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by Uday K. Dhar,Vizetelly Alfred Ernest,Emile Zola

The idyll of Miette and Silvère is a very touching one, and quite in accord with the conditions of life prevailing in Provence at the period Emile Zola selects for his narrative. Miette is a frank child of nature; Silvère, her lover, in certain respects foreshadows, a quarter of a century in advance, the Abbé Pierre Fromont of "Lourdes," "Rome," and "Paris." "The Fortune of the Rougons" is the initial volume of the Rougon-Macquart series. Though it was by no means M. Zola's first essay in fiction, it was undoubtedly his first great bid for genuine literary fame, and the foundation of what must necessarily be regarded as his life-work. The idea of writing the "natural and social history of a family under the Second Empire," extending to a score of volumes, was doubtless suggested to M. Zola by Balzac's immortal "Comédie Humaine." He was twenty-eight years of age when this idea first occurred to him; he was fifty-three when he at last sent the manuscript of his concluding volume, "Dr. Pascal," to the press. He had spent five-and-twenty years in working out his scheme, persevering with it doggedly and stubbornly, whatever rebuffs he might encounter, whatever jeers and whatever insults might be directed against him by the ignorant, the prejudiced, and the hypocritical. Truth was on the march and nothing could stay it; even as, at the present hour, its march, if slow, none the less continues athwart another and a different crisis of the illustrious novelist's career.
Download The Fortune of the Rougons (Rougon-Macquart) epub
ISBN: 1595690107
ISBN13: 978-1595690104
Category: Literature
Subcategory: Classics
Author: Uday K. Dhar,Vizetelly Alfred Ernest,Emile Zola
Language: English
Publisher: Mondial (November 11, 2004)
Pages: 328 pages
ePUB size: 1249 kb
FB2 size: 1537 kb
Rating: 4.9
Votes: 645
Other Formats: lrf mbr rtf lit

... for a decent translation of this novel, the first of Emile Zola's 20-book Rougon-Macquart series. The previous reviews suggest that this edition has problems and errata. But the search will be worthwhile, especially if you are excited by some of the later volumes of this monumental portraya of 19th C society and history.

Here's what I wrote about the French edition that I read:

""I wonder what I'd think of this novel if I'd read it without being aware of what came after. "La Fortune des Rougon" is the first of Emile Zola's twenty (20!) novels chronicling the history of French society through the middle decades of the 19th Century by tracing the fortunes of a single family - the Rougon-Macquart kindred - through several generations. I had read several of the most esteemed volumes previously, some in English and some in French, some recently and some decades ago. From that approach, "La Fortune des Rougon" might seem laboriously contrived as a retrospective attempt to tie up all the evolutionary threads of the chronicle; minor characters pop up insistently, who will become major figures in later novels, and the editor 'helpfully' footnotes their future significance. But in fact, this really WAS the first of the series, so it makes slightly more sense to perceive it as an outline of things to come, and it makes Zola's assiduous tenacity of purpose all the more remarkable, as if he truly had a clear conception of the whole monumental series from his first paragraph. I'm trying now, by the way, to read the whole series in French and in 'chronological' order, a project that may take me almost as many years as it took Zola to write it.

But let's take a look at "La Fortune des Rougon" in and of itself, as if Zola had never written another book. It's a hefty novel, a broad 19th Century novel, ample, explicit, and at times unnecessarily discursive. Started in 1869 and published in '71, it is therefore contemporary with classics of English Victorian fiction by Dickens, Eliot and Trollope. I point that out because there's an odd 'dissonance' about reading Zola; the social and psychological perceptions he expresses seem far more modern - more 20th C - than the style and structure of his works. He is unabashedly the "omniscient narrator" of his era, so soon to be jostled out of fashion by writers like Joseph Conrad and Ford Madox Ford. He IS discursive and at times verbose. They all were, in his day. People must have either read faster than we do, or else wanted to get their money's worth out of a book, savoring its verbosity over leisurely weeks. It won't help anyone to appreciate Zola's accomplishment to expect him to be as terse as Joseph Roth or as playfully self-observant as Nabokov. Despite the boldness of his themes, Zola is not a modernist.

He is also not a hack, despite his literary abundance. Yes, he wanted to earn a living at writing, but his ambitions were not to cultivate an audience with facile entertainments. In fact, he intended to be didactic, to expound a theory of human behavior based on evolutionary sociology. Here's something from his preface to "La Fortune des Rougons", translated to English:
""By resolving the double question of temperament and environment, I will try to expose and trace the thread of connection which leads mathematically from one person to another. When I have hold of every thread, and have possession of a complete social group in my hands, I shall show this group in operation, participating in its historical period."

Something of a 'determinist" was our Monsieur Zola? Yes, at times, and especially when referring to social caste. But in fact, the development of characters in Zola's novels usually plays out as a conflict of "nurture versus nature", still an unresolved dichotomy among sociologists today. Even the most fleetingly useful minor personage in Zola's novels is flesh-and-blood. The major characters in "The Fortune", the founding generation of the Rougon-Macquarts, are hateful, greedy, smug, callous opportunists, people of small souls and talents who grind through years of resentful mediocrity until an opportunity opens their path to fortune by trampling the hopes and the corpses of others. The opportunity is the coup d'état that replaced the Republic with the Empire of Louis Napoleon III, perhaps the first modern dictator. Zola's contempt for the victors in that upheaval flares like phosphorus in every sentence of "La Fortune." The essential message of the novel is that the crises of society often favor the least scrupulous scoundrels.

The novel is set in Plassans, a provincial bastion of class-bound conservatism in Provence. Class 'warfare' is one of the themes of Zola's work that seems prescient of more modern fiction. The town has three quarters - the shabby mansions of the moribund aristocracy, the old town of peasants and small merchants, and the new town of the up-and-coming professionals. Characters from each quarter cram their selfish interests into the narrative. Reading the novel as History, one can get quite a dynamic sense of social conflicts and change in mid-19th C France. Zola also excels at pure description. One can visualize Plassans as it was; in fact, it looks very much like one of the "plus belles villages" so relished by tourists of our times. Some readers may feel that Zola lavishes too many words on his descriptions of the settings of scenes, but I wouldn't agree. Good descriptive writing has a worth of its own.

There is a love story in "La Fortune des Rougon". The lovers are as childish as Romeo and Juliet, and just as apparently ill-fated. The boy is the idealistic Silvere, a grandson of Pierre Rougon for whom that monster of self-promotion cares not at all. The girl is truly a child, 13-year-old Miette, the abused daughter of a convict in the galleys. Their romance is the stuff of grand opera, a melodrama quite comparable to any of Verdi's or Puccini's. Once again, I suggest that the reader remember Zola's era; melodrama was high art in 1871. Their poignant love affair is something like a gilded frame around the sordid portrayal of the coup and the triumph of venality. The novel begins and ends with them, and the longest single episode is the pastoral depiction of their discovery of sexuality beyond mere childhood companionship. It's true that this depiction does not advance the central narrative of the novel. It's true that Zola may have loved his own flow of language too much ever to have edited his novel to modern satisfaction. But the romance of Miette and Silvere has a blushing, operatic charm that balances and sweetens the asperity of the novel as a whole. I wouldn't cut it too much.

If you've never read Zola at all, it's quite unlikely that you'll start with "The Fortune of the Rougons". It's not widely considered one of Zola's masterpieces, and it frankly isn't equal to Germinal, The Debacle, or the Human Beast. That's why I've rated it at only four stars, since the most I can award is five to such a masterpiece as "The Masterpiece", Zola's portrayal of the lives of painters and writers in the Paris of the Impressionists. All in all, nevertheless, "The Fortune of the Rougons" is the sort of novel that builds power as you read it, until you find yourself engrossed in its development and transported to its milieu.
The entire series of the Rougons family should be a required reading for all people who have a little interest in history of the working and middle class. Am only sorry I had to wait for the books to be translated from French to English to enjoy them. The Fortune of Rougons, Nana , The belly of Paris, Germinal all five stars. The books were written in the 1800s but could apply to today in some parts of the world.
I saw some samples of this writer's work a couple weeks ago, in English, and I'm giving this book a read. It's being broadcast now by BBC radio 4 with Glenda Jackson in the lead. Maybe I'll get bogged down; it's a verrry leisurely read. Worth a try at Amazon's very reasonable $0.00 price!
This book is written in the style of most classic novels. It reveals the background of the characters, personality traits and motivations. There is a correlation between the emotion of the characters and the way in which the author describes scenes in Paris. It's the story of a young iwidow with an eleven year old daughter, who falls in love with her neighbor's husband. They fight the attraction, but......

If you prefer an easy read, without much depth, this is not the book for you.
ᵀᴴᴱ ᴼᴿᴵᴳᴵᴻᴬᴸ
Many of the bad reviews of this book are for a different edition. THIS IS NOT BY MONDIAL OR BOOKBAZAAR (???) It is a new translation--I'm a real fan of Zola and this is the best edition out there. PERIOD! This book is the first of the Rougon-Macquart cycle and it is foundational if not pivotal to all the others that follow. Without doubt, Zola is the most influential novelist of the 19th century but study of his work is America is almost non-existent probably because he did not write in English and the translations are so poor and out-dated. Not any more. This edition is produced on high quality paper and the translation seems designed for the American reader. Gone is the British spelling and syntax and gone also is the avoidance of any references to sex, religion or bodily functions. Nothing could replace the experience of Zola in the original French, but this is as close as possible. I look forward to the rest of this set which I am sure will be in every American library worthy of the name library. It is good to know that at least a few publishers still are out there that revere good writing and greatness of theme.
The translation is very readable and has surpised me by being practically a page turner. I read Germinal and Le Debacle a long time ago and felt it was time to tackle the whole work from the beginning. It appears that it will be well worth it.
The Fortune Of The Rougons has everything you expect from good French literature: intrigue, skull duggery, a complex maze of intertwining characters and all this against a vivid historical background.

The drama takes place in Plassans - a small, fictional province in rural France. It is a time of great political upheaval in which the followers of Napoleon Bonaparte are attempting to oust the Monarchist government, while in Plassans both the poor and the not so poor volley for position and power. This novel is the first in Zola's Rougon-Macquart Cycle, which comprises twenty volumes, so it is best to begin here if you want to experience the entire body of work in the manner Zola intended.
As far as I can tell, this is not a new translation of "La fortune des Rougons." There are superficial changes -- much of the first chapter, for example, seems to be newly translated, and the book throughout uses "Parc" instead of "Aire" when describing the St-Mettre field -- but mostly this is just the same old 19th century Vizetelly translation word-for-word. And Vizetelly wrote that he altered one out of every three sentences! The Emile Zola Society is advertising these new books as newly translated, but this is very misleading in the extreme. A new English translation of this book is desperately needed and way overdue. And the Emile Zola Socity should be on the forefront of making that happen. But alas! What a disappointment!