Posted by: Lisa Hill | June 14, 2016

I’ve finished my Zola Project!

Well, it’s taken a while, but I’ve finally finished reading the entire Rougon-Macquart cycle of novels by Émile Zola.

I read my first Zola, Germinal back in 2011, but I didn’t decide to read the entire series until I read The Ladies Paradise after seeing the BBC TV series in 2013.   Having read those first two ‘out of order’, I decided to read the rest of the novels in the recommended reading order.

I read most of them in recent translations from Oxford World’s Classics (OWC) editions, some of which were courtesy of Oxford who kindly sent them to me when I enquired about which editions were available.  I know it’s a temptation to read these books in free online editions, but my advice would be to do that only when there is no contemporary alternative.  The older translations are often heavily censored, and besides, the Oxford introductions are excellent, especially the ones by Brian Nelson who provides interesting background information and also helps the reader to make sense of the complex political events in France that form the background to the novels.

When OWC editions weren’t available, I usually sourced Elek editions from the 1950s because I like their bizarre cover art.

Anyway here they all are, with links to my reviews:

  1. La Fortune des Rougon (1871), The Fortune of the Rougons, translated by Brian Nixon, OWC, 2012
  2. Son Excellence Eugène Rougon (1876), His Excellence Eugene Rougon, translated by Ernest Alfred Vizetelly, Delphi Classics. Kindle Edition, 2012.
  3. La Curée (1871-2), The Kill, translated by Brian Nelson, OWC, 2004, reissued 2008
  4. L’Argent (1891), Money, translated by Valerie Minogue, OWC, 2014
  5. Le Rêve (1888), The Dream, translated by Andrew Brown, Hesperus Classics, 2005
  6. La Conquête de Plassans (1874), The Conquest of Plassans, translated by Helen Constantine, OWC, 2014
  7. Pot-Bouille (1882), Pot Luck, translated by Brian Nelson, OWC, 2009
  8. Au Bonheur des Dames (1883), The Ladies’ Paradise, translated Brian Nelson, OWC, 2012
  9. La Faute de l’Abbé Mouret (1875), The Sin of Father Mouret, translated by Sandy Petrey, Prentice-Hall, 1969
  10. Une Page d’amour (1878), A Love Affair, translated by Jean Stewart, Elek Books, 1957
  11. Le Ventre de Paris (1873), The Belly of Paris, translated by Brian Nelson, OWC, 2009
  12. La Joie de vivre (1884), Zest for Life, translated by Jean Stewart, Elek Books, 1955
  13. L’Assommoir (1877), The Dram Shop, translated by Margaret Mauldon, OWC, 2009
  14. L’Œuvre (1886), The Masterpiece, translated by Thomas Walton, OWC, 2006
  15. La Bête humaine (1890), The Beast in Man, translated Roger Pearson,  OWC, 1999, reissued 2009
  16. Germinal (1885), translated L.W. Tancock, Penguin Classics, 1969 (There is an OWC edition of this, but I didn’t have it when I read the novel).
  17. Nana (1880), Nana, translated by Douglas Parmée, OWC, 2009
  18. La Terre (1887), Earth, translated by Brian Nelson & Julie Rose, OWC, 2016
  19. La Débâcle (1892), The Debacle, translated by Elinor Dorday, OWC, 2000
  20. Le Docteur Pascal (1893), Doctor Pascal, translated by Mary Jane Serrano (1898), Kindle Edition.

PS I read Thérèse Raquin too, while I was waiting on one of the books to arrive from overseas.

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  1. Congratulations! I am a little more than half-way through the series, which I have not read in the best order. Your review of Doctor Pascal tempts me to jump to the end, but I am resisting in favor or picking up one or two of the earlier ones.

    Thank you for all your reviews and encouraging the rest of us to join in.


    • Thanks, Nancy, and thanks also for your contributions to our collaborative blog, The Works of Emile Zola. I love the way we see different aspects of the same novel, to me that’s the mark of good literature:)


  2. Bravo!! Un jour je les lirai tous, moi aussi.


    • *chuckle* I think it’s funny that I’ve read this and you haven’t: you’re the one who put me onto it with your guide to French lit!


  3. I want you to know that I am spectacularly impressed and encouraged by you! Have you heard the adaptations on BBCRadio4 with Glenda Jackson it’s titled Blood, Sex and Money and I’ve loved it. I wonder what you’d think of it having read all the books?


    • Sorry, I know I am right out of line on this: I have seen nothing but high praise for that adaptation, but I loathed it and turned it off after a couple of minutes. To me it was like trying to put War and Peace on a Post-it note.


      • I don’t think you’re out of line at all and it doesn’t surprise me. I don’t think I’ve ever completely liked adaptations of books I’ve read. The adaptations always seem to weaken/make more superficial the content and reading something means I have a very particular version of it in my head which hardly ever conforms to the adaptation.


        • There are so many things to like about Zola, but I think what I like best of all is that the books are not just about an extended family of characters, but that they provide a picture of the complex society that was France in that period. I read The Ladies’ Paradise, for example, and realised that I was witnessing the birth of the department store and its manipulative marketing techniques, and the end of the small shop. It made me, a C21st reader, look afresh at what was going on each time I went into DJs.
          Adaptations lose all that.


  4. Put out the flags – this is quite an achievement…. I have a long way to go to emulate this but you’ve bamboozled me with that list of recommended reading order. I bought The Kill believing that was number 2 and have never heard of His Excellency Eugene Rougon. Drat…..
    Agree with you re the OWC editions, those introductions are invaluable


    • You can find both the recommended order and the publication chronology here: People argue about which is better: all I can say is that I enjoyed reading it in the order that I did.


  5. Well done, Lisa – that’s a tremendous achievement! Do you have one or two favourites from the collection?


    • Yes, I do. I really liked The Beast in Man and the Debacle, and I think The Ladies Paradise is brilliant.


  6. Congrats! I’m very impressed & envious. I’ve read 2 Zola’s and plan to read them all one day, but my day job keeps getting in the way. Did you try to read them in chronological or Zola-suggested order?


    • I went with Zola’s recommended order. Even though I don’t think it needs to be followed slavishly, I think that gives the series a coherence that might otherwise be missing.

      Liked by 1 person

      • It doesn’t always matter. Le Debacle is a powerful book, but it would have had even more meaning if I had read La Terre first.


        • Yes, and I liked following up on characters mentioned in previous works.


  7. […] series.  My most ambitious effort was to read the entire La Comedie Humaine by Balzac, followed by Zola’s Rougon-Macquart series, but my favourite has to be Steven Carroll’s Glenroy novels. These novels, including […]


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