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Germinal by Émile Zola
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Germinal (1885)

by Émile Zola

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Les Rougon-Macquart (13)

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3,893591,902 (4.14)1 / 415
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English (48)  French (3)  Italian (2)  Dutch (2)  German (1)  Catalan (1)  Spanish (1)  Hebrew (1)  All languages (59)
Showing 1-5 of 48 (next | show all)
This was a struggle for me. The writing is awesome, and the story of working class people in 1860s France is interesting, but it was just too gritty and boring in parts. Just when I thought I had heard enough about older women's 'tired breasts'... BAM! The manhood of a dead guy is ripped off and paraded around on a stick. There's really much more to this book, but I'm just over it. ( )
  sprainedbrain | Dec 1, 2018 |
Britain has The Ragged-Trousered Philanthropists. The US has The Jungle. France has Germinal. It falls somewhere between the two in terms of its readability, but it is far, far ahead in terms of both its influence and the esteem with which it is (still) held in its home country.

I don’t know for sure, but I bet if you find your nearest Frenchie and ask them, they will have heard of this novel. Try doing that with your nearest Brit or USAnian for their respective novels. I’d be surprised if you got more than a questioning grunt in response from the latter two. France isn’t my favourite country on earth, but for worker’s rights, they have to be given credit and that’s why novels like this one are remembered there.

Written more than 20 years before The Jungle, Germinal is the moving story of the brutal consequences of a miners’ strike in northern France. Zola, a contemporary of and equivalent to Dickens in terms of literary influence and sheer storytelling, can spin a yarn. As with The Jungle, you find yourselves face to face with families who have to endure the harshest working conditions imaginable.

Unlike The Jungle though, there are leaders in industry who you can sympathise with. The impact of the strike on one pit owner in particular is told in a remarkably balanced way. From this, it seems that Zola was not depicting the enemy as those who employed workers, but rather everyone in a capitalist system with an insatiable appetite for profit.

Over 140 years later, we’re still feeding the beast. From the sweatshops of China where most of Amazon’s stock is created to the worn out warehouse workers who dispatch your order, the system we dare not challenge enslaves us.

In the last few years, as I approach retirement and my perspective on full-time work changes, I’ve come to question why it is that we must continue to innovate, to improve, to pack more productivity into fewer hours, to make those figures higher than last year, year in year out. It’s relentless and exhausting, and I can’t for the life of me understand why the (dare I say it, western?) world carries on this way.

Most of us earn far too much money for our needs. Particularly where I live, people have real issues knowing what to do with what they amass. It strikes me that if we were only able to garner what we needed, there would be more of our finite resources to go around. Although we may disagree on how we might bring this ideal about, I’d be the first to call you a fool if you said we shouldn’t bother trying.

Next year, I’ll be doing something about that personally, and it’s books like Germinal that make me realise that I’ll be joining a long list of people who have been attempting to change this situation for a long, long time.

I’m not sure my own choices will make much difference, but maybe ours could. ( )
  arukiyomi | Aug 26, 2018 |
While I can't honestly say that I enjoyed this (too bleak for enjoyment), it was a powerful book. I wish that I had read it in my early 20s when I was on a Dos Passos kick as it would have impressed me even more then... ( )
  leslie.98 | Jul 1, 2018 |
Out of work engineer Étienne Lantier crosses the plains of mid-nineteenth century northern France in search of work. Near the town of Montsou he walks up to the mouth of a coal pit and strikes up a conversation with an old man. The bad news is that there are no jobs for anyone to work on the machinery. But having no other work Étienne hangs around in hope that something will turn up. He’s in luck, of a sort, because the next morning, the old man’s son, Maheu, has an unexpected vacancy in his crew. One of his coal haulers was found dead the night before, whether of drink or a heart attack, no one knew. So Maheu takes on the inexperienced Étienne to fill out his crew, which includes his daughter Catherine. He’ll work to move the coal hacked out of the coalface on a cart on a rail line back to the mine shaft to be hauled to the surface, hundreds of feet above. One of the first things Étienne learns from Chaval, a rude and angry cutter, is that the work of a hauler is traditionally a woman’s job. The next thing he discovers is that Catherine is a girl, something that he had not recognized because of her drab worker’s clothing.

As this brutally realistic portrayal of coal mining, continues Chaval and Étienne will become rivals for Catherine, but this is no romance novel. Sex is as unerotic an escape from the hard work as getting drunk, and looked upon as way of creating more workers for the mine, and hence more income for a miner’s family. The economic disparity between the miners and the owners and managers of the mine, as well as the differing economic pressures upon the two groups is crux of the novel, and morality is subservient to them. But this is not just a political rant about the evils of capitalism or coal mining. Germinal is as exciting as a thriller, and as well wrought as any literary novel.

Pugh does a first rate job of narration. This is a great production and deserves high praise. I only wish that the publisher had cited the English translation that was edited or adapted by the narrator for this recording. ( )
1 vote MaowangVater | Mar 8, 2018 |
...this book was ok to good. I loved the anarchist/communist ideology, but wasn't all that affected by the miners' suffering. It may just be that I don't like 19th century literature that much, either Russian, French, English or American (although Czech I guess I do like, in the case of Kafka, and I liked Moby Dick when I read it in highschool). However, if you do like 19th century lit, I'm sure this book is just what you're looking for. ( )
  weberam2 | Nov 24, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 48 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (75 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Zola, Émileprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Armiño, MauroTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Balzer, HansTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bannister, PhilipIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bartócz, IlonaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Becker, ColetteEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bittencourt, FranciscoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Buuren, Maarten vanEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Buvik, PerAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Collier, PeterTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ellis, HavelockTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Grant, Elliott M.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Jong, A.M. deTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lethbridge, RobertIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mahn, BertholdIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Minervini, ElisabettaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Montherlant, Henry deIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pearson, RogerTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pearson, RogerIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Roldanus, W.J.A.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sbarbaro, CamilloTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Tancock, Leonard W.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Valenti, StefanoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
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First words
Dans la plaine rase, sous la nuit sans étoiles, d’une obscurité et d’une épaisseur d’encre, un homme suivait seul la grande route de Marchiennes à Montsou, dix kilomètres de pavé coupant tout droit, à travers les champs de betteraves.
[translation by Havelock Ellis, 1894] Over the open plain, beneath a starless sky as dark and thick as ink, a man walked alone along the highway from Marchiennes to Montsou, a straight paved road ten kilometers in length, intersecting the beetroot-fields.
Quotations
— Longtemps, ah ! oui !… Je n'avais pas huit ans, lorsque je suis descendu, tenez ! juste dans le Voreux, et j'en ai cinquante-huit, à cette heure. Calculez un peu… J'ai tout fait là-dedans, galibot d'abord, puis herscheur, quand j'ai eu la force de rouler, puis haveur pendant dix-huit ans. Ensuite, à cause de mes sacrées jambes, ils m'ont mis de la coupe à terre, remblayeur, raccommodeur, jusqu'au moment où il leur a fallu me sortir du fond, parce que le médecin disait que j'allais y rester. Alors, il y a cinq années de cela, ils m'ont fait charretier… Hein ? c'est joli, cinquante ans de mine, dont quarante-cinq au fond ! (I, i)
[translation by Havelock Ellis, 1894] "Long? I should think so. I was not eight when I went down into the Voreux and I am now fifty-eight. Reckon that up! I have been everything down there; at first trammer, then putter, when I had the strength to wheel, then pikeman for eighteen years. Then, because of my cursed legs, they put me into the earth cutting, to bank up and patch, until they had to bring me up, because the doctor said I should stay there for good. Then, after five years of that, they made me carman. Eh? that's fine--fifty years at the mine, forty-five down below."
D’une voix ardente, il parlait sans fin. C’était, brusquement, l’horizon fermé qui éclatait, une trouée de lumière s’ouvrait dans la vie sombre de ces pauvres gens. L’éternel recommencement de la misère, le travail de brute, ce destin de bétail qui donne sa laine et qu’on égorge, tout le malheur disparaissait, comme balayé par un grand coup de soleil ; et, sous un éblouissement de féerie, la justice descendait du ciel. Puisque le bon Dieu était mort, la justice allait assurer le bonheur des hommes, en faisant régner l’égalité et la fraternité. Une société nouvelle poussait en un jour, ainsi que dans les songes, une ville immense, d’une splendeur de mirage, où chaque citoyen vivait de sa tâche et prenait sa part des joies communes. Le vieux monde pourri était tombé en poudre, une humanité jeune, purgée de ses crimes, ne formait plus qu’un seul peuple de travailleurs, qui avait pour devise: à chacun suivant son mérite, et à chaque mérite suivant ses œuvres. Et, continuellement, ce rêve s’élargissait, s’embellissait, d’autant plus séducteur, qu’il montait plus haut dans l’impossible.
D’abord, la Maheude refusait d’entendre, prise d’une sourde épouvante. Non, non, c’était trop beau, on ne devait pas s’embarquer dans ces idées, car elles rendaient la vie abominable ensuite, et l’on aurait tout massacré alors, pour être heureux. Quand elle voyait luire les yeux de Maheu, troublé, conquis, elle s’inquiétait, elle criait, en interrompant Étienne : — N’écoute pas, mon homme ! Tu vois bien qu’il nous fait des contes… Est-ce que les bourgeois consentiront jamais à travailler comme nous ? (III, iii)
[translation by Havelock Ellis, 1894] With his enthusiastic voice he spoke on and on. The closed horizon was bursting out; a gap of light was opening in the sombre lives of these poor people. The eternal wretchedness, beginning over and over again, the brutalizing labour, the fate of a beast who gives his wool and has his throat cut, all the misfortune disappeared, as though swept away by a great flood of sunlight; and beneath the dazzling gleam of fairyland justice descended from heaven. Since the good God was dead, justice would assure the happiness of men, and equality and brotherhood would reign. A new society would spring up in a day just as in dreams, an immense town with the splendour of a mirage, in which each citizen lived by his work, and took his share in the common joys. The old rotten world had fallen to dust; a young humanity purged from its crimes formed but a single nation of workers, having for their motto: "To each according to his deserts, and to each desert according to its performance." And this dream grew continually larger and more beautiful and more seductive as it mounted higher in the impossible.
At first Maheude refused to listen, possessed by a deep dread. No, no, it was too beautiful; it would not do to embark upon these ideas, for they made life seem abominable afterwards, and one would have destroyed everything in the effort to be happy. When she saw Maheu's eyes shine, and that he was troubled and won over, she became restless, and exclaimed, interrupting Étienne:
"Don't listen, my man! You can see he's only telling us fairy-tales. Do you think the bourgeois would ever consent to work as we do?"
D'un élan, elle s'était pendue à lui, elle chercha sa bouche et y colla passionnément la sienne. Les ténèbres s'éclairèrent, elle revit le soleil, elle retrouva un rire calmé d'amoureuse. Lui, frémissant de la sentir ainsi contre sa chair, demie-nue sous la veste et la culotte en lambeaux, l'empoigna, dans un réveil de sa virilité. Et ce fut enfin leur nuit de noces, au fond de cette tombe, sur ce lit de boue, le besoin de ne pas mourir avant d'avoir eu leur bonheur, l'obstiné besoin de vivre, de faire de la vie une dernière fois. Ils s'aimèrent dans le désespoir de tout, dans la mort.
Ensuite, il n'y eut plus rien. Étienne était assis par terre, toujours dans le même coin, et il avait Catherine sur les genoux, couchée, immobile. Des heures, des heures s'écoulèrent. Il crut longtemps qu'elle dormait ; puis, il la toucha, elle était très froide, elle était morte. Pourtant, il ne remuait pas, de peur de la réveiller. L'idée qu'il l'avait eue femme le premier, et qu'elle pouvait être grosse, l'attendrissait. D'autres idées, l'envie de partir avec elle, la joie de ce qu'ils feraient tous les deux plus tard, revenaient par moments, mais si vagues, qu'elles semblaient effleurer à peine son front, comme le souffle même du sommeil. Il s'affaiblissait, il ne lui restait que la force d'un petit geste, un lent mouvement de la main, pour s'assurer qu'elle était bien là, ainsi qu'une enfant endormie, dans sa raideur glacée. Tout s'anéantissait, la nuit elle-même avait sombré, il n'était nulle part, hors de l'espace, hors du temps. Quelque chose tapait bien à côté de sa tête, des coups dont la violence se rapprochait ; mais il avait eu d'abord la paresse d'aller répondre, engourdi d'une fatigue immense ; et, à présent, il ne savait plus, il rêvait seulement qu'elle marchait devant lui et qu'il entendait le léger claquement de ses sabots. Deux jours se passèrent, elle n'avait pas remué, il la touchait de son geste machinal, rassuré de la sentir si tranquille.
Étienne ressentit une secousse. Des voix grondaient, des roches roulaient jusqu'à ses pieds. Quand il aperçut une lampe, il pleura. Ses yeux clignotants suivaient la lumière, il ne se lassait pas de la voir, en extase devant ce point rougeâtre qui tachait à peine les ténèbres. Mais des camarades l'emportaient, il les laissa introduire, entre ses dents serrés, des cuillerées de bouillon. Ce fut seulement dans la galerie de Réquillart qu'il reconnut quelqu'un, l'ingénieur Négrel, debout devant lui ; et ces deux hommes qui se méprisaient, l'ouvrier révolté, le chef sceptique, se jetèrent au cou l'un de l'autre, sanglotèrent à grands sanglots, dans le bouleversement profond de toute l'humanité qui était en eux. C'était une tristesse immense, la misère des générations, l'excès de douleur où peut tomber la vie.
Au jour, la Maheude, abattue près de Catherine morte, jeta un cri, puis un autre, puis un autre, de grandes plaintes très longues, incessantes. Plusieurs cadavres étaient déjà remontés et alignés par terre : Chaval que l'on crut assommé sous un éboulement, un galibot et deux haveurs également fracassés, le crâne vide de cervelle, le ventre gonflé d'eau. Des femmes, dans la foule, perdaient la raison, déchiraient leurs jupes, s'égratignaient la face. Lorsqu'on le sortit enfin, après l'avoir habitué aux lampes et nourri un peu, Étienne apparut décharné, les cheveux tout blancs ; et on s'écartait, on frémissait devant ce vieillard. La Maheude s'arrêta de crier, pour le regarder stupidement, de ses grands yeux fixes. (VII, v)
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Serialized 1884-1885, first published as a book 1885
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Book description
Ger-mi-nal, Ger-mi-nal, Ger-mi-nal..., este era el grito que el 5 de octubre de 1902 una delegación de mineros franceses coreaba al arrojar sus ramos de rosas rojas sobre la tumba de Zola: cinco mil parisienses habían recorrido las calles de París con el féretro del escritor que había abanderado el enfrentamiento con el sector más conservador de la sociedad francesa a raíz del conocido como «affaire Dreyfus». Émile Zola , el padre del naturalismo, describe en Germinal , de una forma descarnada, el mundo sombrío y mísero de la mina, retratando a un grupo de personas que vive ahogado en condiciones infrahumanas y por cuyas venas Zola hace correr el odio y el rencor, seres humanos que se extenúan trabajando en medio de una terrible frustración. Los sueños de juventud, la búsqueda del amor, todo choca contra la realidad siniestra de la mina, que se cobra vidas y apenas permite vivir a los que logran salir de su oscuro pozo. Pero cuando falta el pan, cuando el sueño se convierte en pesadilla, los mineros se alzan contra las fuerzas de la destrucción: la huelga hace brotar de todos y cada uno lo mejor y lo peor del ser humano. Con Germinal, Zola escribe una epopeya radicalmente moderna: la denuncia de una realidad se convierte en mito.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0140447423, Paperback)

The thirteenth novel in Émile Zola’s great Rougon-Macquart sequence, Germinal expresses outrage at the exploitation of the many by the few, but also shows humanity’s capacity for compassion and hope.

Etienne Lantier, an unemployed railway worker, is a clever but uneducated young man with a dangerous temper. Forced to take a back-breaking job at Le Voreux mine when he cannot get other work, he discovers that his fellow miners are ill, hungry, and in debt, unable to feed and clothe their families. When conditions in the mining community deteriorate even further, Lantier finds himself leading a strike that could mean starvation or salvation for all.

New translation
Includes introduction, suggestions for further reading, filmography, chronology, explanatory notes, and glossary

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:00:58 -0400)

(see all 7 descriptions)

During the Second Empire, Etienne Lantier, an unemployed railway worker, experiences the miserable life of the coal miners in northern France and enters the struggle between capital and labor.

» see all 11 descriptions

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