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Germinal (Penguin Classics) Paperback – May 25, 2004


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Product Details

  • Series: Penguin Classics
  • Paperback: 592 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; Revised edition (May 25, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140447423
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140447422
  • Product Dimensions: 7.8 x 5.1 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (44 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #122,540 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Émile Zola (1840-1902) was the leading figure in the French school of naturalistic fiction. His principal work, Les Rougon-Macquart, is a panorama of mid-19th century French life, in a cycle of 20 novels which Zola wrote over a period of 22 years.


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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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See all 44 customer reviews
This book is a page turner.
Mike B
Instead, he creates human characters we can empathize with, and provides us with the motivations for their actions.
Karl Janssen
As usual, the characters more than make the story.
Jeremy D Vosburgh

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

52 of 55 people found the following review helpful By GeoX on September 28, 2001
Format: Paperback
Mind you, I've only read five of Zola's books (I'd be plowing through the rest now, if not for the bane of schoolwork...grrr), so it's possible that the man's written something even better, but it's hard to imagine how that would be possible, really.
Germinal is such an amazing, multi-faceted piece of work that it seems difficult if not impossible to encapsulate the whole thing in a paltry review. If the concept of a novel based around a coal miners' strike in nineteenth-century France sounds off-putting to you, be assured, it's much more accessible than you think. Frequently depressing it certainly is, but it's never less than gripping, and with such a dazzling array of characters and scenes, you'll be riveted throughout. Who can forget the allegorical Russian anarchist Souvarine (who I always picture as looking like Xellos from Slayers, for some reason)? The lugubriously tortured sexual longings of M Hennebeau? Or the horses who work in the mine, doomed to live a life entirely devoid of sunlight? I don't think think anyone short of Tolstoy is capable of doing animals this well. And let's not forget about the awe-inspiring closing paragraph.
Germinal is frequently a melodramatic novel, but never in a propagandizing way--while Zola's sympathies clearly lie with the miners, he is careful not to pile the whole of the blame for their living conditions on the owners, instead making most of them into sympathetic, or at least comprehensible, people. The blame lies with the entire system, and Zola's determination not to resort to simple-minded scapegoating makes the novel all the more real.
Admittedly, Zola's writing and use of imagery isn't exactly subtle (how often does he characterize the mine as a devouring maw--or words to that effect--in the first chapter alone?
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25 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Alexander Curtis on January 3, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
There are three really good translations of Emile Zola's Germinal. I have read all three and believe all of them have their merits. The 1996 Collier translation, published by Oxford World Classics, is brilliant; however, in saying that, it is very British. The Collier translation, Germinal (Oxford World's Classics), does flow extremely well and, if you don't mind the numerous Britishisms in the translation, you will love this edition. The 2004 Penguin translation by Roger Pearson,Germinal (Penguin Classics), is also brilliant; however, there are numerous editing errors in the text. The translation, again, brilliant, but the editing is horrid. For me, the 1954 translation by Leonard Tancock and published by Penguin, Germinal (Penguin Classics), is absolutely brilliant, and it seems to be more appropriate for the time in which it was written. However, in saying all this, any of these three editions will be excellent reads for anyone interested in Zola.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By M. A. Krul on May 1, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is ?mile Zola's undisputed masterpiece in the Rougon-Macquart novel series. In each of the novels of this series Zola sketches in honest, human detail the life of the working class of 19th Century France; in Germinal, the center of attention is the mining industry of the far north.

The story describes the experience of an ex-machinist, Etienne Lantier (who appears as such in one of the other novels) in the Voreux and other mines around the town of Montsou, situated somewhat near Valenciennes. Starving and looking for a job in a period of industrial crisis, he is introduced to the reader as he arrives at the mine. Etienne soon manages to get a job there, and gets to know the great variety of characters that make up the local mining town. But his deep-felt social activism, combined with his somewhat higher education than the local miners, sets in motion a chain of events that changes both his life and that of the reader forever.

Zola's brilliant description of the reality of the struggle between classes and the effects, positive and negative, that zealous struggle for the improvement of the world can have on individual humans in dire straits is sure to haunt the reader for a long time. The author manages to describe both the miners, in their jealousy, pride, poverty and despair, as well as the local bourgeoisie in their misguidedness, personal issues and the pressures of capitalism with a deep understanding of the human psyche. The interactions between humans under pressure is described in powerful, terse dialogues and evocative passages.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Karl Janssen on May 3, 2005
Format: Paperback
Simply put, I believe this is the greatest novel of all time. Yes, I'm a big Zola fan, but I don't give all of his books five stars. This is his greatest achievement, and it deserves a place in anyone's literary canon. The book describes the harsh life of coal miners in the (fictional?) mining town of Montsou in the north of France. Étienne Lantier (son of Gervaise in L'Assomoir) wanders into town looking for work. He gets a job in the mine and finds lodging with the Maheus, a family with seven children, whose daily life totally revolves around the mine. Étienne starts out as a passive Everyman character--we see this bleak world through his eyes. He then takes on a more active role in the lives of the miners by becoming a labor organizer and preaching socialist ideals. The miners decide to strike for better wages, which begins a chain of events leading to more suffering, sacrifice, and eventually violence. Zola beautifully examines the strike's effect on every person involved: the miners, the town shopkeepers, the mine executives, the small business owner, the government, the shareholders, the communist intellectuals, the soldiers, the radical revolutionaries. Zola's characteristic attention to detail creates a vivid world for the reader to inhabit. We become involved in these people's lives and fight their battles within ourselves. No stone goes unturned, and no one emerges from the conflict with clean hands. Zola definitely inspires us to sympathize with the miners, but at the same time he does not absolve them of all responsibility for their own suffering. Nor does he paint the mine owners as evil personified. Instead, he creates human characters we can empathize with, and provides us with the motivations for their actions.Read more ›
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