L'Assommoir (1877) is the seventh novel in Émile Zola's twenty-volume series Les Rougon-Macquart. Usually considered one of Zola's masterpieces, the novel-a harsh and uncompromising study of alcoholism and poverty in the working-class districts of Paris-was a huge commercial success and established Zola's fame and reputation throughout France and the world.
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About the Author
Émile Édouard Charles Antoine Zola (1840 - 1902) was a French novelist, playwright, journalist, the best-known practitioner of the literary school of naturalism and an important contributor to the development of theatrical naturalism. He was a major figure in the political liberalization of France and in the exoneration of the falsely accused and convicted army officer Alfred Dreyfus, which is encapsulated in the renowned newspaper headline J'accuse. Zola was nominated for the first and second Nobel Prize in Literature in 1901 and 1902.
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L' Assommoir based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Why there has never been a Hollywood movie made of this Emile Zola novel is a real head-scratcher. It may just be because L'Assommoir is not as well-known as other classics, as well as having a tricky-to-translate title. (The best one I've heard is "The Boozer," as the word in French means both a place to drink and a person who drinks.) For heart-wrenching tragedy it may surpass even Les Miserables, but with a female protagonist. Be prepared: it's not exactly uplifting, but the sheer realism is as gripping as it is horrifying. Nana may be more read by students, but L'Assommoir is a prequel of sorts. Nana appears here as a child, and later as a young woman, so you'll learn some of her back story. Zola deserves a much larger audience than he has, and his style is more readable than many would suspect. Choose this for a book club --especially one of women's interest-- and be prepared for it to knock your socks off in ways most modern novels can't touch.
The theme of ¿L¿Assommoir¿ is the destructive influence of alcoholism; the title was a colloquial term in 19th century Paris referring to a shop selling cheap liquor distilled on its premises.When it was published, the book was controversial all around: it wasn¿t clear to his contemporaries whether Zola was a socialist or whether he had painted so unflattering a picture of the working class that he was providing conservatives with evidence that they were unfit to vote. Zola may have presented the darker sides of human nature and could be accused of exaggerating, but his goal was to present life as it is, stating that this was ¿the first novel about the common people that does not lie¿. He also said ¿my novels refuse to come to any conclusions because I believe that it¿s not the business of the artist to do so.¿In this story Gervaise, a poor laundress, is used and abused first by Lantier, who abandons her, and then later by Coupeau, a roofer whose decline into alcoholism begins with an injury on the job. Gervaise tries to hold it all together, but eventually debt and the corruption and chaos around her drive her to drink as well. Nana, the child she¿s had by Coupeau, runs away for Paris, and is used by Zola to illustrate one of his central theories, that of the destructive and fatalistic curse of heredity. L¿Assommoir is certainly worth reading but I found it less effective than the other books I have read from the Rougon-Macquart series, whose images to me are more indelible: the coal miners in Germinal, murder and violence in La Bete Humaine, and lust in Nana. Quotes:On art, from the memorable scene where the wedding party visits the Louvre:¿Next the party embarked on the long gallery which houses paintings of the Italian and Flemish schools. More pictures, and still more pictures, of saints, of men and women whose faces meant nothing to them, of very dark landscapes, of animals gone yellow, a confusion of people and things in such a busy riot of colours that everyone was beginning to get a nasty headache.¿And:¿He strode directly over to Rubens¿ Kermesse. There, still saying nothing, he simply rolled his eyes salaciously in the direction of the picture. The ladies, when they¿d got right up close, gave little shrieks then looked away, scarlet in the face. But their menfolk, sniggering, made them stay with them while they searched the canvas for smutty details.¿On chance:¿Her dream was to live with decent people, because if you¿re with bad people, she said, it was like being hit on the head, it bashed your brains in, it smashed you flat in two shakes if you were a woman. She came out in a cold sweat when she thought about the future, saying she felt like a coin someone had tossed in the air that might land heads or tails depending on how the pavement lay.¿On morality:¿The thought of this affair and of the pleasures her sister-in-law must be enjoying exasperated her still more: she had an ugly woman¿s regard for respectability.¿On politics, I love this one:¿You¿re a lot of babes in arms, getting that excited over politics! ¿ Politics is nothin¿ but big joke! What difference does it make to folks like us? ¿ Let `em have anyone they fancy, a king, an emperor, nothin¿ at all, it won¿t stop me earnin¿ me five francs, an eatin¿ an¿ sleepin¿, now will it?...¿On sex:¿He wasn¿t doing anything wrong. He wasn¿t touching, he was just looking. Was he forbidden now to look at the lovely things the good Lord had made? That tart Clemence hadn¿t half got an amazing pair of knockers! She could put herself on show and charge a couple of sous a feel, it¿d be cheap at the price!¿
The seventh volume in the Les Rougon-Macquart cycle of 20 novels. Along with 'Nana' and 'Germinal' it is probably his most famous. It is also his most controversial, outraging many contemporary conservative critics with NSFW language and portrayals of sex and violence - the perversion of pre-teen Nana is treated frankly for example. The minute level and accurate detail of working class 19th century Parisian life remains a study for anthropologists to this day.The novel is notoriously difficult to translate. Indeed, even the contemporary native French version needed translations since many of the words and phrases were localized slang unfamiliar to many people. The Margaret Mauldon (Oxford World's Classics) is the most recent translation and reads beautifully, if not a little 19th Century British cockney.