La Débâcle (French Edition)

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Some of the characters are somewhat two-dimensional, often conforming to easily recognisable moral types, but Zola is anything but ham-fisted and the simplified stereotyping didn't jar. It did, however, in my opinion, prevent the novel from being deeply moving and achieving its emotional potential. It was an entertaining although the detailed descriptions of the movements of various army corps around various villages were a little hard to follow and informative read, and overall I think that as historical novels go, this is a very fine one.

On my mother's side, my great grandparents emigrated to the United States in the 's. Family stories implied that they emigrated before and possibly because of the Franco-Prussian War. They may also have left to avoid family members from being drafted into the Prussian Army. I recently did some additional research and understand that the conscription of every male Prussian of military age in the event of mobilization was enacted by Albrecht von Roon, the Prussian Minister of War in s. Thi On my mother's side, my great grandparents emigrated to the United States in the 's. This was probably the basis for the immigration of my great grandfather.

I have always wanted to read more about the Franco-Prussian War, but there is a serious lack of books both in English and even on the shelves. They were from near Bavaria. I even have some interesting old photographs of my grandfather in a traditional Bavarian military style uniform and he was living in the U. After starting to read the novel, I realized I needed a lot more information and historical background, so I am putting it on the shelf for now and have ordered Geoffrey Wawro 's book The Franco-Prussian War: The German Conquest of France in Apr 12, Aaron Arnold rated it it was amazing Shelves: fiction , history , read-in Last year I read Germinal, which was about post-Second Empire coal miners struggling to survive the Industrial Revolution.

This volume 19 of 20 of the Rougon-Macquart universe is set a bit earlier, beginning in right before the fatal blow to Napoleon III's reign at the infamous Battle of Sedan and finishing at the climax of the Paris Commune. Most of the book is taken up by a sort of buddy movie starring two ordinary French soldiers suffering through the poor organization and even worse Last year I read Germinal, which was about post-Second Empire coal miners struggling to survive the Industrial Revolution.

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Most of the book is taken up by a sort of buddy movie starring two ordinary French soldiers suffering through the poor organization and even worse planning of the Emperor's ill-starred war with Prussia, following the nonsensical marches and countermarches as the leadership desperately tries to confront the devastating foreign invasion. Zola has a real gift for taking ragged peasant characters and placing them through all sorts of dramatic events without losing sight of their human qualities, and I really enjoyed the climactic ending with the two at the barricades of Paris.

It's interesting to compare Zola to other French writers; I haven't read very many at all, but even though the book is part of Zola's grand cycle and filled with portentous philosophizing about all sorts of things, he almost never stoops to the level of using people as simple allegorical sock puppets the way that Victor Hugo does though I also enjoyed Hugo.

I've got two more of the series 7 L'Assommoir and 14 L'Oeuvre and maybe I will try to finish the whole icosology someday. Aug 07, Greg rated it it was amazing Shelves: literature-fiction. I read the Penguin Classics edition, translated by Leonard Tancock, which, I will admit, gave me the liberty to refer to the title as "The Debacle," which I appreciated, as my tongue doesn't work very well in French.

Maybe the Oxford version is better? Someone recommended this novel as bei I read the Penguin Classics edition, translated by Leonard Tancock, which, I will admit, gave me the liberty to refer to the title as "The Debacle," which I appreciated, as my tongue doesn't work very well in French. Someone recommended this novel as being the "greatest war novel ever written. Zola is so good. The book, too, isn't a bad way to gather an understanding of just what in the world happened in Europe in the s and seventies - how the French Republican tradition become solidified, and how the stage for the Thirty Years War of the 20th century was already set in important ways by France was intent upon humiliating Germany at Versailles, but their reasons for it didn't all come from what happened between and That motivation went back further.

Only second after Germinal, The Debacle is the best war novel I've read so far. An historical novel about the Franco Prussian War, with a coda about the Commune and the destruction of Paris. The central relationship is the friendship between Jean and Maurice, forged in combat across class lines, and their survival as comrades. Other family members in and around Sedan, the site An historical novel about the Franco Prussian War, with a coda about the Commune and the destruction of Paris. The civil war of the commune is treated as France tearing itself apart after the shame of both the defeat and the degeneracy caused by the Empire.

Naturally Jean kills Maurice almost by accident during the fighting in Paris. Maurice had become an almost unhinged Communard, while rhe stoic peasant Jean does his duty. Jun 04, R. Sadly, this is not the case and the majority of the narrative concerns the Franco-Prussian war, which France lost in a spectacularly disastrous fashion.

Nevertheless, it paints an incredibly vivid portrait of that war and of the chaos it caused.


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Zola never hesitates to depict the gruesome wounds, casual cruelties, and arbitrary horrors that ensued. The Franco-Prussian war prefigured WWI in a sense, as it involved new technologies that caused appalling casualty levels, cavalry already appeared obsolete, and civilians were killed by urban bombings. For much of the first half of the novel, the narrative clings quite tightly to Maurice and Jean, two soldiers forced to march hither and yon by a series of confused and incompetent generals. They and the rest of the army around them are tired, hungry, annoyed, and have yet to see a Prussian, let alone fight one.

When they do finally engage the enemy, the battle is brutal and catastrophic. This first half of the book does, however, cement the strong bond of friendship between Maurice and Jean, which is crucial to the remainder of the narrative. In the latter part, the two of them appear more and more like symbols of two tendencies in French national character. Perhaps these could be generalised as rural and urban, though that would be an oversimplification.

Both are capable of incredibly courageous acts, as well as strong solidarity with each other. They are also capable, however, of bitter conflict. I think they work better as archetypes than characters for much of the book, which I do not mean as a criticism. This is an epic novel of immense events, so to focus on ordinary soldiers rather than commanders invites such an approach.

The secondary characters are also an interesting bunch, often demonstrating the damaging secondary effects war has on widowed women, bankrupted business owners, traumatised children, and horses. Zola has a great deal of sympathy, which makes his depiction of horrors all the more powerful. The earlier siege of Paris is also largely passed over, as the point of view during that period is left with characters in the countryside, worrying about the capital but unable to get news. Compared to Germinal , and the rest of his oeuvre according to the introduction, this is a novel as commentary on specific historical events rather than as more general social commentary.

The introduction also reinforced my feeling that it had been very carefully researched using the accounts of witnesses to events. Zola is an extraordinary writer and he certainly brings the war to life, albeit without the focus on the Paris Commune that I would have liked. Still, this emphasises an important point - to the rest of France, the wider war was the immediate and significant concern, not upheaval in Paris.

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The Commune took place during a siege and thus had a certain insularity. Still fascinating, though. Sep 29, Charles Puskas rated it it was amazing. It was written 23 years after the event and the author read a stack of accounts and was able to interview some eyewitnesses. His fictional and quasi-historical characters help you to empathize with those military and civilian who experienced this tragic war and its aftermath which was an indirect cause of WW I.

Many of his favorite characters suffer or die as he narrates Well-researched historical fiction on the Franco-Prussian War of by a great French novelist, Emile Zola Germinal. Many of his favorite characters suffer or die as he narrates each battle and scene with great descriptive detail. Although the author, Zola, believed that the leadership of the Commune was incompetent and that their cause was futile from the start and of course he was greatly saddened by the conflagration of Paris!

He did provide some rationale for the creation of the Commune: despair over a poorly fought war, dissatisfaction with the current incompetent government leadership, Franco-German oppression, utopian hopes for a better France, even having Maurice one central character join forces with them against the Thiers government. Jean, the main character and close friend of Maurice , remains with the Thiers army stationed in Versailles.

Jean and Maurice's sister, who carry on despite great suffering, are two examples of hero and Henriette, heroine for Zola. I enjoy historical fiction especially with literary merit, as in this case by a first-rate novelist. The Oxford classics edition annotated is replete with helpful maps, chronology, a list of characters and helpful endnotes by Robert Lethbridge. British English translation by Elinor Dorday was "bloody good.

"La débâcle"

May 02, J. Hushour rated it liked it. The penultimate novel in Zola's Les Rougon-Macquart is one of the rare ones I found uninteresting to a certain degree. More than any other of the twenty novels of the series, here Zola immerses himself in his meticulous attention to historical detail. This is arguably necessary from the point of view of his goal writ large: to portray the downfall and final, disastrous end of the Second Empire and Napoleon III. So, yes, yes, he has to cover the endless marches across northern France, Sedan and i The penultimate novel in Zola's Les Rougon-Macquart is one of the rare ones I found uninteresting to a certain degree.

So, yes, yes, he has to cover the endless marches across northern France, Sedan and its horrors, with a rushed final act discussing both far-removed and in-thy-face the stupidity of the Commune and the government reaction to it. As a work of fiction of this kind, with a clear social and historical goal, one can expect a certain degree of this kind of thing, the detail and misplaced characterization which fixates on the 7th Corps as a whole while most of its individual foci are bland and soulless.

Jean Macquart of "La Terre" and his subordinate Maurice are the real soul of the book and Zola doesn't spend nearly enough time on them. When he does, the novel shines. Throw in Maurice's twin sister, Henriette, whose husband gets shot in the face by Prussians, and you've got the whole, holy triumvirate of Marianne, the peasant, and the mad-dog revolutionary with a heart of gold.

Their story was what I liked the most and their ill-fated and ill-timed resolution at the end was outstanding. Don't misunderstand: much of the historical bits detailing the horror of the siege of Paris, the virtual garrison prison of Sedan, and the little terrible things here and there that occur in the heat and wake of battle, were just great. But as a literary whole, the book tends to peak and trough. Jun 02, Mike Clinton rated it it was amazing. I went through an arc with this book, which started out slow and uneventful; it must have been Zola's purpose, though, to convey the plodding and desultory sense of aimlessness and helplessness that affected the French soldiers in the lead-up to Sedan.

The intricacies of the various sub-plots, the grand sweep and nuances of the historical scenes, the predicaments and personalities of the characters,the vivid and forceful language Zola uses all engrossed me, though, and I became drawn in and comp I went through an arc with this book, which started out slow and uneventful; it must have been Zola's purpose, though, to convey the plodding and desultory sense of aimlessness and helplessness that affected the French soldiers in the lead-up to Sedan.

The intricacies of the various sub-plots, the grand sweep and nuances of the historical scenes, the predicaments and personalities of the characters,the vivid and forceful language Zola uses all engrossed me, though, and I became drawn in and compelled by the story in the way that great novels can do with readers.

Even before the end of the first part, I experienced that excitement of looking forward to the next chapter while at the same time not wanting to press on so quickly that the pleasure of reading ended before I wanted it to. For me, that's the best measure of how much I enjoy a book. Still, the last two chapters were so melodramatic, preachy, and contrived that it diminished the book somewhat in my estimation. I understand that this was a grand ending not just to the book but to the entire Rougon-Macquart series, but I was still disappointed with it.

I'm still ranking the book itself with 5 stars, though.

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Jan 26, Aurimas Novikovas rated it it was amazing Shelves: favorites. So far the finest selection of French literature. If you look into it from the aesthetic point of view, the book moves one more than one might expect. Zola did a huge research and depicted the maybe ugliest French war in a very precise and fine way. Characters are also exciting, surel So far the finest selection of French literature.

Zola was writing all his life. Part 3 of the novel, I suppose, might be considered as one of the greatest pieces of literature. Unexpectedly fine. Those who are sensitive and "too kind", please, beware the aggressiveness of the book. Book 19 of the Rougon Maquart series.

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I skim-read this, so I'm marking it as unfinished rather than as read. I think it would have been of great interest to its French audience at its time of publication, not many years after the FrancoPrussian war. I enjoyed reading about several characters who had appeared in earlier books in the series. I skimmed very quickly through the parts relating to actual battles.

In fact the main violence, comes in a nonbattlefield sequence.

Only 1 book to go! Aug 02, The Idiot rated it it was amazing Shelves: favorites. Definitely in my top 5 books of all time and probably my number one. View 2 comments.

La Debacle by Zola, Emile

Oct 23, T. Zola has a way of making me feel that he has personally experienced everything he writes about. This is a depressing but fascinating look at France during the Prussian war. Nov 24, Steve Gordon rated it it was amazing. My only irritation was Zola's seeming to make the Communards the villains of the fall of Paris. Sep 03, Lucy rated it it was amazing. Brilliant but horrible. Very good historical fiction. Feb 14, Tarah Luke rated it it was amazing.

This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Zola pulls no punches here in his penultimate novel in the Rougon-Macquart series that explores the final collapse of the Second Empire, as seen through the eyes of the French Army and specifically Jean Macquart and his newfound bosom buddy Maurice. Jean and Maurice witness firsthand the ridiculously stupid and pointless Battle of Sedan, in which the bulk of the French forces and Emperor Napoleon III are encircled and captured by the Prussians who Zola mistakenly refes to throughout as the Germ Zola pulls no punches here in his penultimate novel in the Rougon-Macquart series that explores the final collapse of the Second Empire, as seen through the eyes of the French Army and specifically Jean Macquart and his newfound bosom buddy Maurice.

Jean and Maurice witness firsthand the ridiculously stupid and pointless Battle of Sedan, in which the bulk of the French forces and Emperor Napoleon III are encircled and captured by the Prussians who Zola mistakenly refes to throughout as the Germans; the country of Germany did not exist until after the surrender of Paris the following year in Herein follows a gruesome account of a 19th c.

By this point it should be apparent to anyone who reads these reviews that descriptions of human suffering almost always leave me cold, while the mention of any animal in pain wrings my heart and brings tears to my eyes and often cheeks. I almost lost it. Yet another amazing effort by Zola that makes me sad to see the end of the series with Dr. The first third or so is tedious, a mess of samey characters and lists of historical events.

Oh look, this division of troops moved over to this hill. That continues to pop up later on, too, all the way to the end. But somewhere during the siege I did a search and discovered that this was published just 20 years after the events it's depicting. Which changes everything.

This isn't historical fiction at all, it's I don't know if we have a word for it. I mean, it's fiction, but it happened. He The first third or so is tedious, a mess of samey characters and lists of historical events. He would've talked to first-hand witnesses.

Zola might have been a first-hand witness himself, for all I know. And once the war is lost, the book improves. The focus narrows and there are numerous gripping and surprising scenes. How view spoiler [the rapist is dealt with hide spoiler ] , for instance. And for the last fifty pages, Paris burns. It's an immense chaos, but it never loses sight of the people, regular people with blood and flesh and brains, clashing and loving and dying in that chaos. Painted Cover and Art: Lou Cameron It's extremely hard to put a classic in 50 pages so I grade all the Classics Illustrated with that at the top of my mind.

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