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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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5,225771,949 (4.15)1 / 497
The thirteenth novel in Amile Zolaas great Rougon-Macquart sequence, "Germinal" expresses outrage at the exploitation of the many by the few, but also shows humanityas 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.… (more)

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 Author Theme Reads: Germinal by Zola21 unread / 21boleslasditboby, September 2018

» See also 497 mentions

English (63)  French (4)  Spanish (3)  Italian (2)  Dutch (2)  Catalan (1)  Hebrew (1)  German (1)  All languages (77)
Showing 1-5 of 63 (next | show all)
"When you're young you think that you're going to be happy later on, there are things you look forward to; and then you keep finding you're as hard up as ever, you stay bogged down in poverty... I don't blame anyone for it, but there are times when I feel sick at the injustice of it all."

In the thirteenth novel of Zola's staggering Rougon-Macquart cycle, we are reunited with Étienne Lantier, brother of Nana and son of Gervaise, the pathetic heroine of L'Assommoir (neither of which is required reading here, although the latter is my favourite of the cycle thus far). Étienne, impoverished and unemployed, finds himself at the coal mines of Le Voreux, where he attempts to radicalise the miners and their families into a strike to protect their working conditions.

By now, Zola was at the peak of his powers. Buoyed by a fear that he would reach death or senility before the planned end of his great series of novels, the author found himself writing with a renewed vigour. While he has previously explored the lives of the working classes in L'Assommoir, this was to be a novel about active resistance, as opposed to the "passive" poverty of the former. Although Étienne has dreams for a great socialist state, most of the miners are fighting not for revolution but to hang on to their existing (barbarous) conditions in the face of new restrictions imposed by management. Living in the factory town - with the cookie-cutter name of Village Two Hundred and Forty - entire generations trudge each morning to the mines, children being enrolled as soon as they are able, with the oldies transitioning to above-ground work once the back-breaking labour becomes too much. Their life is one of 'knowing their place', like the heartbreaking - and richly symbolic - horses, Bataille and Trompette, who have served their entire adult lives hundreds of metres below ground, clinging to some atavistic memory of sunlight. And always in the background, the mine of Le Voreux "crouching like a vicious beast of prey, snorting louder and longer, as if choking on its painful digestion of human flesh".

I read the final chapters of the novel during the early stages of the 2020 global pandemic, which was an interesting parallel to stories of families scraping to get by, pantries exhausted of resources as the strike drags on, vacillating between the two great human urges of kindness to others and self-preservation. Zola chooses a different narrative tone for each of his novels, and here his narrator is scrupulously fair. This is not the same voice that moralised on Nana or gossiped about the sex lives of the characters in Pot-Luck. This is Zola the social anatomist, asking the reader to decide from the evidence alone whether the current system is a fair one. The ownership class are either cautiously sympathetic, too removed to be aware of the reality of the situation, or pitying... but appreciative of the hierarchical nature of society ("Doubtless they were brutes", says one such with compassion, "but they were illiterate starving brutes"). The peasant mob is too easily spurred on by their hunger and oppression to commit acts of grotesque violence (the single most stomach-churning scene in the series thus far occurs, but I'm not going to repeat it here). And the extreme radicals whom Étienne admires are - like the advocates of social reform in any modern era - all too easily caricatured by the media and the bourgeois to appear as ungrateful or even spiteful.

In short, there is no way to win. Accepting the status quo is an implicit death-knell for oneself and one's children and grandchildren. Politely asking for more is a humiliating and fruitless task. Pushing for it, demanding it, taking it by force is considered the act of brutes - and indeed, often is barbaric in its execution. (Zola's refusal to sugar-coat the lives and intentions of the poor, just as the rich, is especially remarkable - contrast with his contemporary, Charles Dickens.) Germinal is not without hope, but it is a distant hope, a plea for an awakening. This is a novel of ideas, at heart, although Zola's delight in crowd scenes, dissection of character, and "spirit of place" remain on show. Most of his novels have at least one great set-piece, and here it is the final 100 pages, in which a great catastrophe is recounted in excruciating detail. (As always, the author had spent some brief time at an actual coal mine to understand the intricacies of the field.)

There is an additional note for modern readers, which we should keep in mind. Although set in the mid-1860s (the peak of Second Empire France), this was being written in 1884, the year in which trade unions were finally legalised in what was now the Republic of France. Zola was reflecting on the importance of a movement, although many of the outrageous practices chronicled herein still continued, in France as in other countries. And I would be remiss not to mention a translation: go for a modern one. I read Peter Collier's, as I am devoted to the Oxford series, but what's important is to avoid anything older than the 1970s. You will be inevitably faced with cuts, extreme censorship, or just archaic prose. Avoid it!

Subjectively, Germinal easily sits within my Top Five of Zola's series but from an objective standpoint, it is perhaps the most important. ( )
  therebelprince | Oct 24, 2023 |
Um dos grandes romances do século XIX, expressão máxima do naturalismo literário, Germinal baseia-se em acontecimentos verídicos. Para escrevê-lo, Émile Zola trabalhou como mineiro numa mina de carvão, onde ocorreu uma greve sangrenta que durou dois meses. Atuando como repórter, adotando uma linguagem rápida e crua, Zola pintou a vida política e social da época como nenhum outro escritor. Mostrou, como jamais havia sido feito, que o ambiente social exerce efeitos diretos sobre os laços de família, sobre os vínculos de amizade, sobre as relações entre os apaixonados.Germinal é o primeiro romance a enfocar a luta de classes no momento de sua eclosão. A história se passa na segunda metade do século XIX, mas os sofrimentos que Zola descreve continuam presentes em nosso tempo. É uma obra em tons escuros. Termina ensolarada, com a esperança de uma nova ordem social para o mundo.Adaptada para leitores jovens, esta edição é complementada por textos de apoio sobre a vida de Zola e sobre o contexto histórico e literário de suas obras. As ilustrações são de Odilon Moraes.Título de Acervo Básico segundo a Fundação Nacional do Livro Infantil e Juvenil - FNLIJ 2000, categoria tradução/jovem
  Camargos_livros | Aug 30, 2023 |
This was my first Zola novel (definitely won't be my last), and it was as if someone had interwoven the grittiness of Dickens industrial settings with Hardy's expansive sense of place and character into something close to literary perfection.

Set in a mining town in rural France, Germinal evolves around the plight of the miners who take desperate measures when their working pay reduces to a level that no longer sustains keeping families fed in the village. With its vivid descriptions of the horrendous conditions in the mines and superbly developed characters who snowball ever closer to doom, this novel was engaging, shocking and quite simply tremendous from beginning to end. ( )
  AlisonY | Mar 5, 2023 |
In the North of France, in the emptiness outside of coal mining compounds, in the middle of the night, an unemployed young man walks along, hungry and freezing, hoping to come upon a factory or coal mine, where he can find employment:
"Etienne picked up his bundle, but he didn't leave yet. He could feel the wind gusts freezing his back, but his chest was broiling from the great fire. Maybe it would be worth it after all to apply here at the mine: the old man might not know everything; and anyway, he'd take any kind of work there was. Where to go, what to do in the starving land of unemployment? Die and leave his carcass lying behind some wall like a dog? Still, he was troubled, and he hesitated: he felt afraid of this Le Voreux, in the midst of the flat, empty plane, drowned in so thick a blackness.every gust of wind now seemed stronger, as if it had been blown in from ever further Horizons. No Dawn Rose in this dead sky; only the tall furnaces flamed, and the Coke ovens, reddening the Shadows but illuminating nothing. And Le Voreux crouched down in its hollow, like an evil beast chewing, panting with heavy, drawn - out gasps, as if struggling to digest its meal of human flesh."

He gets a job, but only because a worker from a team faltered, and he was substituted. It's a horrible job:
"on the coal face, the pickaxes were busy again. Often, they cut their lunch break short so as not to let themselves get cold; and their briquets, eaten so far from the sun and with such mute voracity, turned to lead in their stomachs. Stretched out on their sides, they tapped away even harder, having only a single, fixed idea in their heads -- filling up a good number of tubs. Nothing else mattered but the furious desire of gain, gain purchased at so hard a price. They no longer felt the water that ran over them and made their limbs swell, nor the cramps that came from these enforced postures, nor the stifling airlessness of the Dark world in which they grew paler, like plants in a cellar. But as the day wore on, the air became even more poisonous, warmed with the burning lamps, the foul breath, the asphyxiating firedamp that covered their eyes like spider webs, and that would only be improved when the mine was ventilated overnight. And deep down in their Mole - holes, under the crushing weight of the Earth, with scarcely a breath left in their burning lungs, they went on hacking away."

At night, by the ruins of an old mine:
"and the two old men, their heads shaking, would part, often without even saying goodbye...
"Etienne went to sit on the same Timber now that they were gone. He felt sadder, without knowing why. Seeing Bonnemort walking away reminded him of his arrival that morning, and how the howling wind had made the Taciturn old man so talkative. So much misery! And all these girls, worn out with fatigue, but still stupid enough to come out here at night and make babies, make more flesh for a life of toil and suffering! It would never end if they went on making more hungry mouths. Wouldn't they do better to seal off their wombs and close their thighs tight at the approach of more unhappiness?but maybe he was only indulging in these morose thoughts because he was bored and alone, at this hour, when everyone else was paired up and seeking pleasure. The muggy air was stifling, and a few scattered drops of rain fell onto his feverish hands. Yes, they all did it; it was stronger than reason."

Etienne organizes the workers to strike, after the Company cuts their pay. The Company refuses to meet with the delegates, so they go to the house of one of the Board:
"'that's right--That's the truth,' muttered the other delegates, seeing Monsieur Hennebeau trying to cut him off with a violent gesture of his hand.
"But it was Maheu who cut off the director. Now that he had started, the words were coming to him of their own accord. At times he listened to himself with surprise, as if some stranger were speaking from inside himself. There were things stored up in the depth of his being, things he hadn't even known were there, and they were all coming out now in the passion of the moment. He spoke of the poverty they all shared,of the hard labor they did and of the Bestial Life they LED, of women and children weeping with hunger in their homes. He cited the recent disastrous paydays, the derisory pay that was eaten into even further by fines and layoff days, pay brought back to the family in tears. Had the Company decided to kill them all off?"

"they were staring at the red vision of the Revolution that would surely come and sweep them all away to their deaths, one bloody evening before the end of the century. Yes - one evening the people would have had enough and would throw off their yoke and would go rushing down the roads just like this; and the blood of the bourgeoisie would flow like a river, and severed heads would be carried high, and gold from violated coffers would be strewn everywhere. The women would howl, and the men would have wolflike Jaws, open and ready to bite. Yes, there would be the same rags, the same thunder of big clogs, the same frightening crowds, their skin dirty and their breath stinking, sweeping away the old world beneath their infinite barbarian horde. Great fires would start, and they wouldn't leave a single Stone of the Town standing; they would revert to a life of savagery in the forest after the great rut, the ultimate blowout, the celebration where the poor would flay the wealthy men's women and empty the gold from their cellers. Yes - these were the things passing by them on the road like a force of nature, and the great wind of it was striking them full in the face."

The very best part of the book--The store owner Maigret, so hated for using the poverty of the families to force the daughters to have sex with him to reduce their debt, is attacked by the starving villagers who amass in a mob of 3000, ravaging anything in their path through the countryside, in their rage and extreme hunger:
"the crowd had to caught sight of Maigrat up on the roof of the shed. In his greedy fervour, despite his heaviness, he had got up on the trellis easily, unconcerned with the wood breaking away beneath his weight; and now he had flattened himself out on the tiles of his roof, straining frantically to reach the window. But the roof was too steep, his big stomach was in the way, and his fingernails were breaking off. Still, he would have pulled himself up even higher if it weren't for his trembling, for he was racked with fear that they would throw rocks at him. And the crowd, right beneath him now, never stopped calling out:
"'let's get the Tomcat! Let's smash him!'
and then suddenly both his hands lost their grip at once, and he rolled backward like a ball, bounced off the gutter of the roof, and fell across the dividing wall so awkwardly that he rebounded down onto the road side of the wall, and split his skull wide open on the corner of a milestone. Part of his brain had oozed out. He was dead. The pale and confused silhouette of his wife behind the window looked down and saw it all.
"for a moment, everyone was stunned. Etienne stopped pounding, the axe slipping from his hands. Maheu, Levaque, and all the others forgot the shop, their eyes turned toward the dividing wall where a thin ribbon of blood trickled down. All the shouting had stopped, and there was silence in the growing dusk.
But then the jeering started up again. This time it was the women who rushed forward, filled with a sudden thirst for blood.
"'so there is a God after all! Oh, the pig! He's dead!'
"they surrounded the still-warm corpse, insulting and laughing at it, calling his smashed-open skull a filthy maw, screaming out into The corpse's face all their long bitter years without bread.
"'hey, I owe you 60 francs, don't I - there, you're paid now you thief!' said La Maheude, as enraged as all the others. 'you won't refuse me credit anymore... No, wait, wait! Let me help you get just a little bit fatter!'
"and she bent down and scraped up mud from the earth with both hands, and opened his dead mouth and shoved it in violently.
"'there you go!! Go ahead and eat now - you won't be eating us any more!'
"the curses and jeers continued to grow, while the motionless Dead man, stretched out on his back, stared up with wide-open eyes at the immense sky of Nightfall. And the dirt heaped into his mouth now was the bread he had refused them. He would never eat real bread again now. And that was how much good it had done him, starving poor people the way he did.
But the women weren't done with him: they wanted some further vengeance. They prowled around the body like she-wolves. Each one was trying to think of some outrage to perform, Some act of savagery that would console them.
then they heard La Brûle's bitter voice:
"'ought to fix him, like a tomcat!'
"'yes, yes! Fix the Tomcat! Fix the Tomcat!... He's done too much with it, the bastard!'
"La Mouquette immediately began pulling off his trousers, with La Levaque lifting up his legs. And La Brûle used her dry old woman's hands to Pull APart his naked thighs and grab hold of his dead manhood. She pulled on the thing so hard that her scrawny back tensed up and her arms cracked with the effort. But the flaccid skin resisted, and she had to pull even harder; but she managed to pull it out, and then she had the little rag of skin, Hairy and bleeding, and she Brandished it above her head, calling out and laughing with triumph:
'I've got it! I've got it!'"

A flood, released when the walls holding back the underground sea break apart and flood the mine, trap 20 miners underground, along with the stable-ful of the horses used to haul the full tubs of coal along the tracks. The oldest horse, living underground for the whole of his enslaved life, tries desperately to find his way to the surface:
"it was Bataille. When he had left the pit bottom, he had galloped along the dark passages, out of his head. He seemed to know his way, though, down in the subterranean City where he had lived for 11 years; and his eyes could see clearly in the depths of the eternal night that had become his home. He galloped, galloped, keeping his head down, picking up his feet, threading his way through the thin tunnels in the earth, filling them up with his huge body. Paths followed on paths and crossroads Forked, but he never hesitated. Where was he heading? Out there, perhaps, toward that vision from his youth, of the mill where he was born on the banks of the Scarpe, toward the confused memory of the sun, burning high up in the sky like an enormous lamp. He wanted to live, and his animal memory reawakened; the desire to breathe once more the air of the plains impelled him forward, seeking the hole, the exit to the warm sky, to the light. And his long - standing resignation was swept away by a spirit of revolt: this mine had blinded him, and now it was trying to kill him. The water pursued him, whipping at his flanks, biting into his rump. But the deeper he went, the narrower the paths became; the roofs lowered, and the walls protruded. He galloped on all the same, scraping himself, leaving bits of skin on the Timbers. the mine seemed to be closing in on him from all sides to trap him and crush him.
As he approached them, Etienne and Catherine could see that he was caught between the rocks. He had stumbled, and he had broken both his front legs. With one final effort, he dragged himself a few meters more, but his flanks could not pass through, and he remained trapped, strangled by the Earth. His bleeding head stretched out as far as it could go, and his great, desperate eyes continued looking for some opening. The water was quickly rising, and he began to Whinny with that long drawn - out death cry that they had already heard from the other horses, trapped back in the stable. It was a horrifying death to watch, the old beast, beaten and immobilized, continuing to struggle down here in these depths, so far from the sun. His cries of distress never stopped; as the flood reached his mane, he cried out even more stridently, his mouth stretched up high and open wide. There was one last rumbling sound, like that of a barrel being filled. Then there was a great silence."

( )
  burritapal | Oct 23, 2022 |
Here's what I wrote after reading in 1993: "A French novel exploring a class awakening to its rights and the possibility of an improved human condition. Yet, a story of the struggle to achieve an improvement at the cost of "capital' with power, greed, and the resources to withstand, and even profit from, the working class' attempts to improve its state." Still remember this read; lives of the extremely poor, trapped by the capitalists profitting off them. ( )
  MGADMJK | Sep 2, 2022 |
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» Add other authors (130 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
Hemmings, Frederic William JohnIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hobbing, Georgsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Jong, A.M. deTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Julien, DominiqueEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lethbridge, RobertIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mahn, BertholdIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Minervini, ElisabettaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Montherlant, Henry deIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pearson, RogerTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pugh, LeightonNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rhys, ErnestAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rieu, E. V.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Roldanus, W.J.A.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sbarbaro, CamilloTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Tancock, Leonard W.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Valenti, StefanoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wurmser, AndréPréfacesecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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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.
— 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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The thirteenth novel in Amile Zolaas great Rougon-Macquart sequence, "Germinal" expresses outrage at the exploitation of the many by the few, but also shows humanityas 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.

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