I've only recently read my first Jules Verne (Around the World in Eighty Days) and it did feel like a different world!

That's very interesting about Zola - I knew he was friends with Cezanne but I never realised they'd been at school together.


message 29: by Elizabeth (Alaska) (last edited Jun 06, 2020 09:27AM) (new)

Elizabeth (Alaska) Oh, Harry Potter, of course! There is also a series about Greek mythology that is probably popular with younger boys (8-10?)

EDIT: Percy Jackson and the Olympians


Elizabeth (Alaska) I seem to remember reading that Zola and Cezanne had a falling out later in life. Or it may be faulty memory. I'm looking forward to getting out of childhood and into adulthood and his writing.

At the beginning of this is a lengthy chronology. I read the first parts of it and then decided to wait and allow the biography to tell me things. I may refer back to it, though.


message 31: by Chrissie (last edited Jun 07, 2020 09:02AM) (new)

Chrissie | 1431 comments Elizabeth (Alaska) wrote: "I seem to remember reading that Zola and Cezanne had a falling out later in life. Or it may be faulty memory..."

You remember correctly! Cezanne and Zola's friendship waned after Zola wrote The Masterpiece--based at least to some extent on Cézanne.


message 32: by Elizabeth (Alaska) (last edited Jun 11, 2020 03:51PM) (new)

Elizabeth (Alaska) When Zola and his mother left Aix-en-Provence for Paris, Emile attended a Lycee. But somehow his attention was distracted and he failed his baccalaureate, both in science and in literature.

They encountered very difficult economic times. They pawned quite a lot of things, including some clothes. They moved rather frequently into increasingly smaller and more squalid accommodations. They were nearly out on the street, but managed to keep a roof over their heads. Hunger was always a problem and Emile was occasionally ill because of it.

Emile did work as a clerk for the Customs House for 3 weeks, leaving because he was bored. He had trouble getting another clerkship because he was not a French citizen. (Though his mother was French, his father was italian.) Finally, in 1861, at the age of 21, he was granted French citizenship. Still, they endured hard times for a bit, but eventually he was helped by a family friend and he landed a job at the Libraire Hachette in 1862. This is the same large publishing house of France that exists today, and will be celebrating their 200th Anniversary in a few years, having started business in 1826.

Hachette even then was the largest publisher in France. Zola started there by packing books in boxes, but was soon moved "upstairs" into a clerkship and before long was the manager of advertising. I think that was in 1865. Before becoming ad manager, Zola made many contacts with newspaper publishers and publishers of journals (including art journals) and he became known and respected among these people who were to become important to his future. He began writing articles and they were happy to publish them.


message 33: by Roman Clodia (new)

Roman Clodia | 4190 comments Mod
Gosh, I realise that I know nothing about Zola's life, apart from the J'accuse incident. Keep these updates coming, Elizabeth!


message 34: by Chrissie (new)

Chrissie | 1431 comments Elizabeth, I appreciate your information too. In the beginning of books they often have introductions with biographical information. There was a lengthy one in the one I am reading now--The Bright Side of Life. You information is better! Boy, the title of this one must be interpreted with irony. He started writing it after Nana--he wanted something cheerful. He wanted a book with fewer characters. Then his mother died and the book got put aside. He wrote two others before he got back to completing TBSOL. It is not happy; he was still trying to cope with his mother's death and his own fear of death.

His belief that one's heredity influences behavior is in my view pushed a bit far here. One minute Pauline is calm and kind and wonderful, TOO wonderful, then all of a sudden she is caught up in an evil frenzy when inherited behavioral traits supposedly take hold. This feels exaggerated. Bi-polar????????????? In any case its not well done.

And the book feels at times too long and drawn out.


message 35: by Chrissie (new)

Chrissie | 1431 comments Elizabeth, does the book you are reading speak of his relationship with his Mom? Strong? Ambivalent? Or maybe we don't really know?


message 36: by Roman Clodia (new)

Roman Clodia | 4190 comments Mod
I have The Bright Side of Life, Chrissie - the blurb sounds un-Zolalike so I appreciate your comments.

Yes, the inheritance 'science' doesn't stand up today, but the Rougon-Macquart family tree is fascinating.


message 37: by Chrissie (new)

Chrissie | 1431 comments RC, I like and don't like aspects of this! The fury, the power of the sea is wonderfully drawn. Then Zola goes a bit too far when during a violent storm the villagers are happy (view spoiler)! This shows that the young Lazare's futile attempt to combat the sea is stupid. It is reasonable that they look down on him, but realistically they also would be devastated by the destruction.

I read and think--this I like, but this I don't like!


message 38: by Elizabeth (Alaska) (last edited Jun 12, 2020 06:13AM) (new)

Elizabeth (Alaska) The translated title of the edition I read of your current read, Chrissie, was The Joy of Life. That title is simply dripping with sarcasm.


message 39: by Chrissie (new)

Chrissie | 1431 comments Elizabeth, but only by reading the book does one become aware of the irony. It is not visible in the title itself.


message 40: by Elizabeth (Alaska) (last edited Jun 12, 2020 07:51AM) (new)

Elizabeth (Alaska) Claude's Confession was Zola's first novel. I seem to have written as much in my review as I intended to say here, that it is semi-autobiographical and that it was so racy that Zola lost his job with Hachette.

In reading this section of the biography, I learned that Flaubert was charged with obscenity over Madame Bovary. Apparently he was acquitted. They tried to make the same obscenity charge against Zola, but nothing came of it. A judge determined that Zola was trying to warn young men against the lifestyle described in Claude. (Really? I don't remember any such warning ...)


Elizabeth (Alaska) Chrissie wrote: "Elizabeth, but only by reading the book does one become aware of the irony. It is not visible in the title itself."

Perhaps not, but I think one should not expect any joy with Zola. Nor with Balzac, for that matter.


message 42: by Chrissie (new)

Chrissie | 1431 comments Yeah, exactly. My point is only that for the uninitiated the title is misleading.


message 43: by Chrissie (last edited Jun 12, 2020 09:13AM) (new)

Chrissie | 1431 comments The birth scene in The Bright Side of Life is detailed, protracted. Phew! Do you remember this, Elizabeth? Here is a perfect example of Zola being a naturalist and realist.


Elizabeth (Alaska) Chrissie wrote: "The birth scene in The Bright Side of Life is detailed, protracted. Phew! Do you remember this, Elizabeth? Here is a perfect example of Zola being a naturalist and realist."

No, I don't remember that. And I've just looked at the description and my review and it still doesn't ring a bell. I read a very early Victorian translation, but surely something so important would not have been left out. This wasn't my absolute least favorite of the series, but it is nowhere near the top either.


message 45: by Roman Clodia (last edited Jun 12, 2020 09:28AM) (new)

Roman Clodia | 4190 comments Mod
Maybe it was expurgated in the Victorian edition if it was that detailed? I have the new Oxford translation, must get to it soon.

I wondered that if Madame Bovary was prosecuted for obscenity, what about Nana? Even La Bete Humaine from what I remember.


message 46: by Elizabeth (Alaska) (last edited Jun 12, 2020 09:37AM) (new)

Elizabeth (Alaska) Roman Clodia wrote: "I wondered that if Madame Bovary was prosecuted for obscenity, what about Nana? Even La Bete Humaine from what I remember."

Those were published after the fall of Napoleon III. I think the obscenity thing was during his reign. I have already read in the biography that he started having trouble about 1866 even though he wasn't ousted until 1870.


message 47: by Chrissie (last edited Jun 12, 2020 12:00PM) (new)

Chrissie | 1431 comments I cannot imagine that the birth episode could be removed. It's long, detailed with medical background material and is both well and movingly written. It is right near the end. I particularly like the last quarter of the book. The reality of life is not deviated from. You are given a realistic view of life, life as it really is. At the same time, all is not black-- Pauline adds a shimmer of light.


message 48: by Jonathan (new)

Jonathan | 15 comments Chrissie wrote: "I cannot imagine that the birth episode could be removed. It's long, detailed with medical background material and is both well and movingly written. It is right near the end. I particularly like t..."

The birth scene in Joie de Vivre (Chapter 10 I believe) is astonishing Chrissie, I agree. But it was too much for the Victorian audience, or so the protectors of morality decided, and so it was cut from the Victorian version. I imagine it's in the new OUP translation, it was in the Elek books version (from the '50s) that I read. If you're interested here's a blog post that I wrote on the topic a few years ago. The chapter can be read on its own in my opinion, it's so powerful. Ever since the new translation came out I've intended to re-read the book.

But don't be too hard on the translators, the Vizetelleys, who went to prison, paid fines etc. just to bring Zola to the attention of the British reading public. A fascinating book on the subject, Zola and the Victorians Censorship in the Age of Hypocrisy by Eileen Horne , was published a few years ago,


Elizabeth (Alaska) Jonathan wrote: "But don't be too hard on the translators, the Vizetelleys, who went to prison, paid fines etc. just to bring Zola to the attention of the British reading public. A fascinating book on the subject, Zola and the Victorians Censorship in the Age of Hypocrisy by Eileen Horne , was published a few years ago,."

Thanks for this, Jonathan. Have added it to my over-burdened wish list.


message 50: by Chrissie (new)

Chrissie | 1431 comments Jonathan wrote: "Chrissie wrote: "I cannot imagine that the birth episode could be removed. It's long, detailed with medical background material and is both well and movingly written. It is right near the end. I pa..."

Jonathan, thank you! This explains why Elizabeth did not remember it! Who would have thought they cut that?! It's marvelous. Thanks for the link and the added information.


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