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The Belly of Paris (Modern Library Classics) Paperback – May 12, 2009

ISBN-13: 978-0812974225 ISBN-10: 0812974220

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Product Details

  • Series: Modern Library Classics
  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Modern Library (May 12, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0812974220
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812974225
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #68,716 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The Belly of Paris is Les Halles centrales, the enormous (21-acre) market complex built by Baron Haussmann in the 1850s. Into it flowed great rivers of vegetables, cheeses, butter, fish and meats, and out of it sewers of blood and putrefaction. In this third volume of the Rougon-Macquart series, available in the U.S. for the first time, Zola describes both with typical hypnotic exhaustiveness. Escaping from undeserved exile on Devils Island, the starving quondam scholar Florent finds the markets occasionally seductive but more often repellent. From the moment he arrives, he is caught in what his friend the artist Claude Lantier (from La Confession de Claude) calls the Battle of the Fat and the Thin being waged between the well-fed, self-satisfied petty burghers and the hungry, envious lower classes. The Fat surround Florent?his half-brother, an unimaginative pork-butcher and his conventionally moral wife (the daughter of Antoine Macquart); the fishwives whom he monitors; local shopkeepers?and all look at him suspiciously for his failure to settle into a bourgeois existence. Not that the Thin?the neighborhood gossip, the markets' weekend revolutionaries?don't cause Florent just as much trouble. Neither bitter nor complacent, Florent is an irritation that the markets tacitly move to dislodge. One of Zola's own favorites, La Ventre de Paris is a brilliant exposition of one man's fragmentation and an often painful indictment of those who live innocent of infamy or praise.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

In Zola's 1873 tale, an escaped prisoner hiding out in Paris becomes entangled with a group of Socialists.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Karl Janssen on May 3, 2005
Format: Paperback
This novel, the third in the Rougon-Macquart series, is a great example of what Zola does best. Through his minute attention to descriptive detail, he creates a setting based on historical fact, peoples it with an ensemble cast of realistic characters, and before we know it we are entangled in their lives as if we were one of the neighborhood. In this case the neighborhood is Les Halles, the huge marketplace of Paris, and the cast is composed of fish mongers, butchers, bakers, vegetable sellers, and street urchins. The two main characters are Lisa Quenu (born Lisa Macquart, daughter of Antoine Macquart), and her brother-in-law Florent. Florent, a Republican who's had some trouble with the law, seems to be an embodiment of Zola's feelings toward the revolutionary movement of the time, both positive and negative. Lisa, who runs a butcher shop with her husband, represents the moderate French citizen of the era, far more interested in the comforts and challenges of everyday life than in the events of the world outside her own immediate surroundings. While Florent entertains grandiose Utopian visions of a socialist France, politics is the last thing on Lisa's mind. Her main concern is keeping up the appearance of relative prosperity, thereby winning her family a bit of social status within the neighborhood.

Depending on which edition you read, this book is either titled The Belly of Paris or The Fat and the Thin. The second title refers to two types of people in the world. On the most obvious level it could simply refer to the division between the Haves and the Have-Nots.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 4, 1997
Format: Paperback
From the moment the hero appears -- about to be run down by a row of peasant carts bringing produce to market -- to his denunciation and arrest caused by the swirling jealousies and mutual hatreds of the wholesale food merchants of Paris, this book is a nonstop ode to food. Virtually every page is a food fight of the senses, with pages of sensuous descriptions of every manner of food known to France.

Set in Napoleon III's Paris, shortly after the giant Les Halles market was built on the Right Bank (it is now a giant sunken shopping mall near the Pompidou Center), THE BELLY OF PARIS is the story of an escapee from the French penal colony in Cayenne who lives with his brother, a pork butcher, and becomes a seafood inspector. In the process, he becomes a target for the discontents of the gossipy food merchants who are resentful of his left-leaning ways. He and his friends foment a pathetic attempt at a revolution that mirrors what was to become the Paris Commune years later. This is one of the early volumes in Zola's monumental Rougon-Macquart series.
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15 of 18 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 3, 1999
Format: Paperback
Zola is a great author and any of his stuff is worth reading. This book breaks new ground in its portrayal of the lives of the "little people" of Paris, its detailed descriptions of food and, most of all, its use of a city district - rather than human beings - as its main character. Zola himself had great affection for it. You feel his nostalgia for his difficult early days in the capital. But ultimately the book doesn't quite gell. The famous descriptions, while being jewels in themselves, actually get in the way of the action. The plot could have been more sharply focused and, perhaps the most curious thing of all, the main human character, Florent, is only a member by marriage of the Rougon-Macquart family which the cycle of novels is about. The "real" member of the family, Lisa, has a remarkably peripheral role. Also, the book could have been made a lot shorter. But it is still rewarding for the reader because, after dealing with provincial intrigue and the capital's fat cats in his first two novels, Zola takes his first stab at portraying the people that were ultimately to make his reputation: the "lower orders".
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 10, 1999
Format: Paperback
The plot for the "Belly" is excellent for those who appreciate Zola's subtle twists of fates and corruptible society. Many books by Zola have been amply translated with little lost of the style incorporated by Zola. However, in painting the markets of Paris, Zola incorporates a style similar to literary landscaping utilized by James F. Cooper (highly detailed). The translation does not flow as an artist brush on a canvas, it becomes tedious at times leaving me to skim over rather quickly, which is rare. Overall, it was worth reading, but not worth going to pains to get to it.
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14 of 18 people found the following review helpful By J. V. Lewis VINE VOICE on February 5, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Not Zola's best work by a long shot, but mostly a good read. The many pages of description, though typical of the era and of Zola's late style, end up feeling overindulgent. I read this book in small portions, and found myself frequently bored and even agrieved by the endless word-pictures of mountains of produce and hoards of marketers. It felt as though I'd hired Zola as a guide to Les Halles only to find him pesky and insistant, always tapping me on the shoulder and urging me to look at all the colors and smell all the odors and hear all the babble. The story ended up more interesting as a period piece than as literature. But it's entertaining and worth the effort.

But I owe no thanks to the editors. This edition as so full of typos, misprints, and other errors, sometimes more than one per page, that I have to question whether the translation itself is scholarly. A greater work might have sent me to the French to double check the translation, but this book just isn't worth the effort.

If you're considering where to start with Zola, look first to L'Assommoir or Therese Raquin. They are more rewarding.
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