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.