Practice English Speaking&Listening with: Zola and the Material World | Brian Nelson

Difficulty: 0

Zola is famous, of course, for his immensely detailed descriptions of the

material world and these were underpinned by a large amount of

research and firsthand observation. But the power of Zola's work derives, I think

not so much from its documentary qualities, as from its metaphoric

dimensions. What Zola does is magnify the material world, creating

an almost hallucinatory effect. For example, we

think of Saccard, the protagonist of 'The Kill', swimming in a sea of gold coins. A

perfect image to express his role as a speculator exploiting the rebuilding of

Paris by Haussmann. We think of the fantastic visions of food in 'The Belly of Paris'.

A symbol of bourgeois greed. The devouring pithead

in 'Germinal'. We think of the distilling machine in 'L'Assommoir'. Machines play a

central role in Zola's imaginary world, either actual machines or entities that

function as machines. The great markets Les Halles in 'The Belly of Paris'. The stock

exchange in L'Argent'. All of these great symbols of industrial modernity and of

the forces and conflicts circulating within it.

The Description of Zola and the Material World | Brian Nelson