- Paperback: 480 pages
- Publisher: Penguin Classics (September 30, 1972)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0140442634
- ISBN-13: 978-0140442632
- Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.9 x 7.8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 54 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #915,739 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Nana (Penguin Classics) Paperback – September 30, 1972
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Text: English, French (translation)
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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By today's standards, Zola's treatment of his subject seems judgmental and moralistic, but for a book published in 1880 it is surprisingly steamy and even includes a lesbian love interest. . Although Zola saw himself as an objective scientist dissecting diseases of the body politic (keep in mind this was the period of Louis Pasteur and Claude Bernard), "Nana" is anything but a detached clinical document and has strong mythical and archetypal overtones that give it its enduring power. The title character indeed is not so much an individual as an embodiment of the corruption and moral rot Zola saw in the Paris of Napoleon III. Nana is nothing like the repentant Magdalenes and prostitutes with hearts of gold one encounters in the pages of Dickens, Dostoevsky, and Hugo: she is a heartless, predatory gold digger who uses men and then discards them, consuming their fortunes and ruining their health without any thought for the consequences. All the women with one or two exceptions are call girls or streetwalkers. Not that the men are any better: they're either pimps or degenerates who deserve their ruin. Almost the only sympathetic character is Madame Hugon, the mother of two of Nana's victims. The only character to come out ahead is Nana's lady's maid Zoe, who uses her earnings from the service of Nana and others like her to open her own brothel. "Nana" paints a powerful but despairing portrait of a society rotting from disease within and is a book the reader will not soon forget.
-From a Classics major