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The Masterpiece (Oxford World's Classics) Paperback – September 1, 2008


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Editorial Reviews

Review


"The useful and scholarly introduction as well as the chronology will be a great help to students."--Anna Arnar, Moorhead State University


--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; Reissue edition (September 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199536910
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199536917
  • Product Dimensions: 7.7 x 0.8 x 5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #524,720 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 22 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 3, 2000
Format: Paperback
Here is a book which truly and accurately describes the life of an artist and his relationship with the world, his friends, his lover, and, most importantly, himself. It is a book of passion and the attempt of an artist to break through the boundaries set upon him and to come to grips with his own limitations. I could hardly put the book down at all once I'd begun reading it as Zola's prose is a joy to behold and a work of art in itself.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By "jazzy_baby" on March 12, 2003
Format: Paperback
Zola shares with us a deep and intimate relationship he had with Paul Cezanne and Baptistin Baille. "The Masterpiece" is a story about a brilliant and talented young painter Claude Lantier who has many ideals of what a masterpiece should be. Unfortunately, the public fails to appreciate/understand his vision. His pieces are ridiculed and laughed at the exhibition year after year. Claude retreats to the countryside but fails to create a painting that lives up to his expectation. Suffering mental breakdown, his wife and son Jacques become the ultimate sacrifice of his obsession with his arts. Zola tells Claude story and yet at the same time, portrays the bohemian lives of artists in the 19th century Paris quarters. He also shows many sides of other artists who lived in that period. A Journalist turned novelist Sandos (himself), as Claude's best friend; Fargerolles, equivalent to modern days "commercial artists"; Bongrand, whom I suspect to be the character for Pissaro (just my guess); Dubuche (modeled after Baille), the former art student who later despises bohemian lives when he joins a prestigious architectural firm; Mahodeau, the starving artist; Jori, the desperate journalist which would be known as "the tabloid reporter" in today's world and a few others. Zola's story is true and relevant in real life today. A true master in naturalism, Zola has done it again! An excellent portrait of the art world, it has a great unexpected ending as well. The story is quite depressing but I love it!
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 30, 2003
Format: Paperback
I must disagree with the reviewer who said that The Masterpiece would be hard to like as a woman or as an American! I am both and I loved it. Partly this is because of Zola's whole series of books in which you meet characters you knew before or their children or relations--I loved that Claude was related to Etienne, the hero of Germinal, as well as Gervaise from The Dram Shop. It gives you the sense that you already know something of the genetic makeup (fragility, instability, whatever) of the character before the plot even begins. It was captivating to feel that Zola was giving more reign to his own voice as an art critic and to the specific things he loved and found problematic about Impressionism. Of course it is terribly depressing in the end; but how many Claudes must go down for every Renoir or Monet who rises to the top? Seems very realistic to me--and it's Zola, so you have no illusions that anyone will be happy in the end. I might even give it four and a half stars if I were allowed.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Giordano Bruno on February 17, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This novel, I mean, despite all the 'faint praise' four-star reviews. I had the advantage, I confess, of reading it in French, but my wife read this translation and thought it was adequate.

The English title, however, isn't entirely adequate. The original - L'Oeuvre/ The Work - could refer to a single painting or just as well to the Works of a painter or to the Vocation/Work of being an artist. There are two characters in this novel who are consumed by their Work, the writer Pierre Sandoz and the painter Claude Lantier. The narrative focuses on the painter, Claude, whose genius is recognized only by his few closest friends, whose paintings are rejected and ridiculed by the public, and who in fact is pathologically unable to finish work, to express that genius to his own satisfaction. Claude's "Work" is a tragic failure in the end. But beyond the story of poor Claude, this novel is a profound depiction of the Artist -- any artist on any art -- and his/her agonistic consummation in The Work. Reading this novel with empathy will offer you two life-choices: 1) to be double-darn grateful NOT to be an artist, or 2) to be unable to imagine that Life is worth living if you are NOT an artist.

It's a wordy book, but artists are wordy people. There are chapter-long conversations that do not advance the plot, but rather serve as manifestos of Zola's literary aspirations, and of the aesthetics of the Impressionist painters who were his contemporaries. If those Impressionists are among your own artistic favorites, you will be thrilled by Zola's animation of them. If not, you may be bored. Me, I find that there are more boring readers in the world than boring books.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Karl Janssen on May 3, 2005
Format: Paperback
L'Oeuvre (aka The Masterpiece) tells the story of Claude Lantier, a gifted but unorthodox artist scratching out a bohemian existence in Paris. Claude's innovative painting style is years ahead of its time. It frustrates him that he is not getting the acceptance from the cultural establishment that he feels he deserves. Determined to create a masterpiece that will earn acclaim in the annual Paris salon exhibition, he becomes obsessed with his art, abandoning his friends, his family, and his sanity.

This is the 14th book in Zola's Rougon-Macquart series, and one of Zola's most autobiographical novels. Claude is a surrogate for Zola's childhood friend Cézanne, and Claude's best friend Pierre Sandoz stands in for the author himself. Zola vividly depicts the bohemian lifestyle of his young adulthood in Paris. Claude, Sandoz, and their gang of artist friends struggle to make their fortunes as painters, writers, sculptors. They enjoy each other's camaraderie, encouraging and challenging one another over drinks in a cafe where they debate the meaning and value of art. The reader can't help but share in the excitement of their contagious determination to change the world. As an artist myself, I found Zola's vivid description of the annual salon exhibition--the submission process, the back room politics governing the selection of works, the opening day festivities--particularly fascinating. As the young men grow up, they drift apart somewhat and begin to lead more settled, adult lives. Claude's love interest, Christine, takes on a larger role in his life, and becomes an equally prominent character in the novel. Zola delves deeply into the dynamics of Claude's marriage, and the toll his art takes on the relationship.
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