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La Bete Humaine
by Emile Zola
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Did possessing and killing amount to the same thing deep within the dark recesses of the human beast? La Bete humaine (1890), is one of Zola's most violent and explicit works. On one level a tale of murder, passion and possession, it is also a compassionate study of individuals derailed by atavistic forces beyond their control. Zola considered this his `most finely worked' novel, and in it he powerfully evokes life at the end of the Second Empire in France, where society seemed to be hurtling into the future like the new locomotives and railways it was building. While expressing the hope that human nature evolves through education and gradually frees itself of the burden of inherited evil, he is constantly reminding us that under the veneer of technological progress there remains, always, the beast within. This new translation captures Zola's fast-paced yet deliberately dispassionate style, while the introduction and detailed notes place the novel in its social, historical, and literary context.
Text: English (translation)
En entrant dans la chambre, Roubaud posa sur la table le pain d'une livre, le pâté et la bouteille de vin blanc. Mais, le matin, avant de descendre à son poste, la mère Victoire avait dû couvrir le feu de son poêle, d'un tel poussier, que la chaleur était suffocante. Et le sous-chef de gare, ayant ouvert une fenêtre, s'y accouda.
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