Tuesday, September 6, 2016

#GerminalAlong: The Adventure Begins

Out on the open plain, on a starless, ink-dark night, a lone man was following the highway from Marchiennes to Montsou, ten kilometers of paved roads that cut directly across the fields of beet. He could not make out even the black ground in front of him, and he was aware of the vast, flat horizon only from the March wind blowing in broad, sweeping gusts as though across a sea, bitterly cold after its passage over league upon league of marsh and bare earth. Not a single tree blotted the skyline, and the road rolled on through the binding spume of darkness, unswerving like a pier.
Germinal
by Émile Zola

And so another readalong begins...

During the month of September, Melissa and Care are co-hosting a group read of Germinal by Emile Zola... and calling it #GerminalAlong. There is no formal schedule, and we are using the hashtag to chat on twitter, instagram, and litsy, as well as our own blogs.

Zola is considered a naturalist (is that the correct term?) and this novel is about a family of miners. Although I have read a couple of his novels, I was still unprepared for the horrifying descriptions of work in the mine. This one, referring to the pit after the workers' descent, was especially striking:
And LeVoreoux, crouching like some evil beast at the bottom of its lair, seemed to hunker down even further, puffing and panting in increasingly slow, deep bursts, as if it were struggling to digest its meal of human flesh. 
The tone is unmistakable as Etienne, the newcomer, reflects on his first day in the mine:
Was it possible that people could work themselves to death at such terrible labour, down here in this mortal darkness, and still not earn even enough for their daily bread?
As Care mentioned, I'm beginning to think Germinal qualifies for RIP XI!

My preferred approach to longer classics is a read/listen combination. With Germinal, I have the Penguin Classics ebook, Pearson translation, and the audiobook narrated by Leighton Pugh. The translations are slightly different and there is no whispersync, but the combination still seems to be working.


It's not too late to join our readalong... find more information here.
Have you read Zola? Germinal is touted as his masterpiece.

Every Tuesday, Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea posts the opening paragraph (sometime two) of a book she decided to read based on the opening. Feel free to grab the banner and play along.


28 comments:

  1. Sounds grim! I'm claustrophobic so I might not be able to endure the descriptions of working in the mine. Sounds like a heavy story.
    My Tuesday post features THE UNLIKELY PILGRIMAGE OF HAROLD FRY.

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    1. Sandra - I'm not especially claustrophobic, but the descriptions made me shiver. This is turning into quite a heavy read.

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  2. OK, I wondered if you would share the 'human flesh' bit. LOL

    And, though that doesn't turn me off, don't think this one is for me. ;-)

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    1. Kay - That 'human flesh' sentence was just too good not to share here, too! This probably isn't your kind of book though...

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  3. Ooh, I am frightened for him already...what will he encounter along that dark road? Thanks for sharing...and for visiting my blog.

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    1. Laurel-Rain Snow - The opening paragraph seems to set the feeling of unease and dread for the reader... this could end up being a pretty grim book.

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  4. My grandfather was a coal miner and my dad worked in a coal mine years starting when he was about 15. I don't think this book is for me.

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    1. Vicki - With a family history of mining, I can see how you wouldn't want to read this one. I'm already pretty uncomfortable.

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  5. Ohh, I do like the writing, maybe be it's time for a classic for me. Glad to see you reading and posting again.

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    1. Diane - Not sure why I have been away from classics most of the year... seems good to return to Zola now.

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  6. I haven't read anything by Emile Zola. This looks really intense but interesting at the same time!

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    1. Monica - I started with Therese Raquin and thought it was amazing! Hope this turns out to be just as good.

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  7. The first paragraph actually appeals to me. I can visualize scenes from our American midwest in that. However, the additional quotes you shared do not appeal. Maybe its the underground aspect, but it just seems too dark for me. However, I do hope you have a good experience with it.

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    1. Margot - The underground aspect is making me squirm a little, too... dark in more ways than one, I fear.

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  8. What a great idea! A read-along for an author like Zola should be very interesting.

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    1. Catherine - That's what I'm hoping! I though Therese Raquin was masterful and enjoyed The Ladies Paradise, too.

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  9. I'm intrigued! I've never read any Zola so I'm curious to see your thoughts on this one.

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    1. Katherine - I enjoy the realistic aspect of Zola's writing, but have found that my enjoyment can vary based on translation. Hoping for the best here.

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    1. I like Zola from reading in a literature class so I would keep reading. Enjoy!

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  11. You're in a for a treat, it's a great read.

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    1. Katrina - I just hit the 25% mark and think it's great! Can't wait to get back to it.

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  12. I have not read this classic. Hope it is a great read for you.

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    1. Nise' - It's turning out to be a great read!

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  13. I thought the imagery in the book was absolutely astounding. I was blown away by how moving the story of the miners was and how Zola wrote of them so starkly but with such humanity and respect.

    I don't think of it as an RIP book, actually. There are some rough parts, certainly, but there is a nobility in how the characters strive to live a decent life that transcends the roughness. :)

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    1. JaneGS - I'm about 1/3 in now and completely agree with you... I'm quite impressed with Zola's portrayal of the miners, especially the humanity. Have also abandoned the RIP idea. There hasn't been much beyond the initial "human flesh" passage that makes me think it fits that category ;-)

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  14. huh, is it a story all about mining? Sounds pretty bleak. Zola is a master. I will have to read at a later date ... look forward to your review.

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    1. Susan - Mining is at the core of the story. I'm sure there will be quite a bit of commentary/exploration of organizing labor, strikes, etc. The characters are excellent!

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