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Old 29th Oct 2007, 17:48   #1
amner
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Default Book 37: THERESE RAQUIN by Zola

"Truth is on the march and nothing will stop it"...tell us the Truth of your readings, good people of the Palimp.
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Old 29th Oct 2007, 17:59   #2
Ang
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Default Re: Book 37 : Thérèse Raquin by Zola

My first reaction is Emile Zola was a bit of a nut-case if he thought his characters were "natural", but then Freud hadn't yet broken ground as the "father of psychology".

The preface which Zola wrote for the second edition is intriguing. He sounds extremely defensive. Would more modern writers feel the need to defend their work so? And so pompous:
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At the present time there are scarcely more than two or three men who can read, appreciate, and judge a book. From these I am willing to take lessons, because I am satisfied that they will not speak before they have grasped my intentions and appreciated the results of my efforts.
Well then!
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Last edited by Ang; 29th Oct 2007 at 18:03. Reason: correct the tense of a dead man
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Old 29th Oct 2007, 18:37   #3
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Default Re: Book 37 : Thérèse Raquin by Zola

I read this book about seven or eight years ago simply because I'd heard Kate Winslet was going to play the lead in an updated film version. I quite enjoy thinking about Kate Winslet.

Sorry, this isn't a valid comment is it?

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Old 29th Oct 2007, 19:29   #4
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Default Re: Book 37 : Thérèse Raquin by Zola

I should have said, I enjoyed this book very much and rate it

It loses a star because the author kept reminding me that he was there. It could turn from an interesting story to seemingly a lecture with no notice. Take this example, from page 170 of the early Penguin Classic edition (first page of chapter 22):
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It would be interesting to study the modifications that sometimes take place in certain organisms as results of predetermined circumstances. These modifications originate in the body but rapidly spread to the brain and thence to the whole individual.
Okay Mr Zola, thanks for letting me know.

Some phrases made me cringe ("womanly weakness"; "feminine nervous system"), yet many made me smile ("a mind unbalanced by the novels she had been reading").

I've got more to say but will wait until others join in...
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Old 29th Oct 2007, 20:03   #5
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Default Re: Book 37 : Thérèse Raquin by Zola

I just got the call that the library has my copy waiting, so if I'm lucky and not too overtired I'll be with you on Wednesday morning with something to say.
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Old 29th Oct 2007, 20:36   #6
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Default Re: Book 37 : Thérèse Raquin by Zola

I'll be tucking into this just as soon as I finish Adam Thirlwell's bumper Miss Herbert (which might be a while, as I'm on page 70 or so of about 600).
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Old 30th Oct 2007, 3:27   #7
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Post Re: Book 37 : Thérèse Raquin by Zola

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ang View Post
My first reaction is Emile Zola was a bit of a nut-case if he thought his characters were "natural", but then Freud hadn't yet broken ground as the "father of psychology".

The preface which Zola wrote for the second edition is intriguing. He sounds extremely defensive. Would more modern writers feel the need to defend their work so? And so pompous: ....
Ang, is it possible that Zola sounds defensive b/c he reduces his characters to products of an inevitable (to him) determinism? (As opposed to Balzac, for instance, who already had some notion of the writer as social scientist and observer.)

I think there's some appeal in the "nut-case" notion! Even before Freud, there was some social and cultural awareness that even degraded human beings were more than physiological "brutes". Not enough, perhaps, but some. I think Zola knew he was being provocative, and set out to see what would come of a study of human passion when the writer regards himself as a forensic examiner. "The aims and methods of the writer and the medical scientist run parallel."

and further (from the "Preface"):

"I have selected persons absolutely swayed by their nerves and blood, deprived of free will, impelled in every action of life by the fatal lusts of the flesh. Therese and Laurent are human brutes, nothing more, .... [overcome by a] cerebral disorder resulting from the excessive strain on their nerves."

But "nerves" are ill-understood; Zola seems to want to convey that he's examining them physically, albeit in living beings. "I have simply done on two living bodies the kind of analysis that surgeons do on dead bodies."

There's something mechanistic in this; I think it's hiding another set of assumptions around the challenge of a "new" science to older, more humane notions of creativity and art. But ... having found Therese online, I'll ignore the sad absence of accents on this keyboard and carry on.


PS For later: "deprived of free will" would have been a controversial red flag for many readers. And I'm not sure Freud got past that one either, esp. for women.

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Old 30th Oct 2007, 7:19   #8
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Default Re: Book 37 : Thérèse Raquin by Zola

He was probably being defensive as his book had been roundly slated by the critics! Anyway, I've nearly finished...more thoughts soon.
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Old 30th Oct 2007, 7:57   #9
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Default Re: Book 37 : Thérèse Raquin by Zola

Quote:
Originally Posted by aemy View Post
Ang, is it possible that Zola sounds defensive b/c he reduces his characters to products of an inevitable (to him) determinism? (As opposed to Balzac, for instance, who already had some notion of the writer as social scientist and observer.)
Yes, certainly. And no reader (especially one who dared to be critical) was clever enough to understand that, so screw you, readers! I love it.
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and further (from the "Preface"):

"I have selected persons absolutely swayed by their nerves and blood, deprived of free will, impelled in every action of life by the fatal lusts of the flesh. Therese and Laurent are human brutes, nothing more, .... [overcome by a] cerebral disorder resulting from the excessive strain on their nerves."
I don't doubt what he thought he was doing, I just don't think he understood human nature very well. Thérèse and Laurent's reactions to what was happening were almost exactly the same for most of the book.
Quote:
Chapter 18, paragraph 3: The man and woman had both experienced, at the very same time, a kind of nervous upheaval that had thrown them back into their monstrous lusts, gasping and terror-stricken... Thenceforth they had but a single body and soul for enjoyment and suffering. This participation or interpenetration is a psychological and physiological fact which often comes into existence between people flung violently together by severe nervous shocks.
(That last sentence, delving into the university lecture again...)
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But "nerves" are ill-understood; Zola seems to want to convey that he's examining them physically, albeit in living beings. "I have simply done on two living bodies the kind of analysis that surgeons do on dead bodies."
It's that mixture of fiction and "fact" which I am not sure Zola carries off very well. Too much explaining to the reader, but then again, according to the introduction by Leonard Tancock:
Quote:
Perhaps at no moment in the history of the world did the nature of the fiction-reading public change so radically in such a short time as in Western Europe during the first half of the nineteenth century. Before then literature, except dramatic, addressed itself to the small minority who could read and write, for the mass of the common people were illiterate. But the concentration of thousands of workers in the new industrial areas, the spread of primary education to give these workers the minimum knowledge of the three Rs necessary to make them efficient factory workers, produced by the 30s and 40s of the nineteenth centrury, a huge new semi-literate public with an appetite for cheap, easily-read fiction.
The passages where Zola explains what is going on psychologically or physiologically tend to give this kind of message: Dear reader, I know you could never possibly understand this, but I will tell you anyway. You must just believe me, because I am right.

I really enjoyed the book and I find it a fascinating study of what might have been thought about psychology in those days. And it's not like Freud would come along and make it all clear, either.
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Last edited by Ang; 30th Oct 2007 at 8:52. Reason: spell Thérèse
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Old 30th Oct 2007, 8:01   #10
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Default Re: Book 37 : Thérèse Raquin by Zola

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He was probably being defensive as his book had been roundly slated by the critics!
Yes, certainly, but most of his defense is that the critics didn't get it. Two or three were deemed capable of criticising him. How convenient that they didn't, then!
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