Reading Zola

I started reading Nana by Emile Zola with low expectations. But it’s so good! I am reading it in the métro and can’t put it down. The differences between French literature and English literature are somewhat staggering for the naive, like me. I see why it was considered shocking for young girls to read “French novels.” In the first chapter, the theater owner Bordenave calls his theater “my brothel” and we see a crowd of respectable and not so respectable Parisians at opening night of a musical that sounds fun to watch, about the gods of Olympus. Lucie Stewart, a demi-mondaine, “an ugly little woman in her forties… but so lively and graceful that she had a great charm,” says to her friend the journalist, about Nana, “On m’a juré que tu avais couché avec.” [They swore to me you slept with her.] In the last scene, the beautiful Nana appears in see-through gauze as Venus, nude “with a tranquil audacity,” so that you can see the “golden hairs in her armpits” (!). Even though she can’t act and can’t sing, the audience succumbs to her charisma and sex appeal.

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One Response to “Reading Zola”

  1. Comment by FrenchtwistDC | 10/27/12 at 9:41 am

    I started reading Nana after Au Bonheur des Dames but never got really into it. After seeing the Impressionistes et la mode exhibit, I think I might give it another try…

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