It’s the start of #ZolaAddiction2019, a month long celebration of the master of literature who put French contemporary society under the spotlight. That might sound rather dull and ‘worthy’ but in fact Emile Zola’s novels contain a high level of sensationalism. It’s impossible to read many of his novels without encountering rather a lot of sex and violence.
To mark the occasion I thought I’d give you a peek at my stack of Zola novels. They are all part of his Rougon-Macquart cycle of twenty novels which features two branches of a family over five generations. One branch are the respectable (ie legitimate) Rougons; the other are disreputable (illegitimate) Macquarts. Through them Zola traces the “environmental” influences of violence, alcohol, and prostitution which became more prevalent during the second wave of the Industrial Revolution.
My first encounter with Monsieur Zola came via Germinal: a stunningly powerful novel about industrial strife in the mining towns of northern France. I’ve read five more of his novels and haven’t yet been disappointed. But Germinal still remains my favourite.
These are the titles I’ve read so far.
I have another six titles in the cycle waiting to be read.
Nana is probably the best known among these titles. It tells the story of Nana Coupeau’s rise from streetwalker to high-class prostitute. Like many of the other titles in this series, it was an instant hit with readers. In 1879, Le Voltaire, the French newspaper, launched a gigantic advertising campaign to highlight its forthcoming publication of the story in instalments. It raised the curiosity of the reading public to a fever pitch. When the novel was published in book form the following year, the first edition of 55,000 copies was sold out in one day.
I try to buy Oxford World Classics editions, published by Oxford University Press, wherever possible. Not only are the covers of the most recent editions, ultra pleasing on the eye but they come with excellent introductions. Sadly not all of the 20 novels are available in these editions. I think in fact there are only four other titles from the OUP so I’m going to have to ration my reading and hope, by the time I get through this half dozen, the powers that be at the OUP will have pulled their fingers out and published some more….
#Zolaaddiction2019 is hosted by FandaClassicLit blog.