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His Masterpiece

Émile Zola

Book Overview: 

“His Masterpiece" (“L’Oeuvre”) is a fictionalized account of the Parisian art world in the mid 19th century, and the emerging Realism, Naturalism and Impressionism movements. Emile Zola and Paul Cezanne had been friends from childhood, and the main character of the novel is thought to be largely drawn from Cezanne, as well as from Eduard Manet and Claude Monet. Zola himself appears in the work, in the character of Pierre Sandoz, a novelist. The painter in this story, Claude Lantier, attempts to revolutionize the art establishment, where artists painted in the studio and concentrated on mythological, historical and religious subjects. Instead, Lantier paints outdoors, in natural light, and with commonplace subjects. He gained a small group of supporters and fellow-practitioners in art, literature, architecture and music, but he could never manage to break out, and the public persisted in misunderstanding his aims. Meanwhile the artist sank into obsession and depression. It is believed that the publication of this book, which documents the failure of the artist to realize his potential, led to a permanent rift between Cezanne and Zola

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Book Excerpt: 
. . .They had just crossed Paris, one of their favourite rambles, but they took other routes at times—from one end of the quays to the other; or from the Porte St. Jacques to the Moulineaux, or else to Pere-la-Chaise, followed by a roundabout return along the outer boulevards. They roamed the streets, the open spaces, the crossways; they rambled on for whole days, as long as their legs would carry them, as if intent on conquering one district after another by hurling their revolutionary theories at the house-fronts; and the pavement seemed to be their property—all the pavement touched by their feet, all that old battleground whence arose intoxicating fumes which made them forget their lassitude.

The Cafe Baudequin was situated on the Boulevard des Batignolles, at the corner of the Rue Darcet. Without the least why or wherefore, it had been selected by the band as their meeting-place, though Gagniere alone lived in the neighbourhood. They met there regula. . . Read More

Community Reviews

Goodness gracious - I inhaled this. Great characters, amazing descriptions, incredibly depressing ruminations on the perils of the creative life. The arc of it is Zola-esque, apparently - a balloon deflating in slow motion. I waited for a while to try him, and I'm already excited to read more.

4,75 je ne note pas mes livres de cours avant de les avoir étudiés, mais celui ci... wow
je ne pensais vraiment pas que je serais capable d’autant l’aimer, je pense que c’est maintenant mon classique préféré et je ne pensais vraiment pas possible pour moi d’être autant capturée dans un classique com

Το μεγαλεπήβολο σχέδιο του Zola να φτιάξει μια σειρά μυθιστορημάτων, τους Ρουγκόν-Μακάρ, μοιάζει σαν μια κούρσα-ταξίδι στον χρόνο, σε μια συγκεκριμένη εποχή, με μηχανοδηγό έναν αληθινά προικισμένο λογοτέχνη που η γλώσσα του και ο νατουραλισμός του αγγίζουν τα ανώτερα επίπεδα της τέχνης στην οποία τά

You have this friend, a writer. He’s written this terrible bildungsroman about his tedious student exploits, I Want Vagina. You tell him tactfully that a 900-page, unspellchecked homage to sexual frustration doesn’t fly in the marketplace. Your friend scurries off and signs up for a Creative Writing

Including L’Oeuvre (The Masterpiece), I’ve so far read five of the twenty-volume Rougon-Macquart series by Emile Zola (the other four being: La Curee (The Kill), L’Assommoir (The Dram Shop), Nana (Nana) and Le Ventre (The Belly of Paris)). All five are set in kaleidoscopic Paris. The period is some

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