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The Belly of Paris (Oxford World's Classics) Paperback – 25 Jun 2009

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Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: OUP Oxford (25 Jun. 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199555842
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199555840
  • Product Dimensions: 19.3 x 1.5 x 12.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 108,786 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Review

The translation by Brian Nelson for the Oxford World's Classics edition is excellent, and I really like the cover image which is a detail from The Square in Front of Les Halles by Victor-Gabriel Gilbert. (ANZ LitLovers LitBlog, Lisa Hill)

About the Author

Brian Nelson has also translated Zola's The Ladies' Paradise, Pot Luck, and The Kill for OWC.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By JVRobson on 1 May 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
One of the most vividly atmospheric books I've ever read. From the opening lines - where the fugitive Florent returns to Paris hidden in a vegetable cart after escaping from Devil's island - the reader is plunged into the world of Les Halles, the city's covered food markets.

Zola's descriptions of the meat, fish, fruits and vegetables on display have the symphonic richness of a prose poem, symbolically equating their decorative abundance (and fly-specked corruption) with the excesses of the French Second Empire against which Florent has rebelled.

Unfortunately, his fascination with the markets and the gossipy, upwardly mobile petit bourgeoise traders who inhabit them, does detract from a not-too compelling central story. Florent is a weak dreamer, whose attempts to live under a new identity with his butcher brother and organise a new insurrection against the government always seem doomed to failure.

He's constantly manipulated by his upwardly-mobile sister-in-law Lisa, who despises his politics and is keen to get rid of him, and her great rival La Belle Normande, a fish trader who sets her cap at Florent to gain revenge on her snobbish former schoolfriend. They're both far more compelling characters and in the end Florent's story is swallowed up in the recreation of a grubby, acquisitive world that Zola clearly finds appalling and fascinating at the same time.

The novel is an early entry in the Rougon-Macquart cycle and there's a definite sense of Zola introducing characters who will be more significant later, and experimenting with the form his "naturelle et sociale" history of the Second Empire will take.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By light VINE VOICE on 17 Dec. 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I enjoyed reading this book but felt it was just not in the same class as some of Zola's other books such as L'Assomoir and Germinal. If you are new to Zola I think you would be best to start with one of his "classics". This story is about the newly built Les Halles market in Paris and follows the fortunes of Florent Quennu a thin pale young man who was imprisoned on Devil's Island after inadvertantly getting caught up in a violent riot. He has managed to escape and has made his way back home where he finds his brother running a thriving butcher's shop and married to a plump, pretty woman who instantly dislikes Florent. The situation isn't helped by the fact that their business has been funded by an inheritance that should have gone to Florent or that Florent begins to teach the son of his sister - in -laws arch enemy. Florent becomes the Fish inspector at the market, a job he detests and also gets caught up once again in revolutionary activity which leads to tragedy.
Like all Zola's there are also a host of sub characters and their stories featured. Where this book is more unusual is in the long descriptions given about the market and its smells and sounds which although well written became a little tedious. I also found the characters were not as well developed as in othe Zola's I have read and so I felt less empathy for and insight into their situation. However, I still enjoyed reading this, it just was not his very best.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By KalteStern VINE VOICE on 27 July 2009
Format: Paperback
What came as the greatest shock to me, when first reading anything by Zola was how very modern, accessible and readable the books actually are - if the stately narrative pace and long digressions into political theorizing or heavy handed caricature of Dickens or Tolstoy have put you off 'classic' 19th Century literature , take heart - these are a cracking read.

This novel is one of the less well known ones, partly I suspect because the actual plot is the least of it, compared to, say, Nana or Therese Raquin, and thus not amenable to being filmed as a 100 minute drama by Hollywood or even the BBC.

No, the apppeal of this one is the extraordinarily detailed exposition of day to day life for working people in an around Les Halles in Paris - what they ate, what they wore, how they talked, what they thought - it quickly becomes an immersive experience of extraordinary power. If you like that sort of thing
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Greco on 3 Oct. 2011
Format: Paperback
I have now read several of Zola's novels, this being the latest. There appear to be two types of book, one factually descriptive and the other more personal. The second type is the better read. The Belly of Paris comes into the first category and the markets are portrayed brilliantly but sometimes to the detriment of the flow of the novel. It does however evoke true feelings of how 'Les Halles' must have been at the time, but is no longer, since its demolition in the 1960s.

To any Zola follower the book should be read, but for Zola first timers try Threse Raquin or Germinal to get you hooked.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Mr. T. Harvey on 28 Sept. 2013
Format: Paperback
Warning: this review contains spoilers.

The setting is Les Halles, the food markets of Paris. We get page after page describing different kinds of food - their textures, colours, smells, the kind of description that Zola does very well. But, there is an awful lot of it.

Then we have the story of the discontented revolutionary Florent plotting with his fellow conspirators in a local hostelry.

Lastly, we have the stallholders of Les Halles themselves.

These disparate strands don't mesh into a satisfying whole. There is just too much food description, the various stall holders do not emerge clearly enough as distinctive characters and it is never made clear why the revolutionaries are discontented.

This is an early Zola novel and there is a sense that he is trying just a bit too hard; it lacks the natural flow and energy which are hallmarks of his later works.
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