French Studies, Vol. 00,No. 0, 1 REVIEW EMILE ZOLA, A Love Story. Translated by HELEN CONSTANTINE; with an introduction and notes by BRIAN NELSON. (Oxford World’s Classics.) Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017. xxix þ 271 pp. As Zola had intended, contemporary readers were disconcerted by the appearance of Une page d’amour in 1878. ‘J’adore de´router mon monde’, he wrote to The´odore Duret on 2 September 1877, anticipating ‘la stupe´faction du public’. Deliberately positioning it in his Rougon-Macquart series immediately after L’Assommoir, as he would strategically insert Le Reˆve between La Terre and La Beˆte humaine, Zola thought long and hard about his novel’s apparently bland title. In a prefatory note to her ﬂuent translation, Helen Constantine admits that rendering it in English is problematic. To Jacques Van Santen Kolff, Zola later described the novel as ‘un entre’acte sentimental’, explaining in a letter of 8 June 1892 that ‘le titre veut dire cela: une page dans une œuvre, une journe´e dans une vie’. Modern readers only familiar with Zola’s most famous novels will be equally sur- prised by this excursion into the private sphere and the writer’s exploration of the vicissitudes of sexual desire. But in Brian Nelson they have the ideal guide. His chapter on Une page d’amour, within his Zola and the Bourgeoisie (London: Macmillan, 1983), remains, more than thirty years later, the most penetrating analysis of the novel. His Introduction to the present edition (which includes an updated bibliography and authoritative annota- tion) explores the ambivalence of Zola’s own ‘novel of adultery’, but is less concerned with the nuances of hypocrisy than suggesting that while Une page d’amour ‘gives only glimpses of Zola’s most characteristic and powerful gifts’ (p. xii), its tonality is less muted than it might seem: in its focus on Paris as presence and panorama; its pictorial experi- mentation akin to the seriality of Monet or Pissarro; and its insights into ‘patriarchal containment’ (p. xxiii) also exempliﬁed by the cover illustration of Berthe Morisot’s Femme et enfant au balcon (1872). As a title, A Love Story, unless ironically overlaid, barely accommo- dates the novel’s more insidious counterpoints to the ‘douceur et tendresse’ that Zola imagined this interlude to be. In announcing its imminent serialization, Le Bien public of 11 October 1877 reassured subscribers that ‘c’est une page intime qui s’adressera surtout a`la sensibilite´ des lectrices [.. .]. Ce roman pourra eˆtre laisse´ sans crainte sur la table de famille.’ That was not what Flaubert thought, writing to Zola in April 1878:‘je n’en conseillerais pas la lecture a` ma ﬁlle, si j’e´tais me`re!!! Malgre´mon grand aˆge, le roman m’a trouble´et excite´.’ ROBERT LETHBRIDGE doi:10.1093/fs/kny096 FITZWILLIAM COLLEGE,CAMBRIDGE # The Author(s) 2018. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Society for French Studies. All rights reserved. For permissions, please email: email@example.com Downloaded from https://academic.oup.com/fs/advance-article-abstract/doi/10.1093/fs/kny096/4995870 by Ed 'DeepDyve' Gillespie user on 12 July 2018
French Studies – Oxford University Press
Published: May 14, 2018
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