The Ladies' Paradise (BBC tie-in) (Oxford World's Classics)

BOOK: The Ladies' Paradise (BBC tie-in) (Oxford World's Classics)
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Great Clarendon Street, Oxford
2 6

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Translation, Bibliography, Notes © Brian Nelson 1995

Chronology © Roger Pearson 1993

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First published as a World’s Classics paperback 1995

Reissued as an Oxford World’s Classics paperback 1998 Reissued 2008

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British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data
Data available

Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data

Zola, Émile, 1840–1902.

[Au bonheur des dames. English]

The ladies’ paradise/Émile Zola; translated with an introduction and notes by Brian Nelson.

p.   cm.—(Oxford world’s classics)

Eleventh book in the author’s Rougon-Macquart cycle.

Includes bibliographical references.

I. Nelson, Brian, 1946-     .     II. Title.     III. Series.

PQ2497.A8E5     1995     843′.8—dc20     94–43695

ISBN 978-0-19-953690-0


Printed in Great Britain by
Clays Ltd, St Ives Plc



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The Ladies’ Paradise


Translated with an Introduction and Notes by






was born in Paris in 1840, the son of a Venetian engineer and his French wife. He grew up in Aix-en-Provence where he made friends with Paul Cézanne. After an undistinguished school career and a brief period of dire poverty in Paris, Zola joined the newly founded publishing firm of Hachette which he left in 1866 to live by his pen. He had already published a novel and his first collection of short stories. Other novels and stories followed until in 1871 Zola published the first volume of his Rougon-Macquart series with the sub-title
Histoire naturelle et sociale d’une famille sous le Second Empire,
in which he sets out to illustrate the influence of heredity and environment on a wide range of characters and milieux. However, it was not until 1877 that his novel
a study of alcoholism in the working classes, brought him wealth and fame. The last of the Rougon-Macquart series appeared in 1893 and his subsequent writing was far less successful, although he achieved fame of a different sort in his vigorous and influential intervention in the Dreyfus case. His marriage in 1870 had remained childless but his extremely happy liaison in later life with Jeanne Rozerot, initially one of his domestic servants, gave him a son and a daughter. He died in 1902.

is Professor of French and Head of the Department of Romance Languages at Monash University, Melbourne. His publications include
Zola and the Bourgeoisie
and, as editor,
Naturalism in the European Novel: New Critical Perspectives
Forms of Commitment: Intellectuals in Contemporary France,
as well as a translation of Zola’s
Pot Luck (Pot Bouille)
for Oxford World’s Classics. He is engaged at present on a book on Huysmans and the Decadent Imagination.



Translator’s Note

Select Bibliography

A Chronology of Emile Zola




Explanatory Notes


was born in Paris on 2 April 1840 of a French mother and an Italian father. At the time of Émile’s birth his father, a civil engineer, was trying to secure government approval for the construction of a canal to bring a water supply to Aix-en-Provence. His attempts were successful, and as a result Émile spent his childhood at Aix (the ‘Plassans’ of his novels), where one of his close school-friends was Paul Cézanne, the painter. When he was 6 his father died suddenly, leaving Madame Zola in a precarious financial situation. In 1858 she moved with her son to Paris, hoping to gain the support of her husband’s friends; but this came to nothing and, for a few months in 1860, Zola lived in desperate poverty. At the beginning of 1862 he took a job with the publisher Hachette, rising quickly to the position of advertising manager. After four years with the firm he decided to become a full-time writer. He had already published his first novel, the semi-autobiographical
La Confession de Claude,
in 1865. This book gave him a certain notoriety, which was greatly increased by his vigorous defence of Édouard Manet’s paintings in a newspaper review of the Salon of 1866. Zola became the main champion of the Impressionist movement. His literary reputation was further enhanced with the publication in 1867 of
Thérèse Raquin,
a tale of adultery and murder which displayed the powerful atmospheric effects that characterize his later work.

During 1868 Zola conceived the idea of writing a series of novels about a single family, the Rougon-Macquart, whose fortunes would be followed through several generations. The subtitle of the series, ‘
Natural and Social History of a Family under the Second Empire’, suggests Zola’s two interconnected aims: to embody in fiction certain ‘scientific’ notions about the ways in which human behaviour is determined by heredity and environment; and to use the symbolic possibilities of a family whose heredity is warped to represent critically certain aspects of a diseased society—the decadent and corrupt, yet dynamic and vital, France of the Second Empire (1852–70). The Rougon-Macquart
family is descended from the three children, one legitimate and two illegitimate, of an insane woman, Tante Dide. There are thus three main branches of the family. The first of these, the Rougons, prospers, its members spreading upwards in society to occupy commanding positions in the worlds of government and finance.
His Excellency Eugène Rougon
describes the corrupt political system of Napoleon III, while
The Kill
evoke the frenetic contemporary speculation in real estate and stocks. The Macquarts are the working-class members of the family, unbalanced and descended from the alcoholic Antoine Macquart. Members of this branch figure prominently in all of Zola’s most powerful novels:
The Belly of Paris,
which uses the central food markets, Les Halles, as a gigantic figuration of the appetites and greed of the bourgeoisie;
a poignant evocation of the lives of the working class in a Paris slum area;
the novel of a celebrated prostitute whose sexual power ferments destruction among the Imperial Court;
perhaps Zola’s most famous novel, which focuses on a devastating miners’ strike on the coalfields of north-eastern France;
The Masterpiece,
the story of a half-mad painter of genius;
in which Zola brings an epic sweep to his portrayal of peasant life;
The Beast in Man,
which opposes the technical progress represented by the railways to the physiological fatalities embodied in the homicidal mania of a train driver, Jacques Lantier; and
The Downfall,
which describes the Franco-Prussian War and is the first important war novel in French literature. The second illegitimate branch of the family is the Mourets, some of whom are successful bourgeois adventurers. Octave Mouret is an ambitious philanderer in
a savagely comic picture of the hypocrisies and adulteries behind the façade of a bourgeois apartment building. Mouret’s determined efforts to build a career set him apart from the failures and frustrations of the bourgeois world Zola portrays with such vehemence. In
The Ladies’ Paradise,
the effective sequel to
he is shown making his fortune from women as he creates one of the first big Parisian department stores.

BOOK: The Ladies' Paradise (BBC tie-in) (Oxford World's Classics)
8.21Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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