Read L'Assommoir (The Dram Shop) by Émile Zola Robin Buss Online


The seventh novel in the Rougon-Macquart cycle, L'Assommoir (1877) is the story of a woman's struggle for happiness in working-class Paris. At the center of the story stands Gervaise, who starts her own laundry and for a time makes a success of it. But her husband soon squanders her earnings in the Assommoir, a local drinking spot, and gradually the pair sink into povertyThe seventh novel in the Rougon-Macquart cycle, L'Assommoir (1877) is the story of a woman's struggle for happiness in working-class Paris. At the center of the story stands Gervaise, who starts her own laundry and for a time makes a success of it. But her husband soon squanders her earnings in the Assommoir, a local drinking spot, and gradually the pair sink into poverty and squalor. L'Assommoir was a contemporary bestseller, outraged conservative critics, and launched a passionate debate about the legitimate scope of modern literature. This new translation captures not only the brutality but the pathos of its characters' lives....

Title : L'Assommoir (The Dram Shop)
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780140447538
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 480 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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L'Assommoir (The Dram Shop) Reviews

  • Glenn Russell
    2019-02-23 02:48

    “A heavy man of forty was serving a ten year old girl who had asked him to place four sous' worth of brandy into her cup. A shaft of sunlight came through the entrance to warm the floor which was always damp from the smokers' spitting. From everything, the casks, the bar, the entire room, a liquorish odor arose, an alcoholic aroma which seemed to thicken and befuddle the dust motes dancing in the sunlight.” The above is but one of the many vivid descriptions in the world of Émile Zola’s L'Assommoir, an urban underbelly of fleshy humanity emitting spit and sweet and stinking of booze; a swarm of filth and grime, grunting, gesticulating, swearing, slobbering. If this sounds like strong stuff, it is the very strong literary stuff of Zola-style naturalism, where we as readers are dragged ever so slowly through the boarding houses, streets and open sewers in the poorest slums of late nineteenth-century Paris.At the heart of the novel is Gervaise, a young mother abandoned by her lover, who has to fight to earn an honest living as a laundress and starcher. Eventually she marries one Monsieur Coupeau and initially it appears life will be clean, decent and manageable, but her husband starts drinking and thus begins the family’s downward spiral. L’Assommoir translated as The Gin Palace or The Drinking Den or The Dram Shop caused an uproar when first published – too fierce, too brutal, too sordid. Completely unapologetic, Zola simply replied that he wrote about life as it is actually lived among the poor.Rather than focusing on all the nasty, grimy details, distasteful and disgusting by anybody’s standards, including a scene where a child is being whipped by her drunken father, I read Zola’s work with an eye to what place, if any, literature, music and the arts have in the lives of these poor Parisians. Perhaps surprisingly, there are a number of occasions, noted below, where the men and women in this novel encounter the arts.After Gervaise and Coupeau’s wedding ceremony, the several men and women of the wedding party pay a visit to the Louvre. When they walk through the Assyrian exhibit they adjudge the gigantic stone figures and monstrous beasts, half cat and half woman, very ugly. Then, when they make their way to the galleries of more modern art, we read, “Centuries of art passed before their bewildered ignorance, the fine sharpness of the early masters, the splendors of the Venetians, the vigorous life, beautiful with light, of the Dutch painters. But what interested them most were the artists who were copying, with their easels planted amongst the people, painting away unrestrainedly." Then the wedding party moves to another room where they encounter Ruben’s Kermesse, and Zola writes, “The ladies uttered faint cries the moment they brought their noses close to the painting. Then, blushing deeply they turned away their heads. The men though kept them there, cracking jokes, and seeking for the coarser details.”Let’s pause here to reflect on the response of these men and women to the art on display. Is there anything unusual or unexpected in way they interact with the sculptures and paintings? Not really; seeing the ancient art of Assyria as ugly is understandable – they want to see pleasing images, not half-human grotesques. Also, understandable is their focus on the artists copying the great masterpieces rather than the masterpieces themselves – the process of creation is fascinating. Lastly, their visceral reaction to the racy country fête of Ruben is predicable, especially the men enjoying the coarse, sexy details. All this to say, in Zola’s view, members of the lower classes can appreciate art as that art relates to their own lives. True, their viewing isn’t the disinterested objectivity of a refined aesthete or knowing eye of an art historian but that’s no reason to discount the way they value art and make art a part of their lives.One fine evening, Gervaise hosts a dinner fit for royalty. At this point in the novel, she has put forth great effort to live a life that is a kind of oasis of virtue, industriousness and cleanliness amid the city’s poor. This lavish dinner, complete with fine white linen tablecloth and expertly folded linen napkins, set up in the main room of her very own laundry shop is one of the highpoints of her social life. All those invited voraciously down wine and bread, goose and cake, and then each person takes their turn singing a song. Ah, music, the universal art; no need for instruments or special training -- simply singing songs. And through the singing we are given a glimpse into the soul of each of these poor men and women, quite a moving experience for us as readers.There are a few more references to the arts: Gervaise’s former lover, Lantier, owns books, teaches Gervaise’s daughter Nana to dance (yes, this is the Nana from Zola’s much read novel) and invites Gervaise to a Café Concert. Also, at one point, bemoaning her bad luck, Gervaise muses about a play she saw where the wife poisoned her much hated husband for the sake of her lover. Additionally, there is also a very important event worth noting, one involving Gervaise’s sixteen year old son, Claude. We read, “An old gentleman at Plassans offered to take the older boy, Claude, and send him to an academy down there. The old man, who loved art, had previously been much impressed by Claude's sketches.” This is a significant detail since in the fictional world of Émile Zola’s social Darwinism people are bound and determined and molded by their social environment; yet, in this case, Zola acknowledges Claude’s artistic talent could develop and be recognized despite his poverty-stricken surroundings. Lucky boy! If I were raised in such squalor, I wish I could be half as lucky. Unfortunately others are not nearly as fortunate or lucky in Zola’s L’Assommoir. Read all about it . . . if you have the stomach, that is.

  • Lisa
    2019-03-05 06:18

    "C'est de la morale en action, simplement!" That is Zola's laconic explanation for "L'Assommoir", simply a moral message shown in action. And what devastating action it is. Gervaise's story begins with her in tears, sitting at home late at night, watching her two little boys Claude and Etienne, four and eight years old, on a shared pillow. These are the future (anti-)heroes of The Masterpiece and of Germinal. Her first husband Lantier does not come home that night.Thus the sad downfall of a young, motivated, good-natured and hard-working woman takes its course. As Gervaise tells a friend, her working life began when she was ten years old and started washing clothes in a river in Provence. Moving on to live in the poor parts of Paris, she has to face the even harder challenge of a modern factory. The reader can only imagine the monstrous work environment and physical exhaustion she is exposed to, day after day, without losing hope.She agrees to a second marriage, reluctantly, "tourmentée d'une bête de peur", and becomes the wife of worker Coupeau. Their wedding party at the Louvre constitutes a lighthearted break from their hard life, and has quite a few comical effects, for example when Coupeau recognizes the features of one of his aunts in the Mona Lisa.But life remains hard, and marriage is no relief to a young woman. Gervaise is back working with the laundry three days after giving birth to her daughter Anna, the infamous heroine of Zola's prostitution novel Nana.Setting the stage for the following brutal action, Zola makes it perfectly clear that a family like this can afford no extra hardship. But of course he doesn't spare them - he is a master realist, after all!The literal fall of the already poor and struggling family occurs when Coupeau stumbles from a roof while working, and is seriously hurt. His daughter Nana, sitting on the pavement, witnesses the disaster that unfolds in nightmarish slow motion. From now on, the family slides into desperation, alcoholism and violence. The accident on the roof is mirrored later when Nana sees her drunk father fall out of his bed, lying in his vomit, while her mother is engaged in depressed love-making with her half-brothers' father, the suddenly reappeared Lantier. To understand the brutality of her later life choices, Nana's childhood must be considered:"Elle était tout grave."Gervaise experiences abuse from all sides, and also has to deal with Nana's particularly difficult adolescence. At one point, she is so desperate that she sees an affront in the embellishment of her quarters of Paris - a part of Haussman's modernization plans - because it constitutes the complete opposite of her own wasting away between different obligations and emotional strains. Step by step, she gives in to alcohol and hopelessness, slowly losing all sense of pride and humanity, only lamenting the fact that one can get used to almost anything except that one can't "prendre l'habitude de ne pas manger". Hunger is the only remaining feeling that tells her she is alive. But what kind of life is it?The second half of the novel describes the downward spiral of addiction in its most minute details. Impressive and revolting!When people die in La Goutte d'Or, others just comment that it means one drunkard less in the world. Such a sad life, and what a legacy she leaves, Gervaise! Her children will take their childhood with them into their respective adult lives, and they will be marked by their mother's struggle for a spot to call her own. She doesn't have much of a chance in the environment where she spends her life, however. A poor woman, and a mother. What could she have done to change her condition?A moral message lived and caught in action!Chapeau, Zola! This is YOUR masterpiece.

  • Paquita Maria Sanchez
    2019-03-16 05:24

    At the risk of sounding hyperbolic, I honestly believe this may be the most depressing novel I have ever read. It has been a long time since I've (if I've ever) so excessively cringed, tensed up, sighed from such unadulterated frustration, and chewed the insides of my mouth from stress while reading about imaginary people. Last time I can remember my eyes popping out of my head anywhere near as cartoonishly from a fiction as Zola has managed here would probably be the first time I watched Requiem for a Dream, specifically, ya know, that sequence. This is worse than that. And disturbingly realistic. If you have ever watched anyone deteriorate from alcoholism, this book will eat you. It will eat you good. That's pretty much all I can say for now, because I'm still too busy grinding my teeth to continue. Jesus. Anyway, I guess I should also mention that it's beautifully grotesque, exactingly plotted and paced, and Zola's observations on human behavior, emotions, and rationalizations for cruelty and excess are almost surgical. Ironically, it's gripping and heart-wrenching enough that it may make you want a drink.I seem to remember a lot of goodreaders dissing on it, but I do look forward to reading Nana as soon as I can find a copy. The way in which Zola pre-developed her character is strikingly in-tune with modern scientific/psychological theories of childhood experiences which lead to sociopathology; the abuse, genetic predisposition, brain damage, poverty, trauma, lack of supervision, insubstantial education, and generally chaotic home-life are present, creating, as they say, "the perfect storm." I will seek that novel out once my wounds heal at least to the point of being crusty scabs which only occasionally rip open and drip. Dammit, Zola, why are you so terribly wonderful and wonderfully terrible? The last lines are similar to a row of beautiful, gleaming daggers. I sniffled a bit. That rarely happens for me with fiction, but Zola got me. Bastard.

  • MohammedAli
    2019-03-05 03:25

    الإنحدار .. القاع .. الهوة .. الحيوانية .. الشقاء .. الفقر .. الإدمان ..الفاقة ..المعاناة..اليأس..الجنون..الحسرة..الخيانة ..الذل..الهوان.. الإستغلال .. البغض .. الخمر .. الحسد.. ببساطة هذه هي رواية " إميل زولا " رواية من باريس العميقة..من باريس لا تشترك مع باريس التي نعرفها إلا في الإسم ,قصة إمرأة عانت الويلات و هي تتأرجح بين رجلين إستغلاها أحسن إستغلال حتى أصبحت أدنى منزلة من الحيوان بعد أن كانت سيدة منزلها و عملها , قصة الشراب و الخمر الذين أهلكا عقول و أفئدة الرجال و حولوهم إلى خزانات مدمنة همها الوحيد هو تذوق كأس واحدة .رواية لن نقول عنها أنها جميلة .. و لكن هي تنتني لذلك النوع من الروايات ذات الرائحة .. لأنك ستشم رائحة الخمر و العفن الممزوجين بثلوج و جليد الشوارع .. ستشم رائحة الخيانة و الغدر الممزوجين بقيئ ( أعزكم الله ) السكارى على أرصفة الشوارع و على الأرائك و الأسرة.رواية لن نقول عنها أنها جميلة و لكننا سنكثر من الإستغفار بعد قراءة أي فصل من فصولها , لأن العيش في القاع هو أمر صعب و لكن أن تعيش دون القاع أي في مرتبة أدنى من مرتبة الحيوان .. حيث تتساوى المتناقضات أمامك الموت و الحياة .. الجوع و الشبع .. الشرف و العار .. الحب الصافي و الغدر..احترام النفس و إذلالها .. التسول و مسك اليد و غيرها و غيرها من المتنافضاتلقد أبدع زولا في الفصل الإخير الشخص المدمن عندما يصل إلى ذروة الإدمان و هي المرحلة الأخيرة لكل مدمن , مرحلة الجنون التام ,مرحلة ما قبل الموت..حيث كل خلية من خلايا جسمه تتألم و تتمزق ذاتيا .

  • Luís C.
    2019-03-16 07:34

    Beware, reading the "Assommoir" can cause drunkenness! Bending to turn the pages; drunk to know what hides the social violence ... A black intoxication, painful, which raises the discomfort and returns the brain.Why is this tome one of the most famous of this author? To this question, every reader who has appreciated it can bring his personal answer. For my part, I explain this success by the fascination of the worst it generates in the reader. This was the case for me.As always with Zola, human nature is naked, crudely. The absolute master of naturalist literature reveals in this novel all the darkness of souls who know neither moderation, nor charity, and even less reason.In this 7th volume of Rougon-Macquart, the main character that the reader will follow (and which he is likely to attach) is Gervaise Macquart, the granddaughter of Adelaide Fouque, root-strain of the family. All the action of the novel takes place in Paris, in a working environment uncompromisingly described, so that at its publication, this is a book that has caused a stir in public opinion!Gervaise is a washerwoman; a brave hard-working girl, yet the archetype of the one "who never has luck", so expect a Zola "black from black". Mistreated by the men who share her life, her goodness and endurance make her go through many trials and even lead her on the road to success but it is not counting on the "vices" to which man has so much ease to slip: idleness and laziness, alcoholism, egoism and waste. The energy and the patience of Gervaise will not succeed, it is towards the social abyss that all her family directs her steps.Well, I stop there, you will understand the tone of the novel.I finish giving you my opinion. Very nice "piece" of literature, work that "stirs the guts" in depth, "l'Assommoir" remains for me a staple of Zola, one of his finest writings, in his likeness: hard, realistic and moving.

  • Alex
    2019-02-28 02:47

    Don't actually remember when I read this, it was sometime just after college. I had read Nana for a class and needed to follow it up. As I write this blurb I'm belatedly following up L'Assommoir with Germinal. You really can't lose with Zola. Unless you're one of his characters, in which case you'll probably lose everything. To the bourgeoisie. And then you'll die. Probably of a terrible affliction.

  • MJ Nicholls
    2019-03-11 09:24

    Whenever I think I had a rough upbringing I read a book like this and realise I am a fluffed little pillow of good fortune. I was raised in a council tenement in a backwater semi-village in Central Scotland amid a backdrop of Protestant activism and spinster gossiping. But compared to Zola’s Paris in L’Assommoir, I was mollycoddled in a warm nook of familial love and warmth.So: Gervaise is hardworking laundress whose life is blown to smithereens by rotten good-for-nothing beer-sodden bastard men. Men are responsible for taking her life and flushing it down the sad Parisian cludgie, along with a family of unfeeling guttersnipe witches who make you want to pound their faces in with soldering irons. Oh, poor Gervaise!Zola’s style pioneers the close third-person, later taken to blistering heights of anal acuity in Joyce’s ‘The Dead.’ The translator Robin Buss strikes a good balance between modern slang while retaining a sense of the original French dialect and mode of speech. To translate a book that uses archaic working-class slang and keep it both authentic and readable is no mean feat. So forgive little slips like ‘getting laid’ that creep in there.I haven’t been as stupefied by a work of hysterical genius since the hectoring morality of Tolstoy’s Resurrection or the brutal sadism of Hubert Selby’s ‘Tralala.’ Think twice about that extra beer before bed.

  • Edward
    2019-03-22 06:45

    IntroductionNote on the TranslationSelect BibliographyA Chronology of Émile ZolaMaps--L'AssommoirExplanatory Notes

  • Faith
    2019-02-27 09:31

    This book (the French title is "L'Assommoir") is a depressing argument for sobriety. It's also a vivid slice of life in late 19th century Paris. Twenty-two year old Gervaise is deserted by her lover Lantier and left with two small sons. Supporting herself as a laundress, she soon marries Coupeau, a young tin worker, and they have a daughter Anna (or Nana, who later becomes the protagonist in the Zola book with that title). The couple get along well, are steadily employed and manage to save enough for Gervaise to start her own business. Then Coupeau has an accident and thereafter the family is mired in debt. However, the real problems begin when first Coupeau and then Gervaise start to drink.Lantier also returns and soon enough Gervaise is supporting not only her drunken, unemployable husband but also Lantier, who has a real knack for latching on to women willing to be treated like doormats. I can think of only one man in the book who isn't cruel, brutish and/or drunk. Children are whipped and a wife is kicked to death by her husband. This is not a happy story and things do not turn out well for Gervaise, but it was a well written picture of poverty and despair. Unfortunately, I don't think the story was dated at all. I listened to the audiobook narrated by Frederick Davidson.

  • BAM The Bibliomaniac
    2019-03-05 02:32

    Zola may be one of my all time favorite classic writers. He's so brutally honest about pre and post revolutionary France society, which was cruel and hopeless for so many. So far, this novel hasn't failed to disappoint. Gevaise is lost amid poverty and vice, questing to lead a moral life and provide for her children. Just when she swears off men believing they are all rotten, one comes her way. Can life be perfect? What is ideal? Zola has an absolutely mesmerizing way of unfolding the vignette that is Gevaise's existence. He describes surroundings, characters, clothing, animals, nothing is left undisturbed.Life, alas, has a dismal outlook for Gervaise and her family. It would be very easy to update this story by transplanting a single mother on welfare trying to make ends meet while dating an addict. Gervaise's story is today's story.

  • Joselito Honestly and Brilliantly
    2019-02-25 08:40

    Arrogant 21st century reader, take hold of this book, more than a hundred years old, and suffer a humiliation like I did. Sure, you have read all types, and there isn't a book of note that isn't in your library or kindle. You feel nothing can surprise you anymore. Plots are all predictably the same. A character is introduced and you know, more or less, what the author will do to him after a hundred or so pages. A character who is innately good, and who suffers a lot, will triumph in the end. Or if he must die tragically, someone will remember him by, or perpetuate his memory, like some descendants who narrate his story, or a diary that keeps him alive. The stuff bestsellers are made of, always with tacit invitation to be made into a movie and make their authors rich.NOT THIS NOVEL though! Zola creates characters then let them do as they please. As I get introduced to the characters, I keep on rolling my eyes in disbelief with the very real, but un-novelistic, trajectories of their lives. Like as if Zola had pronounced that indeed life is stranger than fiction and so instead of creating a story in his mind, he just watches his neighbors surreptitiously then reports on their shenanigans like he's a war correspondent.

  • Duane
    2019-03-09 02:25

    An exceptional novel, one of the best I've ever read, one I'm not likely to forget anytime soon. I would like to recommend it to my family and friends, but I fear they would consider it depressing and tragic and it is, but it is much more. Zola uses his brush to paint the picture of 19th century Paris as it was for the poor and working class as they dealt with low pay, poor working conditions, sickness, hunger, and abuse of every kind. Alcohol abuse is a major theme of the book as well as the abuse of women and children that by todays standards would be criminal. Zola's writing style, his writing skills, are at their very best here and the characters are developed so well that you become completely invested; you hurt, you cry, you get angry right along with them. I look forward to reading Nana and Germinal but I don't see how they could be any better.

  • Rubi
    2019-03-25 02:25

    Cuántos sentimientos encontrados con esta novela... Empecé con risas, alucinando con la frescura y la sinceridad de Zola. Poco a poco, al irse desarrollando la historia y al ir conociendo a los personajes más profundamente, he sentido tristeza, lástima, dolor, enfado, piedad, ternura, ganas de llorar...Me ha fascinado, de principio a fin: no es la historia de una taberna, sino de todo un barrio parisino. Familia, celos, cuernos, lucha por salir adelante, nuevos comienzos e ilusiones... Muchos cotilleos y maldad (aunque también bondad). Violencia de género. Palizas que quedan en familia. Desgaste. Inmundicia. Suciedad. Orgullo perverso. Maléfica envidia. Odio y falsedad. Derroche de algunos y tacañería de otros... Hay hasta ménage à trois en este pedazo de libro; no le falta de nada. Cómo se jode la vida la gente con el alcohol. Intentan ahogar las penas en el fondo del vaso y en realidad, no se dan cuenta de que éstas, mojadas, pesan más. Qué cantidad de cosas pierden por caer en este vicio tan insano: hasta el juicio y... se les escapa la vida gota a gota.Gervasia, has hecho mella en mí. Nunca te olvidaré. He aprendido mucho con tus errores, pero también he crecido contigo en cada paso que has dado. Zola, entiendo que las clases obreras se te echasen encima cuando salió publicada esta novela. Cuando no se tienen pelos en la lengua, los demás se hacen los ofendidos diciendo que todo son mentiras. Yo, sin embargo, te doy las gracias de corazón por haber escrito esto. "... se creía fuerte y quería vivir como mujer honrada, porque la honradez es la mitad de la dicha.""Y con una pena intensa que le paralizaba el corazón, llegó al convencimiento de que ella jamás conocería la felicidad" (Qué fácil es echarle la culpa a la vida, tachándola de injusta, quejarnos, y dejarnos llevar... La felicidad no se encuentra si no se lucha por ella con uñas y dientes.)"En las familias, sobre todo, cuando unos triunfan y brillan, los otros rabian de envidia. Pero es necesario disimular y no dar el espectáculo": Hasta en las mejores familias ocurre esto. Envidia encubierta y falsedad. "Como es natural, cuando se decae hasta el extremo, desaparece todo el orgullo de la mujer. Había perdido su antigua dignidad, sus coqueterías, sus necesidades de sentimientos, de conveniencias y de consideraciones.""Reventó de embrutecimiento."

  • [P]
    2019-03-03 02:18

    I struggle with Emile Zola; I have, to use a vulgar phrase, beef with him. With L'Assommoir, as with almost all his novels, it was Zola's stated aim to show life as it really was. That - reality - is actually how he responded to criticism of this particular book. No, you cannot object to L'Assommoir, he said, because it is true, it is life! And, well, I call bullshit on that. It has always amused me that readers often lambast Balzac for his generalisations, while praising Emile - an author whose Les Rougon-Macquart series of books are built on stereotypes and cliches and sweeping statements about entire classes of people - for his sensitivity and verisimilitude. Every character in L'Assommoir is negative in some way, is weak or a drunkard or a miser or brutal or slutty or stupid etc. Not one or two, but all. That is how he saw the Parisian working class, and the whole of the working class, in fact. And the thing is, he was in sympathy with them, he was saying that the conditions that they were forced to endure made them the way that they were, but it's the sort of patronising sympathy you might have for an animal that eats its own young. Poor thing, it doesn't know any better. In Zola's world, or imagination, the working class aren't people, they are mistreated animals with the potential to be people. That doesn't sit right with me. It's a horrible bourgeois attitude.Moreover, Zola's determinism - the belief that social conditions create certain kinds of people, that they determine the course of their lives and their personalities[!] - has such negative consequences for his work, in terms of literary quality, because it ensures, makes necessary, paper-thin characterisation. Gervaise has no freedom, she is a slave to her circumstances, a slave to her impulses, and therefore the author need not, indeed cannot attempt to breath any life into her; he need not or cannot try and give us any sense of her motives or internal life, because she, essentially, has none - she simply does what she has to do, she walks the path that has already been mapped out for her. So, when Gervaise takes Coupeau, when she agrees to be his wife, there is no sense of her making a decision based on reasoning, she merely acts in accordance with her weak character as determined by her circumstances. I find that incredibly dreary, not only theoretically but as a reading experience.

  • Jenn(ifer)
    2019-03-17 04:29

    Okay, so I'm throwing in the towel. This book is probably on the precipice of greatness, but I just don't give a f*ck. When you find yourself yawning through pages and pages of narration, skimming and sighing and rolling your eyes, it's time to cut the cord. It's not outside the realm of possibility that one day I'll find myself wanting to revisit Gervaise, maybe when I'm old and incontinent, biding my time in a nursing home waiting for death to take me. When I'm so bored of playing bingo and watching the grass grow that even Zola seems more appealing, maybe then I will decide to finish this book.

  • Frankie
    2019-03-01 05:39

    L'Assommoir is well known for its portrayal of alcoholism. The 20th century prohibition movement took this novel up in a big way, as a morality play for the effects of alcohol abuse. Certainly if you read the final chapters, you will find yourself in Dante's first ring, with figures bouncing madly in padded cells, starving prostitutes limping down deserted streets, corpses rotting under the stairs. But the alcoholism in the novel serves merely as an enabler and multiplier for the miseries of the seven sins.To me, poverty is the demon of the novel, not drunkenness. Certainly in any part of Paris, even the Faubourg Saint-Germain, hard drinking wreaks havoc, but the slope is much steeper if you happen to be poverty stricken and outside the octroi wall, especially with an empty stomach and others to pull you down. "Yes, yes, men and women were a foul lot, in this bit of Paris where people had to live all on top of one another because they were so wretchedly poor." (p275)When you boil it down, Zola's characters can be categorized as the innocent and the corrupt. Innocents like Gervaise certainly recognize corruption, but are so constantly inundated with it, they eventually accept it a bit at a time, as with Coupeau's gradual switch from wine to hard liquor. Coupeau, on the other hand, is a corrupt character from the start. He manages to hide it long enough from Gervaise, but it eventually seeps out and he barely avoids becoming a murderous abuser like Bijard. Zola's realism in characterization keeps the reader wishing for a deus ex machina, while accepting that even a character they adore could not and will not beat the odds. The theme that seals this novel as a classic and makes it indispensable is not the A of Alcoholism but the F (not what you think, though that is certainly present and nearly synonymous) of Filth. Zola paints an astounding picture of pure, unadulterated, stomach-turning filth. Even in translation the accounts of laundry stains on undergarments, greasy tabletops, floors wet with spit, etc – achieve a visceral effect on any reader.For the heroine, it all begins with dirty clothes, as Gervaise uses her skill with the scrub brush to enforce control over the circumstances in her life. She takes those around her to task, eventually setting up her laundry shop as a world of scoured cleanness on a street of grime, moral and literal. Descriptions of excrement, sludge and stain always coincide with some moral degradation Gervaise faces, and eventually can no longer effectively scour. She lets the flood of filth wash over her, carrying off her decency, family and health. She also leaves behind a devil named Nana, whose little adventures will teach us that there are non-alcoholic ways to be unhappy, in the ninth book of the Rougon-Macquart series.

  • Capsguy
    2019-03-17 06:29

    There is no hope...You thought you've read bleak, especially if you're acquainted with Zola, but until you read L'Assommoir you don't know anything. This hit me harder than The Book of Disquiet did by Pessoa.No one is spared in this novel, those who escape death are left destitute or soulless. There is a glimmer of hope for some characters, but that's squashed if you're well acquainted with the Rougon-Macquart series, in which many characters in L'Assommoir have re-appearances, and certainly not joyful ones.Destitution, greed, and solitude run rampant throughout this novel, set in the slums of Paris. The hopes of the reader slips and stumbles, ever downward as crushing social living standards with the poison of alcohol gear up and take countless victims. The most horrifying thing is that so much in the novel is still prevalent in first world nations. Domestic violence fuelled by substance addiction; women forced to sell their bodies for their next meal; people throwing away their entire livelihood and hopes for the future for the next drink/hit. We've all seen and heard of it, with some of us unfortunately growing up around it.The family institution always seems to be the most solid, unshakeable bond that holds us together. But look how easily that changes when some members of the family have a taste of success or dip below into poverty and addiction.There is so much to discuss in this novel that would require hours of time to write up, and I don't have the stamina nor the eloquence to do so. This is not a book you want to look back and go: "That scene sure was memorable", Zola's ability to capture these soul-crushing realities impacts the reader profoundly. I am a self-proclaimed reader of the bleak, I at times get a knack out of it, but the continuous darkness and lack of hope in this even got to me. However if you're looking into something similar to this, especially in terms of the family treatment of fallen relatives, I recommend The Death of Ivan Ilych by Tolstoy, The Metamorphosis by Kafka, and of course, more Zola.

  • Jonathan
    2019-02-24 03:42

    A masterpiece. Brutal, angry, funny, sad. The final chapter in particular is extraordinary for its time, and absolutely devastating. The way he deals with domestic abuse throughout the book is jaw droppingly modern. I have not read enough Zola, I realise that now.

  • Lobstergirl
    2019-03-23 03:24

    There are parts of L’Assommoir (the word means something like pub) which are wonderfully comical. On balance, though, the novel is horribly bleak. It’s not just about the working poor, but the nonworking poor, the ones starving to death in garrets and alleys. There’s a drunkard father who beats and kicks his wife to death over a period of months. When his 8-year-old daughter then takes over the raising of her younger siblings, he beats, whips, and starves her to death too.But let's start with the comedy. My favorite scene in the novel is when Gervaise and Coupeau, along with their large wedding party, wander into the Louvre. Only one among them has been there before and knows the collection and the layout, so he leads them through the galleries. This goes on for several pages; in the Assyrian room, they find the “colossal stone figures…monstrous beasts, half cat, half woman, with death’s heads, narrow little noses and swollen lips…very ugly. Stone carving was a damn sight better done nowadays.”Next the party moved into the Long Gallery where the Italian and Flemish schools are. More pictures and still more pictures, saints, men and women whose faces meant nothing to anybody, landscapes all black, animals gone all yellow, in fact hosts of people and things in violent mixed colours which were beginning to give them a bad headache. Monsieur Madinier had by now relapsed into silence and was leading the party slowly along, and they all tagged after him keeping in the same order, craning their necks and staring upwards. Centuries of art passed before their dazed ignorance – the subtle economy of the primitives, the splendours of the Venetians, the sleek and colourful life of the Dutch. But what really interested them the most were the copyists, with their easels set up and calmly painting all in the middle of the crowds. …people sat down on the benches to watch the procession at their ease, while the attendants shut their mouths tight so as not to make rude jokes.I love this discussion of salad at a dinner party in Gervaise and Coupeau's tiny, cramped apartment. This takes place before things start to go really downhill for Gervaise.“You can keep it soaked in oil and vinegar and eat it tomorrow,” suggested Madame Lerat. “It’s better like that.” The ladies puffed and blew and looked regretfully at the salad bowl. Clemence said how one day she had swallowed three bunches of cress for lunch. Madame Putois capped that by saying she took heads of lettuce without taking off the outside leaves and just chewed them up like that, dipping them in salt. They all could have lived on salad and eaten bucketfuls of it. In short, with the help of this conversation, the ladies polished off the salad.“Me, I could go on all fours in a field,” confessed Madame Boche, with her mouth full.Bru is an elderly man who lives alone in the same tenement as Gervaise.But what really filled Gervaise with pity was old Bru in his niche under the stairs. He withdrew into it like a dormouse, rolled himself into a ball to keep out the cold and stayed there for days on end, motionless on a heap of straw. Not even hunger could make him go out now, for what was the use of going out and getting up an appetite when nobody had invited him? When he hadn’t been seen for three or four days the neighbours pushed open his door to see whether he had given up the ghost. No, he was still alive, not very much, but a little, just keeping one eye open until death remembered him! As soon as she had any bread herself Gervaise would throw him some crusts. She might be getting sour and coming to hate men, but she still had a real sympathy for animals, and old Bru, poor old soul, whom people were leaving to starve because he couldn’t hold a tool anymore, was like a dog to her, an animal no longer fit for service that even the slaughterhouse wouldn’t buy for the skin or the fat. She felt him like a load on her heart, always there across the passage, abandoned by God and man, feeding solely on himself, dwindling to the size of a child, withered and dry like an orange left to shrivel on a mantelpiece.This is the novel that introduces us to Nana, the child of Gervaise and Coupeau, who will become the prostitute with her own novel. Here, she is growing into a saucy, rebellious teen, slinging around cuss words. “I’ll fuck off, I don’t want him tanning my arse! Coo, look, he’s done a dive. Christ, I wish he’d break his bloody neck.” An apprentice in a flower making atelier, she “sniffed around and grew very excited whenever she found herself beside a girl who had lost her cherry.”

  • Sunny
    2019-02-22 01:46

    I loved Germinal for its honest honest sadness that the book brings to you on a bunch of paper. This was almost equally as devastating especially in the last third when everything starts to fall apart but the difference between this and Germinal was that that had a steady pace and this one just plodded along and stretched out for ages in the middle. The last third it really picked up. The book is essentially about a lady called Gervaise (nothing to do with Ricky) and her relationship with her husband Coupeau. Basically things are pretty bad to start with then they seem to get better for the family and then in the end it all falls apart. The book also touches on some of the other characters that live in the flat that Gervaise occupies with her husband and some of those characters are absolute nightmares. Drunk fathers beating and working their 8 year old daughters to death and families rejecting homeless individuals who are near starvation and laughing in their faces. Zola takes you to some of the extremes of human twattishness and the lowest that fate can drag human life down to.

  • Book Portrait
    2019-03-10 08:22

    Terrible déchéance que celle de Gervaise, blanchisseuse dans les faubourgs ouvriers du Paris du Second Empire en pleine transformation, victime de l'alcoolisme et de la pauvreté dont Zola décrit l'engrenage avec la précision d'un journaliste et la bienveillance d'un romancier dont le grand projet est de mettre en avant un déterminisme social et héréditaire qui sans être implacable et réducteur n'en broie pas moins ses victimes. Une lecture difficile mais prenante et dont le plaisir de baigner dans le langage haut en couleur des faubourgs n'était pas l'un des moindres attraits.

  • Nesrazmerni
    2019-03-17 04:25

    Ovo je jedna od onih knjiga, koja osim što sadrži ogromnu umetničku vrednost i ukazuje na probleme svog vremena, ona i svedoči o prošlosti i daje nam uvid u istoriju života običnih ljudi, o kojima se mnogo malo govori u zvaničnim istorijskim knjigama. Radnja ove potresne priče smeštena je u Parizu i to negde krajem XIX veka. Knjiga prati sudbinu jedne sasvim obične pralje, koja ne želi ništa osim da je čovek ne tuče, da ima dovoljno hrane i da umre u svom krevetu. Ali, ponesena tađašnjom atmosferom Pariza, kojom je vladala hedonistička kultura, ona teško uspeva da zadrži sebe i zdrav pogled na svet, što je dovodi do tragičnog svršetka. Koncept romana je fascinantan. Sastavljen od trinaest poglavlja od kojih se svako može čitati kao zasebna priča i svako predstavlja jedan period života porodice Kupo i glavne junakinje Romana, Žerveze. Čitajući ''Trovačnicu'' stekao sam utisak da je svako poglavlje u stvari jedan korak ka suštini koju Zola želi da prikaže ovim romanom. Osim toga svako poglavlje pored glavne teme kojom se roman bavi u sebi sadrži neku sporednu priču, od kojih svaka na svoj način iskače na momente iz suštine da bi se kasnije u najboljem moguće momentu, bukvalno ulila u glavnu priču i stvorila čitaocu neverovatno jasnu sliku o sudbini, junaka ovog romana i vremena u kojem su oni živeli. Kako je najveći deo romana smešten u jednom predgrađu Pariza, koji deluje kao da je zasebna enklava, odvojena nekakvom psihičkom barijerom od ostatka grada, ljudi koji u njoj žive i njihovo psihičko stanje dosta podsećaju na stanje koje vlada u palankama i malim gradovima i dan danas. Tako Zola dokazuje da je majsor pisane reči, stvarajući od svakodnevnih trenutaka i naizgled sasvim običnih događaja koji deluju nezanimljivo, jedan ludački zaplet i maestralan (možda previše tragičan) rasplet,dotičući se onih iskonskih ljudskih nagona(pohlepa, zavist, mržnja,strah, lenjost...) protiv kojih se ljudi i dan danas bore, i to vrlo često kao i Zolini junaci, dosta neuspešno. Zolini protagonisti ovog romana su više sudbine , nego što su zaista junaci ili likovi. Oni idu od vrha ka dnu, od najblistavijeg životnog trona oni uspevaju da padnu na najprljavije životno blato iz kojeg se ne mogu izvući. Likovi u ovom romanu su kao odraz u ogledalu tadašnje sudbine srednjoklasnog i siromašnog društva, a pošto se taj odraz sudbine u svojoj osnovi nije mnogo promenio ni do dan danas, oni su svakako i odraz u ogledalu današnjeg društva, koje nema nimalo empatije prema, siromašnima i uopšte bilo kakvim ljudima koji nisu deo većinske populacije.Nažalost, ova knjiga kao i mnoge druge svedoči da knjige i umetnost ne mogu u ogromnoj meri da promene svet. Ali i svedoči da bar mogu da utiču na svest pojedinaca, koji bi trebali da menjaju svet, onoliko koliko je to u njihovoj moći.

  • Jinn
    2019-03-17 06:21

    Émile Zola hẳn phải là một bậc thầy trong miêu tả. Cái cách ông dẫn dắt người đọc theo những cung bậc cảm xúc quá đỗi khác biệt thật đáng ngưỡng mộ. Cảm giác như khi nghe Bohemian Rhapsody vậy, ta đi tàu lượn cùng người nghệ sĩ; và khi màn biểu diễn khép lại, ta thấy sao như một kiếp người đã trôi qua tự khi nào. Một kiếp người đằng đẵng với hàng bao lối rẽ, bao bước ngoặt, vậy mà vẫn có thể nhớ rõ đến lạ. Nếu đã không phải vì trí nhớ của kẻ đi nhờ này, thì hẳn là nhờ tài năng của bậc cầm lái.

  • Nick
    2019-03-14 06:32

    There's a lot to like about Zola. While "L'Assommoir" is the seventh novel in the Rougon-Macquart sequence that Zola wrote, it is the fifth that I have read . Zola concentrates on perennially relevant themes in all his novels, themes which will still be worth reading about in one hundred years time."L'Assommoir" deals with themes of alcoholism and addiction, adultery, jealousy, domestic violence, child abuse, poverty, squalor and urban slums. Not a gentle read by any stretch of the imagination, however, it is compulsive. "L'Assommoir" follows the life of Gervaise and her marriage to roofer Coupeau. Two disasters - a roofing accident and the arrival of ex-boyfriend Lantier on the scene - plunge Gervaise and Coupeau into increasing despair, debt and poverty. And an increasing abuse of, and dependence on, alcohol.Zola's description of the break down of Coupeau and Gervaise is relentless. The final pages are tragic and unforgettable. Zola spent a lot of time researching the social life of Paris for these works, and some of his meticulous descriptions come close to non-fiction. His descriptions of slum Paris and the working classes are memorable.A note on translation: I read the Oxford University Press edition, which seemed fine to me. OUP appear to be translating all the Rougon-Macquart novels over a period of time. (There is a new one coming out in May.) Apparently some of these novels have not been translated into English for well over one hundred years and the older translations do not read so well.

  • Rebecca
    2019-03-06 09:19

    Maybe it's just me who likes Zola so much, but this has been so far an all time favorite. Zola's realism is frightening. It's one of those books that describe reality so well, in such an ugly way that you find yourself unable to put the book down. Sometimes Zola exaggerates, maybe, but most of the time, it's so painfully true.The book describes so well the struggle of the working class, a struggle against luck, society, tradition and emotional dependence. The characters, as Zola said, are not evil, they are not even mean, they are so real.It's one of those books that will make you cry and beg for a Hollywood happy ending. Gervaise (the main characters) starts tumbling down even before the middle of book and once she starts it does not end. The suffering, humiliation and desenchantment of the proud woman does not stop. Yes there were happy moments throughout the book, but the journey went down. At every moment she could have pulled herself away from all this, but she didn't, or maybe she couldn't in some way.Maybe it's me reflecting my own perception of life, but I see it very real, very macabre.

  • Elizabeth (Alaska)
    2019-03-20 03:31

    I very nearly rated this 4 stars. It is an emotionally draining story, one which I had to stop reading about 2/3 through because I couldn't bear to read any more just then.Gervaise wanted just a simple life: a home, enough to eat, to not be beat, to die in her bed. She was young and such goals were attainable - in fact, except for the dying part - she had them. Some people, however, don't seem able to take charge of their own destinies. This was my first Zola, it won't be the last. His style is relatively simple and straight forward and yet he gives his characters complexity. This is only one of 20 of his Rougon-Macquart series that chronicles that family. There is even a genealogy on the web. One should probably read them in order (recommended reading order), and after these 3 for my Paris study, I will start from the beginning.

  • Perihan
    2019-03-14 06:37

    Boşuna dememişler “alkol bütün kötülüklerin” anasıdır diye…Meyhane kitabını iki yıl önce okurken, alkolün sebep olduğu aile facialarına, açlığa, sefalete, yok oluşa şahit olmuştum... özellikle açlığın, sefaletin , dedikodunun anlatıldığı yerlerde Zola'nın kalemine hayran kalmıştım.Kitabın önsözünden okuduğuma göre yazar da yaşamının bir bölümde ciddi açlık çekmiş! Öyle ki penceresine konan kuşları yakalayıp, yemek zorunda kalmış. Meyhanede "Jervez" isimli bir kadıncağız vardı, aslında melek gibi bir kalbi vardı, kimseyi kırmak istemezdi ; ama etrafındaki herkes o meleğin kanatlarının çok kötü kırmıştı! Sonra o çalışkan, iyi yürekli , acıların kadınının bir kızı vardı ... Adı neydi tahmin edin? Evet adı Nana idi. "Nana" kitabını da okumuştum ardından...Çok kötü hayat şartları içinde yaşamak zorunda kalan, kızların kaderi annelerini benzer dedirten, o kızın sefil hayatına da şahit olmuştum. Baktım Zola'nın kalemi çok acımasız, karakterlerine her türlü acıyı yaşatmaktan zevk alıyor... Ben de şöyle demiştim kendime... O aslında hayatın gerçeğini olduğu gibi yansıtıyor! Süslemeye ihtiyaç duymuyor, olduğu gibi sunuyor ve işte tam da bu sebepten kitapları su gibi akıyor...

  • Jerry
    2019-03-22 04:32

    After Lalie has witnessed her mother perish at the hands of Bijard, her father, she assumes her mother's role both as the sole caretaker of her two younger siblings and as the sole victim of Bijard's frequent drunken rages. Though this little girl is increasingly brutalized, she never exhibits anger toward her father and even excuses his sadistic treatment of her as she dies from starvation and the whip marks that cover her entire body. The snapshots of Lalie's ordeal are an occasional backdrop to this tale of alcoholic degradation, yet these images leave such an indelible mark on our sensibility that the tragic downfall of Gervaise Macquart, the protagonist of L'Assommoir, evokes an even clearer comprehension of Zola's troubling description of human anguish while under the constant strain of poverty and the unremitting exposure to manipulating exploiters. Few writers command the literary power to haunt their readers with the depiction of realism found in only the darkest corners of human society and the darkest moments of human existence, and one such author is Emile Zola.

  • Sam
    2019-03-11 08:18

    Absolutely crushing and horrifying. Mais fantastique. My $1.95 copy of the book completely disintegrated as I read it, so that the pages would fall out as soon as I finished them, fluttering to the floor and later sitting in a messy, out-of-order pile on my bedside table. I almost feel like it was meant to be read that way. I'm almost glad I can't go back and type out the passages that were most disturbing to me: men tortured by alcoholism and succumbing finally, humiliatingly, to delirium tremens; men kicking their wives to death; women starving to death; children being beaten and starved to death; people abandoning each other in such wrenching and degrading ways; strong bodies and minds weakened by incessant menial labor and falling hard into vice and ending by literally eating shit for ten sous. Emotionally, devastating.

  • Sabrina
    2019-03-25 03:30

    Call me crazy but like a little grit with with my historical fiction. Don't get me wrong, I love reading about kings, queens, balls and jewels. However, I also love reading about how the other half lived or in Emile's case struggled to live. Although L'Assomoir was written centuries ago, Emile's use of naturalism -poverty, unemployment, addiction, prejudice, human despair, class and gender struggles. Emile's Paris could be any city in any country today. This was my first book by Emile Zola but it certainly will not be my last!