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The Dream (1888)

by Émile Zola, François Émile-Zola (Editor), Robert Massin (Editor)

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Les Rougon-Macquart (16)

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4341045,735 (3.47)33
Emile Zola's novel Le R#65533;ve (1888) is a love idyll between a poor embroideress and the son of a wealthy aristocratic family set against the background of a sleepy cathedral town in northern France. A far cry from the seething, teeming world evoked in Zola’s best-known novels, it may at first seem a strange interlude between La Terre and La B#65533;te Humaine in the 20-volume sequence known as the Rougon-Macquart cycle. However, belying its appearance as a simple fairytale the work reveals many of Zola’s characteristic themes, the conflict between heredity and environment, between spirituality and sensuality, between the powerful and the powerless. The dream of Ang#65533;lique, the central character, is at once reality and illusion, and this interplay provides the driving force of the novel. Above all, it is, as Zola himself described it, "a poem of passion," showing the lyrical dimension of his genius. This important new translation by Michael Glencross, the first in English since that of Eliza Chase in 1893, recaptures the vigor of Zola’s original. The translator also provides a helpful introduction that situates the novel in the context of Zola’s life and work as a whole.… (more)
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English (8)  French (1)  Italian (1)  All languages (10)
Showing 1-5 of 8 (next | show all)
The story takes place in Val-d'Oise, in a city called Beaumont-sur-Oise (Zola was largely inspired by Cambrai to describe this city). Beaumont-sur-Oise's description is accurate, with the old upper town and the more modern lower town. The city is accessible via the Gare du Nord. The heroine is Angélique Rougon, daughter of Sidonie Rougon and unknown father (born fifteen months after the death of her mother's husband). From birth she was placed by the midwife in Public Assistance, then entrusted to a nanny in Nièvre, a florist and, finally, to the Rabiers, a family of tanners who mistreat her. One Christmas night, she decides to flee the Rabiers and is taken by a couple of embroiderers, Hubert, who discovered her frozen, leaning against a pillar of Beaumont Cathedral. This very pious family (they embroider for clothes and ecclesiastical ornaments) lives in a small house facing the cathedral. Angélique, who became Hubert's pupil, shows a lot of dedication and a taste for embroidery. At the same time, she reads and discovers the Golden Legend, a book that will change her teenage life. She identifies with the martyrs, dreams of having the same glorious destiny as them, looking out the window at the apparition that will change her life.

This apparition finally arrives in the form of a charming young man, Félicien, a glass painter that she identifies with São Jorge descended from its stained glass. Love is born in them, but their families are opposed to marriage: on the one hand, Hubertine Hubert, their adoptive mother, who married despite her mother's ban and believes she was punished for not being able to have children, does not want a marriage dictated by passion; the same goes for Félicien's father, Monsignor d'Hautecœur, who received orders after his wife's death and became a bishop. Finally, seeing that Angelica is slowly consumed by this prohibition, the two families consent to the marriage.

Here we can find passages or even characters from fairy tales. The fairy tale flourished in the 17th century, notably with Charles Perrault, who wrote several short stories such as Cinderella and Donkey Skin.

A short story is written in a dream setting with few easily identifiable characters: good or bad. Take Cinderella's story as an example. The young woman is the main character, she is "graceful" while the stepmother is "cruel".

In the novel, we can make a connection with Andersen's tale: The Little Matchmaker. The latter tells the story of a poor young woman sleeping in front of a church and trying to sell boxes of matches to earn a minimum of money. But at the end of each day she sold only one packet of matches. Shivering with cold and hunger, she then wandered from street to street. The beginning of this novel is the same.

The rest of this theme is based on the popular expression of the fairy tale and not on the genre in the first sense.

Zola also addresses the theme of religion, but in a much less violent and controversial way than in previous novels. This time, he is interested in the popular faith and the revival of mysticism in French society in the second half of the 19th century. ( )
  Marcos_Augusto | Feb 19, 2021 |
This relatively short, simple love story is one of the quiet breathing-spaces in the Rougon-Macquart cycle, like Une page d'amour and La joie de vivre; it gives us the chance to recover and reflect a little in between the exertions of La Terre and La Bête Humaine.

Zola casts the story in almost Pre-Raphaelite romantic terms: a lovely young orphan who spends her days embroidering vestments in the medieval house of her adoptive parents in the shadow of the cathedral in a sleepy country town (a fictional version of Cambrai); the handsome young artisan who falls in love with her, and turns out to be a disguised nobleman; a climbable balcony; disapproving parents; religious processions; a deathbed scene... You get the picture.

Needless to say, there's more to it, although you perhaps wouldn't notice if you weren't pre-warned by the other Zola novels you've read. Angélique (we're told, but she isn't) is the illegitimate daughter of the shady businesswoman Sidonie Rougon, whom we met only 14 books ago in La curée. As such, she's guaranteed not to be 100% mentally fit, and in her case this expresses itself through her obsessive interest in the medieval saints and virgins of the Golden Legend. She manages, with Zola's active connivance, to live in a mental universe that shuts out any kind of intellectual input more recent than the early renaissance. Disguised noble suitors, balconies, inexplicable illnesses and mystical cures are all perfectly normal, but she's completely incapable of imagining any kind of story that continues beyond the wedding ceremony, with predictable (but almost metatextual) consequences.

Zola is bashing religion nearly as hard as romanticism: both are part of the fatal Dream that conspires to destroy people's lives (in another world, he might almost have given this book the title The dominant ideology!). But he's also enjoying himself with lots of lyrical descriptions of the embroiderers' work, their tools, their subjects, the language they use, and he doesn't waste the opportunity to tell us about the cathedral and its stained glass, either. A fairly slight book, but with some good stuff in it. ( )
  thorold | Apr 14, 2020 |
Despite The Dream striking me as abrupt, I enjoyed the descriptions; architecture and embroidery occupy the majority of such. Again Zola tips his hat to Balzac. Still, I couldn't shake the thought upon completion, that the novel could've been Thérèse Raquin's last thoughts after she swallowed her poison. ( )
  jonfaith | Feb 22, 2019 |
Finally finished it as an adult and loved it. The descriptions of Ecclesiastical embroidery by the Bishop were outstanding in their detail of thread-of-gold and how skilled one needed to be to stitch with it. Also well-done were the descriptions of Angelique's embroidery skills for the then-highest level of embroidery.

I better understood this time around the language, the love story, the descriptions of the history of the home, the family, and Angelique's finding." Zola's kindness with these characters relative to his other books is touching and once again reaches deep into the heart of characters and their motives. And it helped my French remain at the forefront of my brain." ( )
  threadnsong | Jun 18, 2016 |
Part of the 20-vol Rougon-Marquart cycle. ( )
  Petra.Xs | Apr 2, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 8 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (41 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Zola, Émileprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Émile-Zola, FrançoisEditormain authorall editionsconfirmed
Massin, RobertEditormain authorall editionsconfirmed
Bergweiler, UlrikeTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Brown, AndrewTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Chase, Eliza E.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gibbard, PaulTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Glencross, MichaelTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Métivet, LucienIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ripoll, Rogersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Schwabe, CarlozIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Emile Zola's novel Le R#65533;ve (1888) is a love idyll between a poor embroideress and the son of a wealthy aristocratic family set against the background of a sleepy cathedral town in northern France. A far cry from the seething, teeming world evoked in Zola’s best-known novels, it may at first seem a strange interlude between La Terre and La B#65533;te Humaine in the 20-volume sequence known as the Rougon-Macquart cycle. However, belying its appearance as a simple fairytale the work reveals many of Zola’s characteristic themes, the conflict between heredity and environment, between spirituality and sensuality, between the powerful and the powerless. The dream of Ang#65533;lique, the central character, is at once reality and illusion, and this interplay provides the driving force of the novel. Above all, it is, as Zola himself described it, "a poem of passion," showing the lyrical dimension of his genius. This important new translation by Michael Glencross, the first in English since that of Eliza Chase in 1893, recaptures the vigor of Zola’s original. The translator also provides a helpful introduction that situates the novel in the context of Zola’s life and work as a whole.

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