The Fortune of the Rougons

Émile Zola


Zola, Émile. The Fortune of the Rougons. 1871. Translated by Brian Nelson. Oxford, UK: Oxford World's Classics, 2012. Paperback: 9780199560998.


“The Fortune of the Rougons is the first in Zola's famous Rougon-Macquart series of novels. In it we learn how the two branches of the family came about, and the origins of the hereditary weaknesses passed down the generations. Murder, treachery, and greed are the keynotes, and just as the Empire was established through violence, the 'fortune' of the Rougons is paid for in blood. Set in the fictitious Provençal town of Plassans, The Fortune of the Rougons tells the story of Silvère and Miette, two idealistic young supporters of the republican resistance to Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte's coup d'état of December 1851. They join the woodcutters and peasants of the Var to seize control of Plassans, and are opposed by the Bonapartist loyalists led by Silvère's uncle, Pierre Rougon. Meanwhile, the foundations of the Rougon family and its illegitimate Macquart branch are being laid in the brutal beginnings of the Imperial regime. Brian Nelson provides an engaging translation as well as a wide-ranging introduction that explains the background to the Rougon-Macquart series as well as the historical setting of the novel and its special qualities. This edition also features a chronology, bibliography, and extensive explanatory notes.”



“Heredity, like gravity, has its laws” (3)

“By solving the dual problem of temperament and environment, I shall attempt to discover and trace the thread that leads mathematically from one person to another” (3)

“When I am in possession of every thread, and hold in my hands an entire social group, I shall describe the behaviour of this group as it plays its part in an historical period; I shall show it in action, with all its varied energies; and I shall analyse the aims and ambitions of its individual members along with the general tendency of the whole” (3)

“The great characteristic of the Rougon-Macquarts, the group or family I propose to study, is their ravenous appetites, the great upsurge of our age as it rushes to satisfy those appetites” (3)

“Historically the Rougon-Macquarts originate in the common people, spread through the whole of contemporary society, and rise to all sorts of positions because of the essentially modern impulse that sets the lower classes marching through the social system. Thus the dramas of their individual lives tell the story of the Second Empire, from the ambush of the coup d’état to the betrayal of Sedan” (3)

“For three years I had been collecting the documents I needed for this great project, and I had even completed the present volume when the fall of the Bonapartes, which I needed artistically and always saw as the logical conclusion to my story, without daring to hope that it would happen so quickly, suddenly gave me the terrible but necessary denouement for my work” (3)

“my work will portray a dead regime, a strange period of human folly and shame” (4)

Chapter 1

“One of the strangest features of the place at that time was some pear trees with twisted branches and monstrous knots, and whose enormous fruit not a single housewife in Plassans had any desire to pick. The townspeople pulled their faces in disgust when they mentioned the fruit” (5)

“The trees and vegetation, with their rampant growth, had soon devoured all that remained of the dead in the old cemetery of Saint-Mittre; the human remains that lay rotting there were eaten up by the flowers and fruit, so that eventually, when people passed by this cesspit, all they could smell was the penetrating scent of the wild wallflowers. It only took a few summers” (6)

“There was no religious ceremony of any kind, just a slow, clumsy cartage” (6)

“perhaps it was simply a question of the inertia, the repugnance at the idea of destroying or rebuilding anything, that is characteristic of people in the provinces” (6)

“his features as a whole expressed such intense and sympathetic life” (11)

“an inner revolt against the brutalizing manual labour that was beginning to bend him to the ground” (11)

[Endnote] “Plassans: Zola gave Plassans the geographical position of Lorgues, in the Var. The town is built on a road that links Zola’s fictional La Palud and Saint-Martin-de-Vaulx to Orchères and Sainte-Roure” (13)

“He said the word ‘brothers’ with youthful emphasis” (13)

“In 1851 the Nice road, with the Faubourg on each side, was lined Es with ancient elm trees, grand and gigantic ruins, still full of life, which the tidy-minded town council replaced some years ago with some little plane trees” (16)

“To anyone out for a late stroll, and who sees these vague shapes moving along, it is simply the passage of love, anonymous love, felt but not seen” (17)

“the vast amphitheatre that rose up to the horizon, and over which flowed bluish streams of light, as over the layered rocks of a giant waterfall. This strange, colossal scene stretched out in the deathlike stillness and silence. Nothing could have been more majestic” (22)

“some wondrous retreat where a community of shadows and light lived some fantastic life” (22)

“Now Silvère, who had turned away from Miette, no longer seemed aware of her presence; he had eyes only for those strangers he called his brothers” (24)

“This roar of revolt, this call to combat and to death, with its surges of anger, its burning desire for liberty, its extraordinary blend of the bloodthirsty and the sublime, seemed to enter her heart, penetrating deeper and deeper with each high note, filling her with the voluptuous suffering of a virgin martyr standing erect and smiling under the lash” (28)

“The workmen understood the sublime ingenuousness of this form of gratitude” (31)

Chapter 2

“Plassans is a sub-prefecture of about ten thousand people. Built on the plateau overlooking the Viorne and bound on the north by the Garrigues hills, one of the last spurs of the Alps, the town is situated, as it were, at the end of a cul-de-sac” (31)

“no town had so completely retained the pious, aristocratic character of the old towns of Provence” (33)

“Class distinctions were perpetuated by the town’s division into various districts. There were three of them, each forming, as it were, a separate and complete locality, with its own churches, promenades, customs, and mentalities” (33)

“The district of the nobility, called Saint-Marc after the name of one of its parish churches, is a sort of miniature Versailles, with straight streets overgrown with grass, and large square houses that conceal extensive gardens” (33)

“Then, to the northwest, the old quarter, the original town, rises up, with its narrow, Work twisting lanes bordered with crumbling hovels. The town hall, the assizes court, the market, and the police station are situated here. This, the most populous part of Plassans, is inhabited by working men and shopkeepers, all the poor, labouring, common folk” (33)

“The new town forms a sort of rectangle to the north-east; the bourgeoisie, those who have slowly amassed a fortune, and those engaged in the liberal professions, here occupy houses set out in straight lines and painted a light yellow” (34)

“the boundaries of the different districts are clearly defined by the principal thoroughfares” (34)

“halfway along the street, that the sub-prefecture building stands, at one end of a small square planted with sickly trees; it is an edifice of which the bourgeoisie of Plassans are very proud” (34)

“The locking of the gates every evening summed up the spirit of the town, which was a combination of cowardice, egotism, routine, parochialism, and devout longing for a cloistered life. Plassans, when it had locked itself up, would say to itself ‘Now I’m safe,’ with the satisfaction of a pious bourgeois who, confident that his cashbox is secure, and certain that no noise will disturb him, duly says his prayers and retires happily to bed. No other town, I believe, has persisted so long in thus incarcerating itself like a nun” (34)

“The nobility have cut themselves off completely” (35)

“They are dead people, weary of life” (35)

“The bourgeoisie—retired tradesmen, lawyers, and notaries, and the mix of ambitious, well-to-do people who live in the new town—do their best to infuse some life into Plassans” (35)

“They crave popularity, ingratiate themselves with workmen, chat with the peasants about the latest harvest, read the newspapers, and walk out with their wives on Sundays” (35)

“the dream of every bourgeois in the new town is to be admitted to one of the drawing-rooms in the Saint-Marc district” (36)

“they are freethinkers in words only; firm friends of authority, they are ready to rush into the arms of any saviour at the slightest indication of popular discontent” (36)

“The group that toils and vegetates in the old quarter is not so clearly defined as the others. The labouring class is in the majority” (36)

“The workers and the nobility stroll up and down the Cours throughout the afternoon, without anyone of either party thinking of changing sides. They are separated by a distance of only seven or eight metres, yet it is as if they were a thousand kilometres away from each other, for they scrupulously follow those two parallel lines, as though they must never meet this side of eternity” (36)

“provincial people cannot allow anything to remain unexplained” (38)

“The neighbourhood was annoyed; they could not admit that they were wrong, and they resolved to discover the alleged secret” (38)

“She [Adélaïde] was certainly very natural, very consistent with herself; but in the eyes of the neighbours her consistency became pure insanity” (40)

“Adélaïde did not understand what was meant by ‘appearances’” (40)

“She let her children grow up like the plum trees that sprout along the roadside at the pleasure of the rain and sun. They bore their natural fruit like wild stock that has never known grafting or pruning” (41)

“Never was nature allowed such complete sway, never did such mischievous creatures grow up in greater freedom, under the sole influence of instinct” (41)

“they were the wild, thieving, familiar spirits of this strange house of madness” (41)

“you could already read signs of sly ambition and insatiable desire [in Pierre], with the hardness of heart and brutal greed of a peasant’s son whose mother’s inheritance and nervous temperament had turned into a bourgeois” (44)

“Later on he came to understand the significance of many looks and remarks” (44)

“the unruly child was transformed into a thrifty, selfish lad whose instincts had been transformed by the life of wastefulness that he could no longer bear to see around him” (44)

“[Adélaïde] would also often sob during the night, holding her head in her hands, accepting Pierre’s silent reproaches as if they were those of some avenging deity” (45)

“Pierre, who did not like violent measures, and rejoiced at being able to eject his brother without a fuss, then played the part of a man in despair; it had been a bad year, the household budget was very tight, and to raise any money he would have to sell a portion of the land, which would be the beginning of their ruin. Then he gave his word of honour to Antoine that he would buy him out the following year, though he meant to do nothing of the kind. Antoine went off, duped and half-satisfied” (46)

“he thought that behind Mouret’s indifference must lie some trap” (47)

“Sensing that he would need everybody, he wanted his name to remain untarnished throughout Plassans” (47)

“she remained in Just the house, submitting to her son’s silent contempt and subtle brutality” (47)

“Pierre was at last sole master of the house. The Fouques’ property now belonged to him in fact, if not in law. He had never thought of establishing himself on it. It was too narrow a field for his ambition. To till the ground and cultivate vegetables seemed vulgar, unworthy of his capacities. He was in a hurry to leave his peasant background behind him” (48)

“he felt an irresistible desire for the pleasures of bourgeois life” (48)

“Pierre calculated that money would smooth all difficulties, and that all the neighbours’ gossip would be forgotten; he intended to present himself as a victim” (48)

“His intention was to appear on the scene at the very moment when old Puesch no longer knew which way to turn; he would then buy Félicité from him and restore the firm’s credit by his own energy and intelligence. It was a clever expedient for climbing the first rung of the social ladder” (48)

“The solicitor’s explanations were clear and precise, however: Adélaïde, it is true, had married Rougon under the common property system; but as the whole fortune consisted of land, the young woman, according to the law, again came into possession of everything upon her husband’s death; moreover, Macquart and Adélaïde had duly recognized their children by declaring their births for registration, thus making them entitled to inherit from their mother. Pierre’s sole consolation was the discovery that the [Napoleonic] Code reduced the share of illegitimate children. This, however, did not console him at all. He wanted everything” (49)

“This glimpse of the intricacies of the Code opened up new horizons, which he contemplated with a most thoughtful air. He soon recognized that a shrewd man must always keep the law on his side” (49)

Félicité: “Born under an evil star, and + believing herself to be unlucky” (51)

“Her calculations had been made, she had chosen Rougon for a husband as one would choose an accomplice” (51)

“Having no dowry, and despairing of ever marrying a rich merchant’s son, she infinitely preferred a peasant, whom she could use as a tool, to some desiccated bachelier who would crush her with his academic superiority and drag her about all her life in search of hollow selfglorification. She felt that the woman ought to make the man” (51)

“A man built like that would cheerfully bear the mass of intrigues she dreamt of placing on his shoulders” (51)

“she also saw that he was not a fool; under his heavy appearance she had divined a great deal of cunning and flexibility of mind, though she was a long way from really knowing her Rougon, for she still thought him more stupid than he was” (52)

“The young couple resolved to make their fortune” (52)

“‘You’ve changed my luck,’ Félicité would sometimes say to her husband” (52)

“One of the rare weaknesses of her energetic nature was to believe herself cursed by bad luck” (52)

“she prepared to struggle against fate as if she was being forced to struggle with a real person who was trying to strangle her” (52)

“She longed to be rich” (53)

“it was precisely this hand-to-mouth existence that exasperated Félicité” (53)

“to make a fresh start, instead of persisting with their petty business, working themselves to death for the bare necessities of life” (54)

“she now saw her sons as the future architects of the fortune she was unable to make on her own” (54)

“We’ve been educated above our station, and it’s harder for us than for you” (56)

“Adélaïde had made Pierre a man of little enterprise and limited ambitions; Félicité had imbued her sons with a higher intelligence, with a capacity for greater vices and greater virtues.” (56)

“[Eugène] had lofty ambitions and domineering instincts, and was utterly contemptuous of modest ambitions and modest fortunes” (56)

“The passion for self-gratification, which became so developed in the Rougons, and was, in fact, the main characteristic of the family” (57)

“Nature needs symmetry” (57)

“[Aristide] had no clear idea of his own ambitions at this time” (58)

“Aristide was typical of these incorrigible flâneurs to be seen drifting about self-indulgently in the emptiness of the provinces” (59)

“Angèle had no will of her own—she could be moved and disposed of like a piece of furniture” (60)

“The other son, Pascal, born between Eugène and Aristide, did not seem to belong to the family. He was one of those frequent exceptions to the laws of heredity” (61)

“Nothing in Pascal’s moral or physical constitution recalled the Rougons. Tall, with a serious, gentle face, he had a sense of integrity, a love of study, and a modest disposition—all of which formed a strange contrast with the feverish ambitions and unscrupulous scheming of his relatives” )61

“All his pleasures were centred in a bright little house in the new town, where he shut himself away, devoting himself to the study of natural history” (61)

“He seemed to rejoice in the silent terror he inspired. The fewer patients he had, the more time he could devote to his beloved scientific studies” (61)

“Plassans had no idea that this eccentric character, this gentleman who smelt of death, was well known and greatly respected in the world of science” (61)

“For two or three years, [Pascal] had been studying the great problem of heredity, comparing the human and animal species with each other, fascinated by the strange results he obtained. Certain observations he had made with respect to himself and his family had formed the basis of his investigations. Ordinary working people, with their natural intuition, understood so well how different he was from the other Rougons that they always called him Monsieur Pascal, never adding his family name” (62)

“they could see from their windows the area of the town where the rich people lived; they were on the threshold of the promised land” (63)

“In the provinces, to live in someone else’s house is an admission of poverty. Every family of any standing in Plassans has a house of its own, for property is very cheap there” (63)

“The paradise of her dreams was there. The neat little square, with its brightly painted houses, seemed to her like a Garden of Eden. She would have given ten years of her life to own one of those properties” (64)

“the Rougons were going through a strange crisis of vanity and frustrated desire. The few generous feelings they once possessed had turned to bitterness” (64)

“They had but one thought—to make a fortune immediately, in a few hours, to become rich and enjoy themselves, if only for a year. This was their constant obsession” (65)

“[Pierre] had become a highly respectable bourgeois. All he lacked, to enable him to play the role in full, was a good income” (65)

“he found it cruelly ironic that he remained poor while possessing the corpulence and self-satisfied look of a millionaire” (65)

“The Revolution of 1848 found all the Rougons on the lookout, frustrated by their bad luck, and ready to use any means necessary to advance their cause. They were a family of bandits lying in wait, ready to plunder and steal” (66)

Chapter 3

“In the closed, isolated town of Plassans, where class divisions were so clearly marked in 1848, the impact of distant political events was very slight. Even today the voice of the people is hardly heard there; the bourgeoisie shows its usual prudence, the nobility its silent despair, and the clergy its shrewd cunning. Kings may usurp thrones, republics may be established, but the town scarcely stirs. Plassans sleeps while Paris fights. But though on the surface the town may appear calm and indifferent, in its depths there is secret activity which is interesting to study” (67)

“The secret intrigues of men for whom discretion is paramount require a special shrewdness, a special aptitude for dealing with trivia” (67)

“The bourgeoisie, and especially the common people, were full of enthusiasm after the events of February; these apprentice republicans were eager to display their revolutionary fervour” (68)

“the nobility of Plassans was in a state of prostration, as if half-dead; they retained their faith, but lethargy had taken hold of them, and they preferred to do nothing, allowing heaven to work its will; they would gladly have contented themselves with silent protest, sensing, perhaps, that their divinities were dead, that there was nothing left for them to do but rejoin them” (68)

“Thus it was the clergy that led the forces of reaction in Plassans. The nobility only lent them their name, nothing more” (68)

“this ancient royalist town, with its population of easygoing bourgeois and timid tradespeople, was destined, sooner or later, to fall in behind the forces of law and order” (69)

“such a coalition of embittered Liberals, Legitimists, Orleanists, Bonapartists, and Clericals had never been seen before. It mattered little, however, at that time. Their sole aim was to kill the Republic” (69)

“the coup d’état burst upon them, and they had no choice but to applaud. That great abomination, the Republic, had been throttled” (69)

“It was these events that laid the foundations of the Rougons’ fortune. After being mixed up with the various phases of the crisis, they rose to eminence on the ruins of liberty. Like bandits, they lay in wait to rob the Republic; as soon as its throat was cut, they helped to plunder it” (69)

“The Marquis’s peculiar position meant that he became an active agent of the reactionary movement in Plassans from the very beginning of the Republic. This busy little man, who had everything to gain from the return of his legitimate sovereigns, worked tirelessly for their cause” (70)

“He was a weapon whose hilt was held by an invisible hand. From that time onwards he paid daily visits to the Rougons. He required a centre of operations” (71)

“he soon found Pierre a valuable associate. He could not go himself and preach the cause of Legitimacy to the traders and workmen in the old quarter; they would have laughed at him. But Pierre, who had lived among these people, spoke their language and knew their needs, was able to proselytize them in a perfectly amicable way. He became indispensable. In less than two weeks the Rougons were more royalist than the King. The Marquis, seeing Pierre’s zeal, shrewdly hid behind him” (71)

“A little group of conservatives had already been formed at the Rougons’ house, and anti-republican meetings were held every evening in the yellow drawing-room” (71)

“He had made his son a magistrate, relying on the Orleanist party to promote him to a prominent position. The revolution having destroyed his hopes, he had wasted no time in joining the forces of reaction. His fortune, his former commercial dealings with the Tuileries, which had seemed to be conducted in a very cordial way, and the prestige enjoyed by every man in the provinces who has made his money in Paris and deigns to come and spend it in a little country town, gave him great influence; there were some people who listened to him as if he was an oracle” (72)

“During the February Revolution the streetfighting had exasperated [Commander Sicardot]; he never tired of talking about it, proclaiming indignantly that this kind of fighting was shameful, and recalling proudly the glorious reign of Napoleon” (72)

La Gazette de Plassans, which was concerned exclusively with the interests of the clergy. This paper cost [Monsieur Vuillet] a thousand francs a year, but it made him the champion of the Church, and helped him to dispose of the items in his stock that were hard to sell” (72)

“All opinions converged in noisy denunciation of the Republic. Their hatred of that institution united them in furious agreement with each other” (73)

“These hidden divinities, who watched over the destiny of Plassans from behind some cloud, without appearing to interfere directly in public affairs, must have been certain priests, the town’s great politicians” (73)

“The Rougons had begun to take their royalism very seriously” (73)

“Félicité went so far as to say, when Roudier was not present, that if they had failed to make a fortune in the oil business the fault lay with the July Monarchy. This was her way of giving a political tinge to their poverty” (73)

“There are some situations that benefit only corrupt individuals. These people lay the foundations of their fortune where more sober and more influential men would never dare to risk theirs” (74)

“[Aristide] could sense the impotence of the Legitimists and Orleanists, but could not see what third thief would come and steal the Republic” (76)

“Impelled by the jealousy and bitterness of one greedy for wealth, he had already made the bourgeoisie his irreconcilable enemy when Eugène’s arrival and behaviour in Plassans filled him with consternation” (76)

“He got carried away and, as often happens, he attacked the conservatives with even greater ferocity, as if to avenge his own blindness” (77)

“‘My dear mother,’ Eugène replied with a smile, ‘you have had too little faith in me in the past to let me share my hopes with you, especially because they are still only based on probabilities. To understand me would require faith’” (78)

“Peirotte does some freelance banking too. It’s quite legal” (80)

“Félicité could not sleep. With her eyes closed she built the most marvellous castles in the air. The twenty thousand francs danced a diabolical dance around her in the darkness” (80)

“It was really not until the following year that this group of reactionaries gained decisive influence in the town, thanks to the deteriorating situation in Paris. All the anti-liberal laws which the country called ‘the Roman expedition at home’ ensured the definitive triumph of the Rougon faction” (83)

“Thus the Rougons’ hour had come; the new town almost gave them a standing ovation on the day when the Liberty tree, planted on the square in front of the sub-prefecture building, was cut down. This tree, a young poplar brought from the banks of the Viorne, had gradually withered, to the great despair of the republican workmen, who would come every Sunday to observe its slow decline without understanding the cause of it. Eventually a hatter’s apprentice declared that he had seen a woman come out of Rougon’s house and pour a bucket of poisoned water at the foot of the tree. Thenceforward it was generally accepted that Félicité herself got up every night to sprinkle the poplar with vitriol” (84)

“When the tree was dead, the town council declared that the dignity of the Republic required its removal. As they were afraid of how the working class would react, they arranged for this to be done late one evening. However, the conservative rentiers in the new town got wind of the little ceremony, and they all came down to the square to see how a Liberty tree would fall” (84)

“‘We’ll bury it, we’ll bury it.’ They meant the Republic, of course. Félicité was so overcome that she almost had a fit of hysterics. It was a splendid evening for the yellow drawing-room” (84)

“The clash of rival ambitions among the bourgeoisie, and the display of their folly every evening, had become a highly amusing spectacle for [the Marquis]” (85)

“Eugène’s entire thinking had become clear to her. He was counting on making his political fortune in the coming struggle, and repaying his parents the debt he owed them for his education by throwing them a scrap of the prey as soon as the quarry was set upon” (87)

“Félicité felt deeply grateful. She read certain passages in the letters twice, especially those in which Eugène spoke in vague terms of the ‘final catastrophe’. This catastrophe, the nature or significance of which she could not imagine, became a sort of apocalypse for her; God would put the chosen ones on His right hand and the damned on His left, and she placed herself among the former” (87)

“[Pascal] looked, with the fascination of a naturalist, at their grimacing faces, in which he discerned traces of their occupations and appetites; and he listened to their inane chatter as he might have tried to divine the meaning of a cat’s miaow or a dog’s bark. At this time he was greatly preoccupied with comparative natural history, applying to the human race the observations he had made on animals with regard to the workings of heredity. In the yellow drawing-room, therefore, he was amused at the thought that he had accidentally wandered into a menagerie. He noted the similarities between the grotesque creatures he saw and certain animals he knew. The Marquis, with his leanness and his sly look, reminded him very much of a long green grasshopper. Vuillet struck him as a pale, slimy toad. He was more indulgent towards Roudier and the Commander: a fat sheep and a toothless old mastiff. The fantastic Granoux, however, was a particular source of fascination. He spent a whole evening studying his facial angle. Whenever he heard him mutter some vague insult about those bloodthirsty republicans, he expected to hear him moan like a calf; and he could never watch him rise from his chair without imagining that he was about to leave the room on all fours. “‘Talk to them,’ his mother would say in an undertone. ‘Try and make a practice out of them.’ ‘I’m not a vet,’ he replied at last, quite annoyed” (88-89)

“His mother was simply accusing him of not trying to take advantage of the political situation” (90)

“ranoux fascinated him as a kind of prehistoric animal” (90)

“The only feeling everyone shared was that some kind of denouement was imminent. General uncertainty as to the nature of this denouement kept the timid bourgeois population in a terrible state of apprehension” (90)

“Félicité thought for a few moments. ‘So you think’, she resumed, ‘that we need an insurrection if we are to make our fortune?’” (91)

“‘A new dynasty is never founded without a struggle. Blood makes good manure. It will be a good thing for the Rougon family to be founded on a massacre, like many illustrious families’” (91)

“The Rougons, those miserable, disreputable wretches, had thus succeeded in gathering around them the instruments of their fortune. Everyone, out of cowardice or stupidity, would be obliged to obey them and work blindly for their aggrandizement” (92)

“What they hoped for, on the part of the functionaries, was complete passivity and general panic. If the normal administration of the town ceased, and they were able, even for a day, to take charge of Plassans, their fortune would be made” (92)

“Luckily for them, there was not a man in the government service whose convictions were so firm or whose circumstances were so needy as to make him put up a fight. The sub-prefect was a man of liberal views whom the government had forgotten, no doubt because of the town’s good reputation. Timid by nature and incapable of exceeding his authority, he would not know how to react to an insurrection. The Rougons, who knew that he favoured the democratic cause, were simply curious to know how he would behave. As for the town council, its members hardly gave them any greater cause for concern” (92)

“‘My friends,’ said Commander Sicardot, rising from his chair, only a Napoleon can protect the lives and property that are presently in danger” (93)

“That evening, as they took their leave, the good bourgeois of the yellow drawingroom spoke of massacring ‘the reds’ if they dared to make a move” (93)

“now, at the decisive moment, the puppet, in his blind stupidity, wanted to do as it pleased! All the cunning, all the feverish energy within the old woman, cried out in protest. She knew that Pierre was quite capable of taking tough decisions, like the decision he had taken when he made his mother sign the receipt for fifty thousand francs; her puppet was indeed useful and unscrupulous, but she felt the need to control it, especially under present circumstances, when considerable subtlety was required” (94)

“This functionary, decent but of limited intelligence, believed that democracy would finally triumph, but did not have the courage to work for its victory by offering active resistance” (96)

“‘The honour of restoring order in Plassans has fallen to us’” (104)

“These extraordinary defenders of Plassans, who proposed to hide, the better to protect the town, hurried away to burrow into some hole or other” (104)

Chapter 4

“[Antoine Maquart’s] idleness became deliberate; his drunkenness, which brought him countless punishments, became, in his mind, a religious duty. But the worst thing about him was his complete contempt for all the poor devils who worked for a living” (105)

“‘I’ve got money waiting for me at home,’ he often said to his comrades; ‘when I’ve served my time, I’ll be able to live like a gentleman. This belief, together with his complete lack of education, prevented him from rising even to the rank of corporal” (105)

“Provincial people have no pity for fallen families. It was generally thought that the Rougon-Macquarts were the sort that devoured each other; the onlookers, instead of separating them, were more inclined to egg them on. Pierre, however, was already beginning to purge himself of his early stains. People laughed about his swindle; some even went so far as to say he had done the right thing, if he really had appropriated the money, and that it would serve as a lesson to those townsfolk who lived a dissolute life” (107)

“[Maquart] thought that these workers made too great a display of their happiness” (108)

“In places like these the fellow-feeling of drunkards meant that he had a sympathetic audience; all the town’s riffraff took up his cause and endlessly abused the villain Rougon, who was letting a brave soldier starve; their outpourings usually ended with a blanket denunciation of the rich” (109)

“Antoine soon ate and drank his way through his two hundred francs. Not for a moment had he thought of investing them in some little business that would have helped him to make a living. When he was penniless again, without a trade and, moreover, unwilling to work, he tried once more to slip his hand into the Rougons’ purse” (111)

“the townsfolk, who knew of Pierre’s munificence because of the publicity Félicité had given it, declared him to be in the wrong, and called him an absolute layabout” (111)

“[Maquart] had to spend a few days in prison as a result. It was from that time onwards that he began to pose in the town as a staunch republican” (112)

“After ten years of idleness, it was not long before Macquart began to think that he was working too hard” (112)

“[Maquart] was amazed by [Fine’s] industry, he who was afraid of the least work. By degrees he came to notice, under the apparent roughness of this strapping creature, signs of shyness and kindliness” (113)

“She would be his beast of burden, an obedient, tireless animal” (113)

“He had vowed, like his brother, that he would have no more children, those greedy creatures who reduce their parents to poverty” (115)

“He had no scruples in living on the earnings of the other two, as he had lived on their mother. It was a carefully planned form of speculation” (116)

“He kept Gervaise, however; she was already earning twenty-five sous a day, and he avoided all question of marriage. Four years later she had a second child, which was again taken in by Lantier’s mother” (116)

[Endnote] “mother: the two children to whom the narrator refers here are Claude Lantier (The Belly of Paris and The Masterpiece) and Étienne Lantier (Germinal). Much later, in 1889, when Zola began to write La Bête humaine, Zola gave Gervaise a third son, Jacques Lantier. Moreover, in L’Assommoir Gervaise will have a daughter, Nana, by her second partner, Coupeau” (116)

“He dropped into cafés, read the papers, and strolled up and down the Cours Sauvaire. He played the gentleman as long as he had some money in his pocket. When he had none he would stay at home, annoyed at being prevented from going out for his usual cup of coffee; on days like that he would blame the whole human race for his poverty, making himself ill with rage and envy, until Fine, taking pity on him, gave him the last silver coin in the house so that he could spend the evening at the café. The dear man was ferociously selfish” (117)

“There are some men who live on their mistresses. Antoine Macquart lived on his wife and children, just as brazenly. He shamelessly pillaged the home and went out to enjoy himself when the house was bare” (118)

“Every political party has its grotesques and its villains. Antoine Macquart, consumed with envy and hatred, and dreaming of getting his revenge on society, welcomed the Republic as an era of happiness that would allow him to fill his pockets from his neighbour’s cashbox, and even strangle his neighbour if he objected in any way. His café life and all the newspaper articles he had read without understanding them had turned him into a terrible ranter. He spouted the strangest political ideas. You need to have heard one of those malcontents, who have little understanding of what they read, haranguing an audience in some provincial taproom to have any conception of the degree of spite and idiocy Macquart displayed. As he talked a lot, had seen active service, and was naturally regarded as a man of action, he was very popular and always listened to by the gullible. Without being the leader of any group, he had managed to gather round him a small band of workmen who took his ravings for expressions of sincere, conscientious anger” (119)

“[Maquart] shouted for hours on end that the people were dying of hunger and the rich must share their wealth. He himself would never have given a sou to a beggar” (119)

“The main thing that turned him into a fierce republican was the hope of at last being able to take his revenge on the Rougons, who had openly aligned themselves with the reactionaries” (120)

“The famous yellow drawing-room became, in his wild talk at the café, a bandits’ hideaway, a gathering of crooks who every evening swore on their daggers that they would cut the people’s throats” (120)

“His tactic was thus to rouse the workers by telling them tall stories, which he often began to believe himself. His professions of pure patriotism could not hide his jealousy and his desire for revenge; but he was so vociferous that no one would have dared to doubt his sincerity” (120)

“all the members of the family had the same brutish appetites” (120)

“Though [François Mouret] looked like his mother, he had inherited from his father an honest, if narrow, outlook on the world, with an instinctive liking for the regulated patterns and safe calculations of small business” (123)

“[Adélaïde] lived a narrow, mechanical life in her shack in the Impasse Saint-Mittre, that dismal, silent hole where she lived entirely alone on potatoes and dry vegetables, and which she would often not leave once in a whole month. If you had seen her pass by, you might have thought she was one of those pale-faced old nuns with a clockwork step, whom the cloister has kept entirely apart from the world” (124)

“These secret dramas in the darkness of the shack, which recurred every month—the old woman as rigid as a corpse, the child [Silvère] bent over her, silently waiting for her to regain consciousness-made a strange picture of horror and tenderness” (126)

“And so they lived together in melancholy silence, feeling boundless affection for each other” (127)

“[Silvère] soon became a serious, thoughtful little fellow, intent on seeking instruction. He only learnt a small amount of spelling and arithmetic at the Catholic school, which he had to leave when he was just twelve on account of his apprenticeship. He never acquired the basic rudiments of an education. However, he read all the books he could find, and thus provided himself with a strange stock of knowledge; he had certain notions about a host of subjects, but these notions were ill-digested, and he could never order them clearly in his head” (127)

“He began to attend the local draughtsmanship school, where he became friends with a youngster who had left school early, and who lent him an old geometry textbook. He immersed himself in this without any guidance, racking his brains for weeks at a stretch to grasp the simplest problems. He thus became one of those semieducated workers who can barely sign their name and yet talk about algebra as if intimately acquainted with it” (127-128)

“a plaster image of the Holy Virgin, surrounded by artificial flowers; she is the traditional godmother of all old Provençal women, however irreligious they may be” (128)

“he had been obliged to devise a complicated set of shelves, reaching up to the ceiling, to keep near him all his precious odd volumes, which he had saved his sous to purchase from a local bookseller” (128)

“[Silvère] preferred to read, to struggle with some simple problem of geometry” (129)

“When, at times, he had the vague idea that Aunt Dide might be expiating some past sins, he would say to himself: ‘I was born so that I might forgive her’” (129)

“A nature such as Silvère’s, passionate yet self-contained, was fertile ground for the most exalted republican ideas. At night, in the little shack, he would read over and over again a work of Rousseau’s which he had come across at a local second-hand dealer’s among a collection of old locks. This book kept him awake until dawn. In his dream of universal happiness, so dear to the poor, the words ‘liberty’, ‘equality’, and ‘fraternity’ rang in his ears with the sonorous, sacred sound of church bells, which make the faithful fall on their knees When, therefore, he heard that the Republic had been proclaimed in France, he imagined that the whole world would enjoy a life of celestial bliss. His education, though very patchy, enabled him to see further than other workers; his aspirations did not stop at daily bread, but his extreme naivety, his complete ignorance of mankind, kept him in a dreamworld of theory, a Garden of Eden where universal justice reigned. His paradise was for a long time a delightful place in which he completely forgot himself. When he came to see that things were not going too well in the best of republics, he became extremely distressed; he began to indulge in another dream, that of compelling men to be happy even by force” (129)

[Endnote] “fall on their knees: the allusion here is to Rousseau’s influential work of political philosophy, The Social Contract (1762). The starting-point of this text is man’s original freedom, memorably expressed in the opening phrase: ‘Man is born free, but everywhere he is in chains.’ True liberty and equality can be (re-)established, according to Rousseau, only on the basis of a people who have never yet been divided or corrupted by any form of government, through a social pact of all with all, in which each individual agrees to submit to the ‘General Will’, which alone has sovereignty. To persuade people to accept the laws of this newly contracted society Rousseau introduced an authoritarian element: a ‘lawgiver’, who may use his authority, or an appeal to religious feeling, to induce the mutual cooperation of all citizens. Rousseau’s emphasis on the protection of individual rights and the collective will were founding principles of western liberal democracy; but his assertion that dissenting citizens should be forced to be free’ has been criticized by many for its dangerously totalitarian tendency. Some of Rousseau’s ideas, prominent among them the idea of the General Will, were incorporated verbatim into the first drafts of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen, following the fall of the Bastille in July 1789. The National Assembly deliberated beneath a bust of Rousseau and a copy of The Social Contract, which were installed in October 1790” (129)

“Liberty was his passion, an unreasoning, absolute passion. Blinded by enthusiasm, he was both too ignorant and too knowledgeable to be tolerant, and would not allow for human imperfection; he demanded an ideal government that would ensure perfect justice and perfect liberty” (129)

“[Maquart] had a way of regarding the triumph of the Republic as a question of personal self-interest, as an era of blissful idleness and endless junketing, and this offended his nephew’s purely moral aspirations.” (130)

“The fragments of communistic philosophy he culled from the newspapers in the morning sounded grotesque when they fell from his lips in the evening” (132)

“[Maquart] irritated [Silvère’s] nerves with his endless diatribes, and managed to make him eager for an armed struggle, the conquest of universal happiness by violence” (136)

“waited, indulging in fantastic dreams, imagining gigantic epics, Homeric struggles, and knightly tournaments, whence the defenders of liberty would emerge victorious and acclaimed by the whole world” (137)

“[Maquart] again began to plait baskets and hampers, while denouncing the human race for abandoning him. It was at this time especially that he talked of dividing and sharing the wealth of the rich” (138)

“the rich were all in league with each other to force him to work” (138)

“the tall girl in red who seemed to be leading a crowd of black demons in her wake, [some old rentier] quickly shut his window again, terrified by such a diabolical apparition” (141)

“[Insurgents to the mayor] ‘Your duty as a functionary is to ensure respect for the basic law of the land, the constitution, which has recently been outrageously violated’” (142)

“‘You are now just the functionary of a fallen functionary; we have come to relieve you of your functions’” (142)

Miette: “‘I’m glad this happened. I’m not sorry now that I left home. I’m free’” (148)

“The insurgents saw no prospect of keeping Plassans under their control. The town was so reactionary that it seemed impossible even to establish a democratic town council there, as had already been done in other places” (148)

[Endnote] “turning her fingers blue: some of the details of the latter part of this chapter (the episode involving the gendarme Rengade, the arrest of the notables, the girl carrying the banner) were derived by Zola from his reading of Eugène Ténot” (149)

Chapter 5

“The epic dreams that transported Miette and Silvère, big children that they were, eager for love and liberty, was so different in its sublime intensity from the sordid intrigues of the Macquarts and the Rougons” (150)

“Cheap, vulgar farce was turned into a great historical drama” (150)

“On leaving Plassans the insurgents had taken the road to Orchères. They expected to reach the town at about ten o’clock in the morning. The road follows the course of the Viorne, winding through the hills with the torrent below. On the left the plain spreads out like a huge green carpet, dotted here and there with grey villages. On the right the chain of the Garrigues rears its desolate peaks, its plateaux of stones, its huge rust-coloured boulders that look as if they have been reddened by the sun. The high-road, embanked along the riverside, continues through a series of enormous rocks between which glimpses of the valley can be caught at every step. Nothing could be wilder or more strangely grandiose than this road cut out of the hillside itself. At night, especially, it inspires a feeling of awe. The insurgents advanced in the pale light along what seemed the main street of an ancient town, bordered on both sides by ruined temples; the moon turned each rock into a broken column, a crumbling capital, or a patch of wall pierced with mysterious arches. Higher up slumbered the mass of the Garrigues, suffused with a milky tinge and resembling some Cyclopean city whose towers, obelisks, houses, and high terraces hid half of the sky; and in the depths below, on the side of the plain, was a great ocean of diffuse light, vague and limitless, over which floated masses of luminous haze. The insurrectionary force might well have thought they were following a gigantic causeway, making their rounds along a military road built on the shore of a phosphorescent sea, and circling some unknown Babel” (150)

“Intoxicated by their belief in the general insurrection of which they had dreamed, they fancied that France was following their example; they imagined that, on the other side of the Viorne, in that vast ocean of diffuse light, there were endless columns of men rushing like themselves to the defence of the Republic” (151)

“the rest of the country, gripped by fear, was timidly allowing itself to be garrotted” (151)

“One might have thought that these bells were telling each other, across the void, the sinister story of a dying world” (152)

“Lovers are made by a kiss” (153)

“she felt that he would gladly take her with him into the earth. They would be able to love each other more freely than under the sun” (156)

“a desire for some strange voluptuousness” (156)

“The thought of impending death had excited her; she no longer felt herself blushing but clung to her sweetheart, seeming, before being buried in the earth, to want to exhaust the newly discovered pleasures which her lips had only just begun to taste, and which she was frustrated not to be able to enjoy immediately in all their unknown delights” (156)

“She was simply overwhelmed by an unconscious inner revolt and a need for infinite pleasure” (157)

“[Miette] had an instinctive feeling for the fecundity of life” (157)

“The trial of Chantegreil had become famous throughout the region … The judge could not make him understand that, although a gendarme has the right to fire at a poacher, a poacher has no right to fire at a gendarme” (158)

“Spending her days in the fields, cut off from the world she grew up in a spirit of revolt, and formed opinions that would have shocked the good people of the Faubourg” (160)

“told herself that her father had done well to kill the gendarme who had tried to kill him” (161)

“By temperament [Silvère] was fond of secluded spots where he could lose himself in his thoughts. He had already begun to read avidly all the old odd volumes he could pick up at second-hand dealers in the Faubourg, and which were destined to nurture in him a strange, high-minded social religion” (170)

“he derived particular pleasure from shutting himself away with her in those humanitarian utopias which some great sages of the present age, infatuated by visions of universal happiness, have imagined. Miette, in his mind, became essential to the abolition of pauperism and the triumph of the Revolution” (171)

“He was predisposed to utopian ideas by certain hereditary influences; his grandmother’s nervous disorder became in him a form of chronic excitement, an endless striving after everything that was grandiose and impossible” (171)

“For a second time the door had served as an accomplice. Where love had once passed, there it passed again. It was the eternal cycle, with its present joys and future tears” (175)

“Then they began to stifle in the little lane. Never had it been so full of pulsating life; never had the soil, in which the last bones left from the old cemetery lay mouldering, given off such disturbing odours. They were still too young to enjoy the voluptuous charm of that secluded spot. The grass grew up to their knees; it was no longer easy for them to move about, and certain plants, when they crushed their young roots, exuded a pungent odour that made them dizzy. Then, overcome by a strange feeling of drowsiness and reeling with giddiness, their feet as if entangled in the grass, they would lean against the wall, their eyes half closed, unable to take another step” (183)

“Every rock ledge, every bed of turf was soon familiar to them; there was not a cluster of trees, a hedge, or a bush that did not become their friend” (183)

“After two weeks she could swim. With her limbs moving freely, rocked by the stream, playing with it, she yielded to its soft motion, to the silence of the sky and the dreaminess of the melancholy banks” (186)

“From the fields, from the distant horizon which she could no longer see, she could hear a solemn lingering strain, composed of all the sighs of the night. She was not dreamy by nature; it was physically, through all her senses, that she enjoyed the sky, the river, and the play of light and shadow” (187)

“The river was now a source of intoxication, a kind of voluptuous languor they found strangely disturbing” (187)

“His daydreams, as he plied his heavy hammer round the cartwheels in his master’s workshop, were full of extravagant, generous visions. He saw himself as Miette’s redeemer. All his reading rushed to his head; he wanted to marry his sweetheart some day in order to raise her up in the eyes of the world; it was like a holy mission, that of redeeming and saving the convict’s daughter” (188)

“His head was so full of certain theories and arguments that he did not simply admit this to himself, but became lost in absolute social mysticism, imagining rehabilitation in the form of an apotheosis in which he saw Miette seated on a throne at the end of the Cours Sauvaire while the whole town prostrated itself before her, begging her forgiveness and singing her praises” (188)

“She would then say that her father had been quite right to kill the gendarme, that the earth belongs to everybody, and that one has the right to fire a gun whenever and wherever one likes. Thereupon Silvère, in a grave voice, explained the law to her as he understood it, with strange commentaries that would have astonished the magistrature of Plassans” (189)

“Miette argued the point obstinately; she asked Silvère if her father should have let the gendarme kill him, and Silvère, after a momentary silence, replied that in such a case it was better to be the victim than the murderer, and that it was a great misfortune for anyone to kill a fellow human being, even in self-defence. For him the law was sacrosanct, and the judges had done the right thing in sending Chantegreil to the galleys” (189)

“They invariably returned to the Aire Saint-Mittre, to the little lane from which they had been driven by the noisy summer evenings, the pungent smell of the trodden grass, all the warm, disturbing life of nature” (190)

“With their lively imaginations, they would tell each other that their love had shot up like some luxuriant plant in the special soil fertilized by dead men’s bones. It had grown like the wild grass and blossomed like the poppies that swayed in all directions, like bleeding hearts, at the slightest breeze. And they began to fancy that the warm breaths that wafted over them, the whispering they heard in the gloom, and the quivering life that filled the lane came from the dead people sighing over their lost passion, telling them of their wedding night as they turned over in their graves, gripped by a fierce desire to live and love once more” (190)

“They were sure that those fragments of bone were full of affection for them; the broken skulls grew warm again through contact with their youthful passion, the smallest particles surrounded them with rapturous murmurs, loving concern, and aching jealousy. When they went away the old cemetery seemed to weep. The grass, in which their feet became entangled on sultry nights, making them stumble, was like long, fine fingers, tapered by life in the tomb, that sprang up through the earth to hold them back and throw them into each other’s arms. The pungent odour exhaled by the broken stems was the fertilizing perfume, the very essence of life which is slowly distilled in the grave, and intoxicates with desire the lovers who wander along the lonely pathways. The dead, the long-departed dead, longed for the union of Miette and Silvère” (190)

“They were never afraid. The atmosphere of sympathy they sensed around them affected them and made them love the invisible beings whose soft touch they often imagined they could feel, like a gentle flapping of wings. Sometimes they felt a great sadness, and could not understand what the dead wanted of them” (190)

“They lived out their innocent love amidst this flood of sap, in this abandoned cemetery whose rich soil teemed with life and imperiously demanded their union” (191)

“It was no doubt there, on the tombstone and among the bones that lay hidden under the rank grass, that they first felt a longing for death, the burning desire to sleep together in the earth” (192)

“He dreamed of victory to be followed by a happy life with Miette, amidst the peace and harmony of the universal Republic” (194)

“He talked to the doctor [Pascal], with the grandiloquence of youth, about the people’s rights, their holy mission, and their certain triumph. Pascal listened with a smile, and watched the youth’s gestures and vigorous facial expressions with great interest, as if he were studying a patient or analysing a passion, to ascertain what might lie behind this fever of excitement” (195)

“‘How you go on! How you go on!’ he finally exclaimed. ‘You are your grandmother’s true grandson.’
Then, in a whisper he added, like a chemist taking notes:
‘Hysteria or excitement, shameful madness or sublime madness. Always those terrible nerves!’
Then, again speaking out loud, as if summing up his thoughts, he said:
‘The family is now complete. It will have its hero’” (195)

“Terrifying rumours were now circulating; bad news, which the leaders had managed to conceal the previous evening, had spread, though nobody had spoken a word. It was the work of that invisible voice which somehow throws a crowd into a panic” (196)

“They had dreamed of a great war, of a whole nation in revolt, and of the glorious conquest of the people’s rights! Lost and abandoned, this handful of men could only weep for their dead faith and their lost dreams of justice” (196)

“Amid the grey hues of the blouses and jackets, and the bluish glitter of the weapons, the pelisse worn by Miette, who was holding the banner with both hands, formed a large splash of red, like a fresh, bleeding wound” (198)

“He was in despair at leaving her alone under the trees. For the last time he looked at her from a distance. She was still lying there in all her innocence, wrapped in the red banner, her head leaning slightly to one side, her big eyes staring at the sky” (203)

Chapter 6

“After each halt the saviours of Plassans resumed their stealthy march in the dark, continuing to appear like terrified heroes” (207)

“This room, with its faded hangings, was redolent of all the petty transactions and trivial concerns of a third-rate town council; it was like a temple of which he was about to become the god” (211)

“Business before everything. The town was in such a critical situation! Then the three accomplices retired to a corner of the drawing-room where, in an undertone, they divided power amongst themselves, while the rest of the habitués, a few paces away, tried to look extremely wise and glanced furtively at them with a mixture of admiration and curiosity” (217)

“Vuillet had a very varied collection of obscene literature, which he kept hidden in a large drawer under a layer of rosaries and religious images; it was he who flooded the town with shameful photographs and engravings, without doing any harm to the sale of missals” (218)

“he carried on blowing his trumpet, making himself more and more important, as if impelled to turn his narrative into a full-blown epic” (219)

“The figure of forty-one astonished the whole town. It was the origin of the legend that grew in Plassans of how forty-one bourgeois had made three thousand insurgents bite the dust. A few envious people in the new town-lawyers without work, retired military men ashamed of having slept through the night-raised doubts. The insurgents, it was suggested, had perhaps left of their own accord. There was no proof of any form of combat, no corpses, no bloodstains. The saviours must certainly have had a very easy task” (223)

“In Plassans the mayor had under him the most appalling dimwits, men with no ideas of their own and used to passive obedience. Consequently, as Monsieur Garçonnet was no longer there, the administrative machine was bound to break down and fall under the control of anyone who could get it working again” (225)

“So, as the sub-prefect had left the district, Rougon naturally found himself, by force of circumstance, the absolute master of the town: an extraordinary situation, whereby all administrative power had fallen into the hands of a dull-witted individual to whom, the day before, not one of his fellow citizens would have lent a hundred francs” (225)

“It all looked like an ocean, a whole world, magnified by the darkness, the cold, and their own secret fears” (231)

“There could hardly have been a stranger sight than this little walled town locking and bolting itself in broad daylight, in the middle of the nineteenth century” (235)

“She guessed correctly. The sudden unpopularity of the Rougons was the work of a group of lawyers who were very displeased at the importance acquired by an illiterate former oil-dealer whose business had nearly gone bankrupt” (238)

“the warmth and softness of the sofa continued to mollify him, and fill him with vague regrets. After all, the insurgents were abandoning him and allowing themselves to be defeated like idiots. Eventually he came to the conclusion that the Republic was pure deception” (252)

“Then, having pomaded himself, and smelling sweetly from head to foot, he stretched out once more on the sofa, feeling rejuvenated and disposed to the most conciliatory thoughts” (252)

“He made a great show, in these open spaces, of his chairmanship of a non-existent council, and gave such a convincing display of taking his responsibilities seriously that the concierge, coming across him two or three times in the corridors, bowed to him with an air of surprise mingled with respect” (257)

“The gentlemen of the deputation, after paying due homage to him for his patriotism, begged him to forgo all resistance. But he, in a loud voice, spoke of duty, of his country, of order, of liberty, and so on and so forth. Moreover, he did not wish to force anyone to follow his example; he was just doing what his conscience and his heart told him to do” (258)

“Thus it was that this grotesque individual, this pale, portly bourgeois, became, in one night, a fearsome gentleman whom nobody dared to ridicule any more. He had stepped in blood” (269)

Félicité: “‘Well, it’s our turn now’” (273)

Chapter 7

“The campaign of terror following the coup d’état was just beginning, an unremitting campaign that kept the Midi in a state of tension for months” (274)

“Rougon was most put out. He found this heart-rending spectacle distasteful; he had people coming to dinner that evening and would hate to appear in low spirits. His mother was always doing something to embarrass him” (277)

“You’re the ones who fired!’ [Adélaïde] cried. ‘I heard the gold… What a wretched woman I am! I brought nothing but wolves into the world… a whole family… a whole litter of wolves… There was just one poor lad, and they’ve eaten him up; they each had a bite at him, and their lips are covered with blood… Damn them! They are thieves and murderers. And they live like gentlemen. Damn them! Damn them!’ She sang, laughed, shouted at the top of her voice, and repeated ‘Damn them!’ in a strangely rhythmical way, as if mimicking gunfire” (280)

“He stammered as he spoke, dying to get out into the fresh air. Pascal looked intently at the madwoman, then at his father and uncle; his professional instincts were getting the better of him; he studied the mother and the sons, with the fascination of a naturalist observing the metamorphosis of an insect. He pondered over the growth of the family, with its different branches springing from one parent stock, whose sap carried the same seeds to the furthest twigs, which bent in different directions according to the ambient sunshine or shade. For a moment he thought he could see, in a flash, the future of the Rougon-Macquart family, a pack of wild, satiated appetites in the midst of a blaze of gold and blood” (280-281)

“Now that the time for rewards had arrived, this gang of bourgeois, who had thrown themselves on the dying Republic, each one keeping a watchful eye on the others and proud of taking a bigger bite than his neighbour, did not think it fair that their hosts should have all the glory” (282)

“By the second course they had lost their inhibitions completely. The oil-dealers and almond-dealers were the saviours of France” (284)

“The spot had grown terribly old. [Silvère] saw that the wall was moss-eaten, that the grass was destroyed by frost, that the piles of timber had begun to rot because of the rain. It was a picture of desolation. The yellow twilight fell like fine dust on the ruins of everything that had been most dear to him. He had to shut his eyes so that he could see the lane green again” (289)

“He took his time, bidding a lingering farewell to everything he loved: the grass, the timber, the stone of the old wall, all the things to which Miette had given life” (290)

“It was the Republic expiring with Miette under the red flag. The sadness of it! They were both dead, both had bleeding wounds in their breasts; and it was they-the corpses of his two loves-that now blocked off his life” (290)

“He recognized their soft whispers. They were rejoicing, telling him to come, promising to reunite him with Miette beneath the earth, in some retreat even more secluded than this old trysting-place. The cemetery, whose rank odours and dark vegetation had filled their young hearts with desire, spreading out its alluring bed of wild grass without throwing them into each other’s arms, now longed to drink Silvère’s warm, blood. For the last two summers it had been expecting the young lovers” (290)

“In the darkness he could now see only Miette, wrapped in the banner under the trees, her eyes staring up at the sky. Then the one-eyed man fired, and it was all over; the child’s skull burst open like a ripe pomegranate; his face fell on the stone, his lips pressed to the spot worn by Miette’s feet-that warm spot where his sweetheart had left the imprint of her body” (292)

“The Rougons were finally enjoying the pleasures of the wealthy! Their appetites, sharpened by thirty years of suppressed desire, had fallen to with wolfish greed. These wild, insatiate beasts, who had only just begun to satisfy their appetites, acclaimed the birth of the Empire and the rush for the spoils. The coup d’état, which had retrieved the fortune of the Bonapartes, had also laid the foundation for that of the Rougons” (293)

“But the strip of pink satin fastened to Pierre’s buttonhole was not the only splash of red that marked the triumph of the Rougons. A shoe with a bloodstained heel lay forgotten under the bed in the next room. The candle burning at Monsieur Peirotte’s bedside, on the opposite side of the street, shone in the darkness with the lurid redness of an open wound. And far away, in the depths of the Aire Saint-Mittre, a pool of blood was congealing on a tombstone” (293)

Previous Book Next Book

« The Fires of Heaven