Skip to content
Paperback Germinal Book

ISBN: 0140440453

ISBN13: 9780140440454


(Book #13 in the Les Rougon-Macquart Series)

Select Format:

Select Condition:


Format: Paperback

Condition: Very Good

Save $4.26!
List Price $8.95

2 Available

Book Overview

The thirteenth novel in Amile Zolaas great Rougon-Macquart sequence, "Germinal" expresses outrage at the exploitation of the many by the few, but also shows humanityas capacity for compassion and hope. Etienne Lantier, an unemployed railway worker, is a clever but uneducated young man with a dangerous temper. Forced to take a back-breaking job at Le Voreux mine when he cannot get other work, he discovers that his fellow miners are ill, hungry, and...

Customer Reviews

5 ratings

The best novel of the 19th Century

This is ?mile Zola's undisputed masterpiece in the Rougon-Macquart novel series. In each of the novels of this series Zola sketches in honest, human detail the life of the working class of 19th Century France; in Germinal, the center of attention is the mining industry of the far north. The story describes the experience of an ex-machinist, Etienne Lantier (who appears as such in one of the other novels) in the Voreux and other mines around the town of Montsou, situated somewhat near Valenciennes. Starving and looking for a job in a period of industrial crisis, he is introduced to the reader as he arrives at the mine. Etienne soon manages to get a job there, and gets to know the great variety of characters that make up the local mining town. But his deep-felt social activism, combined with his somewhat higher education than the local miners, sets in motion a chain of events that changes both his life and that of the reader forever. Zola's brilliant description of the reality of the struggle between classes and the effects, positive and negative, that zealous struggle for the improvement of the world can have on individual humans in dire straits is sure to haunt the reader for a long time. The author manages to describe both the miners, in their jealousy, pride, poverty and despair, as well as the local bourgeoisie in their misguidedness, personal issues and the pressures of capitalism with a deep understanding of the human psyche. The interactions between humans under pressure is described in powerful, terse dialogues and evocative passages. The political and social background of the miners' desperate struggle for a decent living is the general theme of the book, but Zola avoids stereotypes and never clearly takes sides for any particular political position, deftly avoiding preachiness or sentimentalism. The incredible hardship and difficulty of the miners' lives and the degree to which the main characters manage to maintain a sense of dignity is sure to move even the coldest-hearted person, but Germinal is not a Dickens work and tear-jerking is more an effect of the book's quality than the goal of the writer. Above all, however, Zola's best work is simply an incredibly riveting, exciting, deeply moving and tremendously powerful work of fiction. Read the rise and fall of Lantier, Maheu, Bonnemort, Deneulin, Catherine, Souvarin and the other comrades, and weep.

Read it now!

Simply put, I believe this is the greatest novel of all time. Yes, I'm a big Zola fan, but I don't give all of his books five stars. This is his greatest achievement, and it deserves a place in anyone's literary canon. The book describes the harsh life of coal miners in the (fictional?) mining town of Montsou in the north of France. Étienne Lantier (son of Gervaise in L'Assomoir) wanders into town looking for work. He gets a job in the mine and finds lodging with the Maheus, a family with seven children, whose daily life totally revolves around the mine. Étienne starts out as a passive Everyman character--we see this bleak world through his eyes. He then takes on a more active role in the lives of the miners by becoming a labor organizer and preaching socialist ideals. The miners decide to strike for better wages, which begins a chain of events leading to more suffering, sacrifice, and eventually violence. Zola beautifully examines the strike's effect on every person involved: the miners, the town shopkeepers, the mine executives, the small business owner, the government, the shareholders, the communist intellectuals, the soldiers, the radical revolutionaries. Zola's characteristic attention to detail creates a vivid world for the reader to inhabit. We become involved in these people's lives and fight their battles within ourselves. No stone goes unturned, and no one emerges from the conflict with clean hands. Zola definitely inspires us to sympathize with the miners, but at the same time he does not absolve them of all responsibility for their own suffering. Nor does he paint the mine owners as evil personified. Instead, he creates human characters we can empathize with, and provides us with the motivations for their actions. Even Étienne, our eyes and ears in the story, does not come out smelling like a rose. Though his visions of socialist utopia may be lofty, his vanity and his limited intellect cloud his judgment, and as a result people suffer. This is mostly a serious novel, but there are lighter moments and bits of social satire as well. The lives of the miners are not all sorrow and woe. At the beginning of the book we enjoy some of their happier moments. From there, tension slowly builds into a snowball effect that climaxes with a series of shocking tragedies. Through it all Zola imbues an underlying philosophical debate on the value of human life and dignity. I would recommend this book to anyone, whether they are habitual readers of classic literature or not. Those who read this book might also enjoy The Octopus by Frank Norris, an American writer who was greatly influenced by this book.

Zola's Masterpiece

Germinal is generally considered the greatest of Emile Zola's twenty novel Rougon-Macquart cycle. Of these, Germinal is the most concerned with the daily life of the working poor. Set in the mid 1860's, the novel's protaganist Etienne Lantier is hungry and homeless, wandering the French countryside, looking for work. He stumbles upon village 240, the home of a coal mine, La Voreteux. He quickly gets a job in the depths of the mine, experiencing the backbreaking work of toiling hundreds of feet below the earth. He is befriended by a local family and they all lament the constant work required to earn just enough to slowly starve. Fired up by Marxist ideology, he convinces the miners to strike for a pay raise. The remainder of the novel tells the story of the strike and its effect on the workers, managers, owners and shareholders.Zola weaves a strong plot line along with a multitude of characters. The hallmark of this novel is the wealth of people who populate the pages. The miners are not the noble poor but men and women who live day to day, cruel in some ways, generous in others. The managers are owners are not evil, greedy men but complex characters who in some ways envy the freedom of the miners from conventional morality.As with most Zola novels, don't expect a happy ending. But the reader can expect to be transported to a world and a way of life almost unimaginable for its brutality and bleakness. Like other great works of literature, the novel explores the thoughts and actions of people who suffer the daily indignities of poverty and injustice. Germinal is different however because the thoughts and actions are not noble and the consequences of their actions are felt by all. I would strongly recommend Germinal as one of the major novels of the 19th century but one that transcends time and place. The issues evoked in the novel regarding labor versus capital are just as relevant to today's world.

A glimmer of hope for the oppressed

Why do we have labor laws? Why do we accept nuclear energy and the oil industry? Why did the rich countries become so prosperous? "Germinal" shows you why. Often considered Zola's greatest work, it is indeed a truly epic story skilfully blended with penetrating political and economic analysis, not least of the mixture of motives that push people to stand up for their rights or those of others. Take John Steinbeck's "The Grapes Of Wrath", multiply it by ten or twenty and you won't even come close to this book. Deeply moving, shocking, but ultimately uplifting, for in the wreckage of the miners' crushing defeat after their strike Zola, for once, offers a glimmer of hope. Better to have fought and lost than to have done nothing. The seeds of a new, fairer world have been sown. And one day........

A gut-wrenching and soulful experience.

It should be illegal for certain books to be translated into film. I pity the person who does not read, who for whatever reason, cannot create in the mind the vivd imagery laid down in this incredible novel. No movie can come close. I was about a third into "Germinal" when, coincidentally, my union of grocery clerks called for a strike. Of course, almost any similarity between the well-fed and well-compensated clerk of today and the starving, wretched lot portrayed in the novel are absurd. The thing that struck me most were the character representations of both the workers and the owners. The stakes were different, but the mood was exactly the same. I saw first-hand, the leaders, the followers, the sabotuers. I saw those who would settle at any price, and those who would hold out at any cost. Emil Zola was the kind of writer we just don't see anymore. He risked his career and his freedom to help a Jewish army officer unjustly accused. In "Germinal," he created one of the most dismal landscapes ever put onto paper. As research for the book, he allowed himself to be lowered into a mine shaft, so he could understand a little of what the miner felt as he dropped down into the darkness. Surely these were the pits of Hell. Writing about a labor strike is no easy task, especially if the author is wont to take sides, which Zola undoubtably did. The most remarkable thing about "Germinal" is Zola's even-handedness in his characterizations. Neither side is presented as wholly in the right or the wrong. There are quite a few bizarre character twists, such as the owner Hennebeau who winds up in envy of the workers as he realizes the emptiness of his own existence. Few novels are able to convey the brutality of life for the extremely impoverished, and Zola presents it with authenticity and with relish. There are scenes which will remain in my mind for a lifetime. The characters are as real as any that can be found in the world. No summation, no casual review can even give a sense of the power of this one book. "Germinal" is anything but casual. It haunts me like few books have. If it is entertainment you desire, read "Jurassic Park." If your soul wants to be touched, read "Germinal."
Copyright © 2019 Terms of Use | Privacy Policy
ThriftBooks® and the ThriftBooks® logo are registered trademarks of Thrift Books Global, LLC
GoDaddy Verified and Secured