Nana (Fiction, Poetry & Drama) (French Edition)

by Zola

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Nana opens in 1867, the year of the World Fair, when Paris, thronged by a cosmopolitan elite, was a perfect target for Zola's scathing denunciation of hypocrisy and fin-de-siècle moral corruption. In this new translation, the fate of Nana--the Helen of Troy of the second Empire, and daughter of the laundress in L'Assommoir--is now rendered in racy, stylish English. About the Series: For over 100 years Oxford World's Classics has made available the broadest spectrum of literature from around the globe. Each affordable volume reflects Oxford's commitment to scholarship, providing the most accurate text plus a wealth of other valuable features, including expert introductions by leading authorities, voluminous notes to clarify the text, up-to-date bibliographies for further study, and much more.… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member Stbalbach
What an amazing novel. From the first blow-away chapter it is a speeding hot-house driven by the unpredictable winds of lust and fortune, time is compressed so minutes of ecstasy seem like years, and years can go by in minutes. Nana's addictive qualities ensnare both vile and vulnerable, perversely encouraged by society in the decedent years leading up to the Franco-Prussian crises. Chapter 5's description of the inner workings of a theater is an unforgettable submersion into Dante's Inferno. The gruesome ending is a Realist version of 'Dr Jekyl and Mr Hyde', or 'The Picture of Dorian Gray' (both later works and probably influenced by Zola). In the end there were no villains, just victims.

The most difficult element is keeping the many secondary characters straight, it is a crowded novel. They are introduced in rapid fire sequence and the details (age, weight, background, relations etc) are spread throughout so the characters are not easily visualized which can make the plot often confusing, a whirl of people. Yet this is exactly the point, imagine the modern club scene or college parties.

The symbolism throughout is intense and unusual for Zola, this is the least Naturalistic of his novels, yet is retains its realism, as Flaubert said: "Nana turns into myth, without ceasing to be real."
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LibraryThing member annbury
What happens when a woman with overwhelming sex appeal collides with the sex-obsessed male elite of a corrupt society? "Nana", that's what. She is both a creature of mid-19th century Paris, and an embodiment of that glittering, lascivious, and putrefying capital.

Zola's novel about a Third Empire courtesan was intended as part of his naturalistic study of French society. The naturalism is brilliant. His description of places (theaters, ballrooms, and particularly bedrooms) is vivid, conveying an almost physical sense of what it was like to be there. He can also convey the beauty of a rural scene, the excitement of a race track, and the menacing sound and feel of fools marching off to war.

But his naturalism is a vehicle for a moral stance -- nothing wrong with that at all, it's just important to note how selective his naturalism is. Moreover, in "Nana", his approach veers into an almost mythic exaltation of corruption -- operatic, if you will.
Nana starts out as a young actress and courtesan, who matures into the Queen of Paris, the Bitch Goddess, the Whore of Babylon.

Through all this, she remains a believable person; not a particularly nice person (though she does have her good points) but a fascinating one. The world she inhabits is as corrupt as she is herself, she's just better at it than anyone else. The subsidiary characters, who all revolve around Nana, are also interesting. A few created more emotional sympathy in me than did Nana herself, perhaps because Nana, for me, has an odd quality of emotional blankness.

This is the first Zola I have read, and it makes me want to read more. A brilliant book, and one which does not feel in the least remote.
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LibraryThing member whitreidtan
After I finished school, diploma clutched tightly in my hot little hand, I realized that degree notwithstanding, I had some holes in my education through which a careful driver could manuever a truck. Reading snob that I was at the time, I decided that I needed to remedy the situation and live up to my newly minted certification as well read. So I popped out to the local bookstore and snatched up some of the classics we never covered in school. Zola was one of those authors and Nana was the title of his that most appealed to me so home it followed me, whereupon it languished on my shelves unread for something approaching (exceeding?--I don't have record of the date I bought it and my records start in 2002) ten years. Was it because I thought it would be inaccesible? Was it because I shelve alphabetically and so it was at the bottom in a corner? Perhaps it was because subconsciously I knew that it wasn't going to be a very happy reading experience for me. If the last reason is true, sadly, it was prophetic. Before I pulled the book off the shelf and paid for it, I should have read the back cover copy and remembered how very desperately I loathed the Naturalist writers I had read. I could have saved myself a lot of reading anguish this past week.

Nana is the story of an actress who rises up from the gutters of Paris and takes the town by storm, collecting men and their money as she ascends. She is an avaricious creature, not only demanding money from her protectors but also prostituting herself whenever she cannot extort enough money from the seriously ridiculous rich men with whom she surrounds herself. But she doesn't start out quite so greedy. At the start of the story, she is just coming into her own and she is naive in the ways of manipulation. Through her clever maid's offices and the advice of certain hangers-on, she learns to exploit not only her sexuality but the strange magnetism she exudes over men. She is an Eve of the worst sort, shallow and selfish, unconcerned with the destruction of others.

Because this is a novel in the naturalist tradition, it uses very detailed realism and suggests that heredity and social origins determine a person's personality. This tips the reader off to the fact that Nana is not a heroine to strive to emulate. Rather she is a product of the lower classes and must needs be a lesser person as a result, most likely one who will come to a likely end no matter how high she manages to rise as a courtesan. As annoying as this prefiguring based on literary convention made reading, the novel was tiresome for more than just that. Zola takes fully half the novel to develop his character of Nana, drawing her as both stupid (she is a woman, after all) and cunning (ditto). He spends many pages throughout the novel in overly detailed descriptions of rooms, people, clothing, plays, etc. Despite his florid descriptions of the physical settings, Zola manages to make the male characters who flock to Nana like moths to a flame almost entirely interchangeable and indistinct. And so very few of the characters besides Nana achieve any sort of clarity in the mind of the reader. It's hard to read a novel where there is an unpleasant main character and few, if any, distractions from them.

Wasteful, bored, and dissolute characters abound in this ultimately pessimistic, doom-laden offering. It is a classic of French literature, and I suppose that I can be content with myself that another hole in the education has been plugged, but it was a dismal, dreary, and dull reading experience that I can't recommend. Others have offered accolades though so check out differing opinions on the novel before you dismiss it. But if you do choose to ignore my warnings and read it, don't blame me (unless you are an insomniac looking for a sleep aid). Not surprisingly, this will be my only experience with Zola.
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LibraryThing member gypsysmom
I wasn't sure what to expect from this book. It is published as a classic and it is on the 1001 Books to Read before you Die list so I thought it might be something like a Dickens novel or perhaps Thomas Hardy. It was like a work from both those writers but also unlike.

Nana is a sometime actress but mostly makes her living by prostitution. When the book opens she is appearing in a play as Venus. Her first appearance on stage is described thus:
Very tall and well-built for her eighteen years, in her goddess's white tunic, and with her long fair hair hanging loosely over her shoulders, Nana came down towards the footlights with quiet self-assurance.
At first the audience is less than impressed as her voice was horrible and her acting as bad. However, some of the young men in the audience, who didn't care about her ability to act but were taken by her looks, started clapping. Later in the play when she appears almost naked, the crowd is transfixed and Nana is a star.

Nana remains a fixture in the demi-monde of Paris for about 3 years although she goes from the heights to the depths of that world at least twice. A number of men fall for her passionately and, it seems, she can never refuse any of them. She also has a lesbian lover and her male lovers must make way when she decides to spend an evening with her. Several of her male lovers bankrupt themselves to provide Nana what she wants.

Of course, we know from the beginning that this is going to end badly for Nana. The specifics I will leave for the next reader to discover.

There is certainly similarities between this book and those of Dickens and Hardy (writers that I am more familiar with). In fact, I found one paper that compared Tess of the D'Urbervilles to Zola's Germinal. Zola and Hardy were even born in the same year, 1840. However, Zola's explicit use of sex is something that would have shocked Hardy's readers I believe. In fact, many modern writers are more restrained than Zola in describing certain liaisons.

Will I read more of Zola? I'm not sure. I found this book to be quite compelling but I'm not sure I want to explore that world more fully.
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LibraryThing member soylentgreen23
Intoxicating realism, if that's what you want to call it. A woman who sleeps with everyone and yet remains a figure of sympathy and respect, nothing less.
LibraryThing member arubabookwoman
This magnificent novel is the story of the rise, fall, and rise again of Nana (child of Gervais of L'Assommoir) from streetwalker to queen of Parisian society in the late 1860's.

It opens with Nana's stage debut in a risque theatrical production. Many of Paris's high society womanizers and rogues are there, as well as many of Paris's reigning courtesans. All are breathlessly awaiting their first experience of Nana; however, when she eventually appears they are at first underwhelmed. Then:

"looking as though she herself were saying with a wink of her eye that she didn't possess a ha'porth of talent, but it didn't matter, she had something better than that,"

Nana wows them all. I pictured Marilyn Monroe singing Happy Birthday Mr. President.

Thereafter, we follow Nana as she acquires and ruins men of all social status and rank. She has "an ever keen appetite for squandering money, a natural disdain for the man who paid, a perpetual caprice for devouring, a pride in the ruin of her lovers." We see Nana at the theater, entertaining at orgy-like dinners, at her country estate, at the races. Through her we see the decadence and corruption of French society of this era.

Zola has skillfully created a well-rounded character in Nana, not just a cardboard symbol of immorality. Despite her penchant for destroying men, we are still sympathetic to her. Although she can be vain and selfish, she is also generous, sometimes to a fault, and she is accepting of others. Although she is calculating and cunning, she is also innocent and naive in many ways. Perhaps these are the things that make her so irresistible.

For the most part Zola stays away from moralizing. He rarely interjects himself into the novel, and lets us be a fly on the wall observing Nana's life. Not surprisingly, the novel was widely condemned when it was initially published, for example:

"Much ability is displayed in this offensive work of engineering skill, and people are asked to pardon the foul sights and odors because of the consummate art with which they are presented. But intellectual power and literary workmanship are neither to be admired, nor commended of themselves. They are to be judged by their fruits and are no more justified in producing that which is repulsive or unwholesome than a manufactory whose sole purpose is to create and disseminate bad smells and noxious vapors. Such unsavory establishment might do its work with a wonderful display of skill and most potent results, but the health authorities of society would have ample occasion for taking measures against its obnoxious business, while those who encouraged the introduction of its products into their households would be guilty of inconceivable folly, besides exhibiting a morbid liking for filthy exhalations."

For me, this is one of the must-reads of the Rougon Macquart series
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LibraryThing member Smiler69
Nana is the ninth installment in the 20-volume Les Rougon-Macquart series, which I undertook to read in publication order a couple of years ago. In some ways, my appreciation for this novel has grown in direct proportion to the increase of my dislike for most, if not all the characters in the story, though there is no direct correlation between the two factors. Nana is the daughter of Gervaise Macquart, the doomed alcoholic heroine of L'assommoir. Towards the end of that book, the young girl is already taking a bad turn, and by the age of 16 has taken to walking the streets and finding older men to finance her taste for luxury. The novel dedicated to her is constructed like a play, with each of the 14 chapters showing a different act in the story of the rise, then fall, then the higher rise, then complete destruction of a woman who is best described as a 'Golden Fly' ('La Mouche d'Or') by a journalist writing about her in the papers. A golden fly originating from five generations of bad heredity, who, because of her ample shapes, her golden tresses and boundless appetite for sex and luxury, manages to corrupt all the individuals of the upper classes which she happens to land on.

The first chapter introduces Nana to the reader and the Parisian public as a the new sensation of the variety theatre in a play called La Blonde Vénus, designed to show off her ample physical attractions, displaying her in all but nude glory to a rapt audience. This is her first great success, which introduces her to men of the upper classes, counts and viscounts and marquesses alike, none of which can resist her charms; even the Prince of Whales is a fan. When Count Muffat, who has always been a devout Catholic falls madly in love with her, she is in a position to dictate all her conditions. She is installed in her own luxurious private hotel in one of the best neighbourhoods of Paris and though she has promised Muffat she will be faithful to him in return for an unending stream of generous gifts, her boredom pushes her to greater and greater infidelities. Men's fortunes and honour are lost to her, some even lose their life in their pursuit of her, but she is like a big dumb beautiful child who has no respect for anything but her own pleasure, grabbing at everything and turning it all to dust with her clumsy carelessness, taking pleasure in the very destruction she wreaks. Nana is not a woman a reader can really love or admire, save for the fact that she is guileless and that Zola uses her a a weapon against the corrupt Second French Empire, and that as a means to an end, she has great entertainment value as a goddess of destruction. He has always been a painter of vast and sumptuous tableaux, and here Zola paints scintillating pictures of wealth and unrestrained, utterly corrupted luxury. For those not familiar with Zola's work, this novel perfectly well stands alone, though it is definitely his most decadent.
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LibraryThing member DeltaQueen50
Nana by Emile Zola was written 1880 and vividly captures the lively theatre society of Paris and the life of courtesan Nana Coupeau. Nana has risen to a high class prostitute through her role as the blonde Venus in a popular operetta. Although she has no acting or singing talent, her blatant sex appeal causes Paris to be taken with her and by the end of the play, when she appears on stage virtually naked she becomes a star.

Men flock to be around her, they yearn to possess her but Nana is a shrewd woman and is looking after her own affairs. Although she can be cold and manipulative, she is the product of an abusive childhood and the one thing she appears to be searching for is control. She becomes a destructive force in the lives of the men who are drawn to her. The very definition of a man-eater, her admirers find themselves bankrupt, imprisoned or deeply humiliated. As for Nana, no amount of money appears to satisfy her. Then comes the day that Nana disappears, rumors spring up about where she is and who she could possibly be with. The truth of the matter is much more tragic.

Critics far more clever than I have written about the meaning of this literary work. Personally I felt that the author was shining a light on a small corner of society. This brittle section of life that is bored, wasteful and decadent. The excesses and moral corruption of this society breeds misogyny in the men and greed and heartlessness in the women that they preyed upon. Distasteful as I found this story, the author’s strong power of observation certainly brought it to life and drew me into this symbolic tale.
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LibraryThing member BALE
In Nana, Emile Zola portrays the vices of Paris during the Second Empire. Degenerating Parisians are symbolized through Nana. Nana is immorality. Her actions are the actions of all Parisian’s. When she dies, it symbolizes the death of Parisian morality. Zola handles this fascinating metaphor brilliantly.

Overall, parts of Nana read tediously. As a Naturalist, extreme realism was central to the development of Zola’s work. Therefore, details are intentional. The result is a novel that reads like visual imagery. A stream of colors, textures, sounds, and so forth, flow through the readers mind as the story unfolds. Zola takes the reader for a vicarious walk through the streets, homes, restaurants, and bars of 19th century Paris. We experience the theater, grand and illicit parties, and the Grand Prix de Paris. It is both captivating and disturbing. The trick to understanding and enjoying Zola is to not sleep through or be overwhelmed by the details of his writing, but to be absorbed by them. In effect, be a part of them. Only then can one fully appreciate the scope, skill, and creativity of Zola’s work.… (more)
LibraryThing member Miguelnunonave
The story of a high-class courtesan, written with great humour and detail. The archetypal men destroyer. Zola is a master of social realism. It probably caused a stir in its time, though it feels quite inocuous nowadays.
LibraryThing member DieFledermaus
The main criticism for this novel was that it seemed unlikely that so many people would be ruined by Nana. Certainly she was pretty but not especially witty or intelligent. I suppose when she was an actress naked on stage, it did make every man want her but she quit working before her stage of excessive waste. The opening chapter shows her triumph in the theater and introduces most of the main characters. Hector la Faloise is a young man from the country whose mistress Clarisse is in the show. Fauchery, his cousin, is a journalist. They encounter the Comte Muffat and his wife Sabine, theater owner/pimp Bordenave, husband of Rose/pimp Mignon and Rose’s latest cash cow, Steiner. The play is about the Roman gods (a lot of details are wrong though) with Nana as Venus. She sings horrendously and isn’t much of an actress, but her transparent costume makes her a success. Before her stage triumph, Nana could barely make ends meet, mostly a slightly higher class prostitute. After, however, she dumps her latest supporters and receives the compliments of all the men who saw her the previous night. Her current love though is Daguenet. Still, Nana needs to pay the bills and accepts visits from Muffat and his father in law, Rose’s lover Steiner and the infatuated, naïve Georges Hugon.

Meanwhile, Fauchery and la Faloise visit the Muffats wealthy, repressed house. The pleasant small talk of the women contrasts to the furtive whispering of the men, who plan to attend a party at Nana’s. Everyone describes the Comtesse Sabine as virtuous, but Fauchery is doubtful, having heard some rumors. At Nana’s, the gathering is more rowdy, but much of the talk is essentially the same – as are the men – showing the similarities between high society and the company of whores. All the women are ‘actresses’ and courtesans. People become drunk, and start breaking up and hooking up. La Faloise’s flirting irritates Clarisse, Rose gets closer to Fauchery and Nana finally accepts Steiner’s advances.

Sometime later, Nana’s performance is noticed by the Prince, who, along with Muffat, visits her backstage. Muffat – an uptight Christian up to that point – finds himself attracted to her. The next chapter finds them all in the country. The Comtesse Sabine and Fauchery grow closer. Muffat tries to get together with Nana but finds obstacles. She and the Count finally start a relationship.

After that, she leads the life of a high class courtesan. Although she has everything that she wants, Nana has moments of boredom and unhappiness. She moves on to clean out other men of their acquaintance. Her enormous monetary demands are described. The entire household is one of waste – the servants steal, Nana buys things only to forget about them. Just a gaping abyss for money. Besides his financial troubles, the Count learns the truth about his wife. At first devastated, he finally accepts it. They even celebrate their daughter’s engagement. But he’s sinking lower and lower – his wife leaves him. The breaking point is when he finds Nana with his old, pervy father in law. Finally, broke and abandoned, he quits his court appointment and works on rebuilding his life. Nana is also going downhill – she finds Georges is dead and her loyal maid Zoe leaves her.

Nana and the other courtesans are a mirror of the aristocracy – in their similarities, as well as Nana’s transgression into good society. Her country house offends the normal people. She eventually sets the trends and is the pinnacle of Paris fashion. She’s allowed to go into the weight ground at the race, even though the area is forbidden to courtesans. Paradoxically, she does try to repair Muffat’s marriage – the consequences of a scandal with his wife would be bad for her as well – and facilitates Daguenet’s marriage to his daughter. The Comtesse Sabine, at first seemingly virtuous, has an affair as does her husband. The company of whores might be rotten, but high society not much better.
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LibraryThing member Peppuzzo
In the late 1800, society was sexually repressed. Wifes would copulate only for procreation purposes, and would not find any pleasure in sex, or at least they would pretend so (a very anti-symmetrical pretending compared to nowadays). In such environment, husbands would be ready to everything for a bit of love, and would have to find comfort in love affairs, or worse in prostitutes, singers or actresses. Prostitutes like Nanà, whose sex attract all layers of Parisian society, whose lust and vices dominate above all false morality. Men stand in line for Nanà, burn their money, go to jail for her, kill themselves with knives or fire. They are all hypnotized, captured, possessed by Nanà's beauty and charme. Nanà is their last harbor for love, and their damnation. All for a bit of sex. All for a bit of love. Luckily nowadays society is completely different.

Tira cchi'assai 'n pilu di pacchiu ca 'n carru di voi
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LibraryThing member ablueidol
These were some of the first books I read as an adult and authors like Zola and Tolstoy made 19th century literature live far more then Dickens ever did for me
LibraryThing member Clara53
A word on the importance of good translation. I read this book in two translations. First half - by an unknown translator, as there was no title page in this old book that I had bought a while ago at a library sale, there was just a year written in pencil by the owner (1953), the pages were very yellow, so it might even date earlier than that. The translation was not very good at all, and to prove it, as I was in the middle of the book, I borrowed a newer library copy to finish reading it in another translation, and oh, what a difference! (This one was translated by George Holden). The reading became so much more enjoyable. But the fact that I didn't give up on the book while reading the first half in really poor translation, certainly shows in favor of the author.

I won't presume to aspire to give an adequate review on this classic. Zola is, doubtless, one of the great masters of literature. As to the plot, only one word comes to mind: ruin. It obviously goes beyond the carefree world of Parisian courtesans; it's dramatic, self-induced ruin as represented by the protagonist and prompted by society of that time.
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LibraryThing member jwhenderson
I read this book as part of a "Literary Cityscapes" class at the University of Chicago. The focus of the class was on novels in which Paris was an important factor if not a character. In Nana we have a novel inspired by real life characters, an operetta singer, who are transformed into a steamy story romance and demimondaines as the Second Empire is about to expire. I enjoyed the realistic description of the light opera scene with Zola's detail depiction of the performance of La blonde Vénus, a fictional operetta modelled after Offenbach's La belle Hélène, in which Nana is cast as the lead. Nana unfortunately leads a life not atypical for paramours (see La Traviata) and yet, the realistic portrayal of Parisian society raises this novel above the typical story. Zola again achieves artistic brilliance with his naturalistic novelization of real life.… (more)
LibraryThing member AlexAustin
Zola creates a brilliantly shallow woman who uses beauty and sex to keep numerous balls in the air. Merciless.
LibraryThing member Luli81
A raw critic view of the enriched Parisian society in the late XIXth century.
The degradation, the hypocritical standards, the morals and conscience of a corrupted society.
All tattooed in the flesh of Nana, a prostitute of high standards but low esteem.
LibraryThing member albertgoldfain
Zola's modernist classic from the Rougon-Macquart series of novels. I believe the title character is supposed to be a thinly veiled metaphor for Paris at the end of the 19th century (the end of the second empire), but I don't know enough about the time period for this to resonate. The novel starts with a nice description of the "popular" theater of the time but doesn't really gain much momentum until the final three chapters (the horse race chapter could be a story on its own). The intervening chapters are filled with verbose descriptions (Zola's so-called "naturalistic" style). It is almost like a pointilist painting where someone goes into details about each point. All I can remember is the overall impression.… (more)
LibraryThing member xine2009
Funny, interesting, somewhat horrifying, detached view of life in 19th century Paris. Nana is a courtesan/actress who destroys men and gets "what's coming to her." She's not at all believable, but it's a very worthwhile book.
LibraryThing member thorold
Scanning through the covers for this, which must be the most famous of Zola's novels, it was no surprise to find reproductions of just about all the well-known French paintings of sexually-alluring females there are. Publishers like to go with what they know when it comes to getting people to buy their books. But I think they're missing a trick: what this book needs on its cover is something along the lines of William Powell Frith's Derby Day. Zola's motto was always "nothing exceeds like excess", and that was never more applicable than in Nana, where he really pulls all the stops out to give us Second Empire Paris at its wildest and most decadent: the scale and hyperactivity of the Longchamps chapter alone is enough almost to make Frith look like a painter of still life. (Delacroix is probably the only other famous painter who comes anywhere near Zola's intensity, but he can't compete on complexity...)

But that isn't to say that Zola is simply letting himself go for the sake of it: the big scenes here are harnessed to do a carefully controlled job. Sometimes perhaps in a slightly too forced way, like the famous opening sequence where we are kept hanging around in the front-of-house part of the theatre for an impossibly long time as the audience take their seats and Zola builds up our expectations and introduces us to what seems like a ridiculously large number of minor characters before we get our first glimpse of the new star. Or the early chapter describing a stiff formal reception at the Muffats', where the guests' talk about Bismarck seems entirely irrelevant to the story - until Zola picks it up again and bounces it back at us in a dramatically different context at the very end of the book.

L'Assommoir charted the tragic failure of Gervaise's attempt to claw her family to a safe place in society by prudence, self-sacrifice and hard work; in Nana, Gervaise's daughter, who is prepared to do just about anything except work to get what she wants, takes a dramatic (but apparently unconscious) revenge on the world that crushed her parents. Using her uncontrollable sexual attraction and her almost unlimited capacity to consume luxuries and cash, Nana brings a succession of aristocrats, financiers, journalists, racehorse owners and theatre producers crashing down into ruin, dishonours two noble families, and eventually sends out a (symbolic) wave of pollution that seems to be the force bringing the whole corrupt Empire crashing down into the senseless war that destroys it.

Zola takes us through just about every aspect of the sex-industry of the time, from street-walkers and underground lesbian clubs at one end of the scale right through to the actresses and "official" mistresses at the top end of the profession - during her stage period, Nana is shown welcoming the portly "Prince d'Ecosse" (can't imagine whom Zola was trying to conceal under that name...) into her dressing room; as a courtesan her clients include dukes and marquesses. In the process, there's plenty of titillation - Nana takes her clothes off more often than the average Bond girl - but there's also plenty of opportunity for the reader to reflect on the damage and waste involved in a hypocritical system in which upper-class men are expected to find sexual pleasure outside the family sphere, but are unable to accept the idea that their wives might want to do something similar. Nothing new there, of course: French literature has been having fun with that idea since at least the middle of the 18th century, but Zola increases the stakes by hammering home time after time that what this is all about is not some sort of vaguely illicit romantic glamour: it is sex, sex, sex. Dirty, messy, chaotic and uncontrollable, driven only by money and pleasure. Heady stuff for 1880, and still pretty hard-hitting today.
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LibraryThing member EmScape
Zola's tale of the lives of participants in and patrons of the Theatre des Varieties in 19th century France strikes me as incredibly realistic. His scenes are incredibly detailed and full of characters. At times the book was slow and a bit monotonous -- I'm not sure I really want to read about a dinner party which even the attendees proclaim is boring -- but is very valuable for the slice of historical life that is revealed to a modern reader.… (more)
LibraryThing member amydross
Wildly entertaining, if not always convincing. Would so many men really through their fortunes away for a pretty girl? Weren't there any other pretty girls in Paris, who might sell themselves a little cheaper? But it works as allegory, anyway.

The last third gets a little weighed down with political and moral judgements, but the world of second empire france is so gorgeously drawn...… (more)
LibraryThing member mzonderm
Lots of detail. Sometimes way too much detail. And although the characters manage to somewhat resolve themselves into individuals (at least some of the men do), the way in which they're introduced made them very hard to distinguish one from the other for the better part of the book.
LibraryThing member aprille
This book make a great uproar when it was published. It concerns a young, beautiful courtesan/actress of low birth who sleeps her way to the highest echelons of Parisian society. It's set in the mid-19th century. Dreiser's Sister Carrie is one of my favorites, so I thought I would enjoy this, but I only made it through the first 100 pages (of 450) before I gave it up.

It was just too light and fluffy, and some of the jokes were going over my head. Maybe the translation was bad. The good thing about this edition, though, is that it has several quite racy silhouette illustrations--several of them of the beautiful girl quite nude with the men around her in various enthusiastic postures. It made me laugh, so I'm giving the book two stars instead of only one.
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Original language


Original publication date

1880 (in French)


226603667X / 9782266036672
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