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Germinal (Oxford World's Classics) Reissue Edition

46 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0199536894
ISBN-10: 0199536899
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Editorial Reviews


'masterpiece' Oxford Times

'A good translator uses the language of his day; the original text remains fixed, but translations must move with the times. Collier's, though differing from, and not always improving on, Tancock's, is likely to have the same startling effect on the reader coming fresh to it today as his prdecessor's had forty years ago.' F.W.J. Hemmings, French Studies, Vol. 48, Part 4

Language Notes

Text: English (translation)
Original Language: French --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Series: Oxford World's Classics
  • Paperback: 576 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford Paperbacks; Reissue edition (September 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199536899
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199536894
  • Product Dimensions: 7.7 x 1 x 5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (46 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #632,668 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

71 of 73 people found the following review helpful By Dana Keish on January 23, 2003
Format: Paperback
Germinal is generally considered the greatest of Emile Zola's twenty novel Rougon-Macquart cycle. Of these, Germinal is the most concerned with the daily life of the working poor. Set in the mid 1860's, the novel's protaganist Etienne Lantier is hungry and homeless, wandering the French countryside, looking for work. He stumbles upon village 240, the home of a coal mine, La Voreteux. He quickly gets a job in the depths of the mine, experiencing the backbreaking work of toiling hundreds of feet below the earth. He is befriended by a local family and they all lament the constant work required to earn just enough to slowly starve. Fired up by Marxist ideology, he convinces the miners to strike for a pay raise. The remainder of the novel tells the story of the strike and its effect on the workers, managers, owners and shareholders.
Zola weaves a strong plot line along with a multitude of characters. The hallmark of this novel is the wealth of people who populate the pages. The miners are not the noble poor but men and women who live day to day, cruel in some ways, generous in others. The managers are owners are not evil, greedy men but complex characters who in some ways envy the freedom of the miners from conventional morality.
As with most Zola novels, don't expect a happy ending. But the reader can expect to be transported to a world and a way of life almost unimaginable for its brutality and bleakness. Like other great works of literature, the novel explores the thoughts and actions of people who suffer the daily indignities of poverty and injustice. Germinal is different however because the thoughts and actions are not noble and the consequences of their actions are felt by all. I would strongly recommend Germinal as one of the major novels of the 19th century but one that transcends time and place. The issues evoked in the novel regarding labor versus capital are just as relevant to today's world.
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29 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Red Pineapple on December 27, 2008
Format: Paperback
For those who don't know, Germinal is the month of April on the Revolutionary calendar, instituted in France in the late eighteenth century. The idea of germination, the springing forth of new life, pervades the entire story, and it is rich with symbolism throughout. Étienne, a newcomer who quickly becomes the leader of the workers' rebellion, literally plants the seeds of socialism and the promise of a new world order in the minds of these otherwise simple miners. But throughout the book, the lives of the miners remain bleak, going from simply struggling to make each day's soup and constantly running out of coffee, to simply dying from starvation during the strike, which lasts for more than two months.

But in spite of their poverty and general misery, the miners still enjoy a level of freedom that the bourgeoisie, whole live a life of idleness and ignorance among their workers, do not. They are free to openly engage in sexual activities, which is something that is absolutely forbidden to the upper classes. Even the manager of the mine, M. Hennebeau, as he looks out his window at the swarm of strikers, envies them for their emotional freedom, his own marriage being nothing more than a loveless sham.

There are events in the book that will shock the uninformed reader. The miners regularly beat their wives and children, and the mothers look on their children as little more than wage-earners in some respects. A reader must place himself in the period and environment in which this story takes place. These mining families are holding on with both hands, and struggle everyday just to simply survive. So it's no wonder that when a child's legs are crushed in a tragic mining accident, his mother laments the loss of his income more than his injuries and pain. In the end, this book simply shows that the will to survive, and to achieve a just world, can conquer anything.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Gio on February 2, 2011
Format: Paperback
Aw, do I really have to write a book report, Mr Taylor? Why can't I just lie here on the sofa and reverberate with the beauty of the language and the ferocity of the story? Will you give me a decent grade if I go and sabotage a coal mine, or at least honor the picket line around our local Walmart, since that's what Zola's passion for social justice inspires me to do? This novel is too grand and powerful to demean with a paltry book report. I'm sure that's why there are only two reviews posted here; everyone is intimidated by greatness.

"Germinal" is widely regarded as Zola's masterpiece. I'm inclined to agree. It's surely his most passionate, suspenseful, kinesthetic novel, with a cast of characters so vividly depicted that you'd recognize them on a crowded street. The focal character is the young laborer Etienne Lantier -- the family link to the other novels of Zola's Rougon-Macquart epic -- who takes a job, out of desperation, in a coal mine. Zola did his homework on mining technology and working conditions in the mines of mid-19th C France. His word-paintings of the mines are worth a thousand pictures, and the conditions of work are beyond hellish. Life for the miners and their families in the company-owned villages is squalid and brutish, while the luxury enjoyed by the bourgeois managers and stockholders is hatefully excessive. Exploiters and exploited are both trapped in an orgy of moral and psychological corruption. Young Etienne, a self-educated idealist pushed and yanked every which way by his reading and his contact with utopian socialism, becomes the instigator of a massive strike that begins with orderly optimism but that devolves into misery and violence. Meanwhile the poor lad falls in love with a miner's daughter ...
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