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Pot Luck (Pot-Bouille) (Oxford World's Classics) [Paperback]

Émile Zola , Brian Nelson
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)

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Paperback, 21 Jan 1999 --  

Book Description

21 Jan 1999 Oxford World's Classics
This new translation of Zola's most acerbic social satire captures the directness and robustness of Zola's language and restores the omissions of earlier abridged versions.


Product details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford Paperbacks; New edition edition (21 Jan 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0192831798
  • ISBN-13: 978-0192831798
  • Product Dimensions: 19.2 x 12.8 x 2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,184,356 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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First Sentence
IN the Rue Neuve-Saint-Augustin, a hold-up in the traffic stopped the cab which was bringing Octave and his three trunks from the Gare de Lyon. Read the first page
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent - a sparkling comic tragedy 31 Aug 1999
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
I wonder why this book is not more famous - or perhaps it is this new translation which made it such an enjoyable read. If you like Zola, all the traditional elements of poverty and Paris are included, but the wry comedic aspect is quite new. Many chapters of this book could stand in their own right as short stories, and the narrative drive is quite exceptional. The contrast between light comedy and dark tragedy is extreme.
Read before the inevitable BBC Sunday Afternoon serial!
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A melting pot of moral laxity 3 Sep 2010
Format:Paperback
Warning: this review contains spoilers.

The translator tells us that the French title 'Pot-Bouille' is virtually untranslatable. He has opted for the English 'Pot Luck', but 'Melting Pot' would serve just as well.

The novel centres on the lives of the inhabitants, masters and servants, of an apartment building in late 19th century Paris. The masters living lives of genteel poverty, with no moral values; greedy and grasping, condoning sexual laxity, tolerating the presence of live-in lovers. Some of them are blighted by illness, real or imagined - migraines or debilitation - which I assume the author intends us to think are probably caused by venereal infections.

As so often with Zola, his characters do not hold conversations: they rant and rail. Madame Josserand's dialogue is inevitably followed by 'she shrieked' or 'she shouted'; rarely, 'she said'.

Parallel to the lives of the masters are the doings of their servants who are observed in two ways; individually, in their respective employers' households and, collectively, as they exchange badinage and insults across the communal courtyard, at maximum decibel level, of course.

There are moments of comedy, which I don't usually associate with Zola. During a wedding service, the congregation and priest are distracted by a disturbance in a side chapel where Théophile accuses Octave of impropriety with his wife. The scene where Auguste looks for a second for a duel is also amusing.

Towards the end of the novel a powerful episode occurs where Zola describes a woman giving birth alone in her room. This is harrowing stuff, extremely well done. It gives the reader such a jolt as it is totally out of step with the tone of the rest of the novel and what has gone before.

This is a energetic, lively, raucous, entertaining novel. Not top rank Zola, nothing special, but a good read nonetheless.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hugely Enjoyable 11 May 2009
Format:Paperback
One of Zola's most accessible novels and a joy to read. Brian Nelson's translation is excellent, though he should have left the title as 'Pot Bouille' as 'Pot luck' is slightly misleading.
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