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Germinal (Penguin Classics) Paperback – May 25, 2004

ISBN-13: 978-0140447422 ISBN-10: 0140447423 Edition: Reprint

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Product Details

  • Series: Penguin Classics
  • Paperback: 592 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; Reprint edition (May 25, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140447423
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140447422
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 1 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (49 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #59,214 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


“[Germinal] made me realize that when books are considered ‘classics,’ most of the time they’re actually very readable and exciting.” —Daniel Radcliffe

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.

Customer Reviews

A must in anyone's must read.
Zola's wonderfully written tale of the struggles and trials of the coal miners of Le Voreux stresses the utter futility of passive socialism.
Jake Fejedelem
Emile Zola reminds me very much of D.H. Lawrence.
Kate Smart

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

56 of 60 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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29 of 29 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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14 of 14 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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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By "gmwerner" on January 26, 2002
Format: Paperback
This penetrating, almost lurid novel, exposes the brutish life of the coal miner in late nineteenth century France. This well-written, detailed story, exposes the appalling conditions of the workers, at a time when labor was just starting to organize. The failure of organized labor to ameliorate these conditions, at the time, made many, including Zola, feel that a socialist revolution, if not inevitable, was certainly desirable.
Zola has been referred to as the father of literary "naturalism". His literary vision captures life as it exists for the majority of the persons then alive, rather than the elite, whose lives had been the subject of most literature written up to this point. Germinal vivdly portrays the monotonous, near hopeless, life of the laborer: long hours; miserable working conditions that considerably shorten life expectancy and routinely cause medical problems early into middle age; and the almost common manner in which many young girls encounter their first lover (and often future husband) in non-consensual circumstances- in the mine, behind the barn, etc. Many readers were shocked or even outraged.
Zola's characters are fairly well-developed, and their patheticness is disturbingly believable. The plot (which seems secondary) details the counterproductive attempt to strike by the organized coalminers. The book is peopled with aristocrats and bourgeoisie as well as workers; but its most salient and revolutionary aspect is its primary focus upon the miserable lives of the oppressed.
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