Wednesday 11 February 2015

I've been debating for quite some time whether I should write this blog in French or English.  It was the same struggle back in the Xanga days (wow that makes me feel 2436456 years old), and I was never able to commit to neither language. I guess that for now, Blooming Colors will stay a reflection of Montreal, my confusingly bilingual (and sometimes bi-polar) town.

For this Literary Wednesday I've decided to share my thoughts on the three Emile Zola I have read last November.

L'ASSOMMOIR // is my first Emile Zola novel. I might have tried at a younger age to flip through the pages but was probably put off by the 19th century jargon. What's ironic is that the baffling slang is one of the reasons why I enjoyed this book so much. I'm pretty sure that Zola is one of the most hard working writers out there, he must have spent years in observation and research to be able to tell his stories with such realism, from the technical aspects of the machinery/craft, down to the working class' argot.

 I found in Gervaise one of my favorite female characters of all time and seeing her downward slide chapter after chapter made me distraught, even weeks after. You know from page one that her fate is sealed (L'Assommoir is part of the Rougon-Macquart series, in which Zola depicts the hereditary influence of violence and alcoholism in the family tree), yet you cheer for her as she climbs her way up and push aside the idea of inevitable order of things...  In this sense, Zola is far more masochistic than George R. Martin (sorry I'm always talking about Game of Thrones ^^), he builds this brave, selfless and well-meaning character, make her crawl out of her misery, give her a few pages of stability and happiness, and then starts destroying her bit by her, as you watch helplessly her fall into an abyss. the title itself is a hint of her inescapable demise. George R. Martin just kills them without a warning. Which is more cruel huh?

Tear jerking moment : Gervaise's encounter at the end with Goujet. "Ecoutez-donc monsieur".
Unexpected bitch moment : 19th century cat fight consisting of boiling water splashing and spanking at the wash house, with all the women around cheering.
Moment of panic followed by moment of relief: when I compared myself to Gervaise and reflected up the disastrous consequences of becoming an alcoholic, then realizing that I cannot hold alcohol at all, and therefore have very little chance of falling in the alcoholic way of life.

GERMINAL // To plant a seed, an idea. The birth & growth of a movement.

Living in Quebec, I've grown used to hearing the unions incessant whining and unreasonable claims. My parents own a hotel with an unionized staff, and the ridiculous stories that I hear all the time just reinforced my standpoint: Unions are led by greedy and selfish people, they are simply irrelevant and ineffective in our country. Reading this book has made me contemplate the value of labor laws/trade unions (something I don't think about that much).

In Germinal, Zola offers a devastatingly realistic depiction of miners' heart wrenching living and working condition in rural France during the late 1800s, and denounces the excesses of the wealthy bourgeois. Just like Les Misérables and The Grapes of Wrath, Germinal ambitiously encompasses all the themes related to humanity. And the whole spectrum of the human nature. Like I have mentioned above, I think Zola was not only a hard working writer, but also an outstanding understanding of human psychology

By the way, the poster above is from the movie adaptation by Claude Berri, which absolutely did not do justice to Zola's novel in my opinion. It had a lot of potential, considering that it was filmed in the same region as the setting in the book, with real coal miners as extras, AND it was after all the most expensive French movie ever produced at the time (1993). I found the characters rather one-dimensional, and the entire atmosphere of misery diluted/simplistic, which resulted in my lack of empathy, whereas in the novel, my heart ached and ached for the miners :(

LA BÊTE HUMAINE// With a title like this and a train on the cover, I simply assumed that this book would be a story on the BEASTLY train consuming the railroad workers. I was not expecting a tale of murderous pulse inside a dark and tormented mind (again, related to the inevitable hereditary madness/violence/alcoholism, the main character is one of Gervaise's son after all). It was quite original and surprisingly violent, as if Zola decided to let off steam and pack all the perversion/violence possible  into this book. There are no less than two rapes and two suicides, and a few murders, which at the time the book was published (1890) was quite *shocking*  :O.

Maybe I just have a problem with film adaptations, but again, I was disappointed by the much praised Jean Renoir's film from 1938, I couldn't even finish it.

Fiou, I'm aware that my writing feels like a ready appreciation assignment from high school, but I've enjoyed putting down my thoughts on these books, perhaps if I keep writing regularly I will become less stiff.

Next on Literary Wednesday: Memoirs of Hadrien, The Abyss, La Princesse de Clèves and Girl with Dragon Tattoo.

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