Zola wrote that 'my title speaks not merely of a war, but also of the crumbling of a regime and the end of a world'.The penultimate novel of the Rougon-Macquart cycle, La Debacle (1892) takes as its subject the dramatic events of the Franco-Prussian War and the Commune of 1870-71. During Zola's lifetime it was the bestselling of all his novels, praised by contemporaries for its epic sweep as well as itsattention to historical detail. The novel seeks to explain why the Second Empire ended in a crushing military defeat and revolutionary violence. It focuses on ordinary soldiers, showing their bravery and suffering in the midst of circumstances they cannot control. Zola's descriptions are some ofthe most powerful he ever wrote. He skilfully integrates his narrative of events and the fictional lives of his characters to provide the finest account of this tragic chapter in the history of France. Often compared to War and Peace, La Debacle has been described as a 'seminal' work for allmodern depictions of war.… (more)
Artymedon: This Osprey book has a great map of the battlefield of Sedan, France where La Debacle's main action takes place. The reader understands then how accurate Zola's descriptions are and how his book's values are as much historical as those of a social novelist.… (more)
Camp had been set up two kilometres from Mulhouse, nearer the Rhine, in the middle of the fertile plain.
The ravaged field was lying fallow, the burnt house was down to the ground, and Jean, the most humble and grief-stricken of men, went away, walking into the future to set about the great, hard job of building a new France.