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TheRejectAmidHair



Joined: 19 Nov 2008
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Location: Staines, Middlesex

PostPosted: Tue Feb 28, 2012 1:27 am    Post subject:  Reply with quote

Well, I may be in India, but I do have my iPad! I am typing this in a hotel room in Hyderabad. It's 6.40am local time: the flight landed a couple of hours ago, and I reckon if I try to ave a nap now, I won't be able to make it into the office. So I'm just killing a couple of hours, trying to keep awake...

Anyway, where were we? Zola and Dickens. They were very different writers, as you said. Zola depicted a far broader section of society than Dickens ever did. In Dickens, working class characters are always in supporting roles: they are never at the centre of the novel. And the one time he focussed on high society (the Veneerings' circle in Our Mutual Friend) he gave us an angry and vicious satire rather than a nuanced depiction.

Zola seems to me more obviously rooted in reality. Compare, for instance, Zola's depiction of the slums in L'Assommoir to Dickens' depiction of Tom All Alone's in Bleak House: Zola is precise, and depicts the physical details very clearly. In Dickens, on the other hand, there is hardly any physical detail at all: he uses instead a very flamboyant language, strewn with metaphor and with wild images, to give us a feel of the place. While Zola remains down to earth, Dickens' wild, untamed imagination seems to soar.

Zola could also be very sensual, as Evie says: that was never part of Dickens' armoury. And Zola enjoyed shocking his readers, often with an insistent focus on physical detail. But Dickens presented a more distorted and grotesque world, where physical detail is either not considered particularly important, or is distorted to suggest a sense of unreality. Zola's fictional world is far more solid.

You know what? I think I'll have that nap after all...



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chris-l



Joined: 27 Nov 2008
Posts: 731



PostPosted: Tue Feb 28, 2012 8:02 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Glad your trip has gone well so far, Himadri.

Yes, your points are pretty much seem to sum up what I wanted to say. My very limited knowledge of Zola's work means I am reluctant to generalise too much, since there is always the possibility that the little I have read is wildly untypical. I really must put that ignorance right soon. The more I read, the more I know I still need to read...

I hope you had a pleasant nap!


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Apple



Joined: 24 Nov 2008
Posts: 1751



PostPosted: Tue Feb 28, 2012 8:50 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

chris-l wrote:
Quote:
... Zola, for instance (in my very limited experience)  doesn't have the grotesque characters who are so typical of Dickens. His method seems to be much more grounded in realism. But I think there are enough common elements to make the comparison worthwhile.
My even more limited experience - I have only ever read Nana,(which I loathed) I would agree with that, everything is so realistic and shockingly so for its time (although not by todays standards) especially at the end when Nana gets her comeupance (when she dies and the death described in all its grisly detail) but then again on the other hand I thought Nana was a totally grotesque character, NOT a characture as such I think Zola just stopped short of that but she was over the top but in a different way, as I said in my review of the book back at the time, I just could not believe that she could have such an influence over the men she used, abused and discarded.

I also found your later comment
Quote:
The more I read, the more I know I still need to read...
interesting, as I say I loathed Nana with a passion, I did not get on with it at all, and normally when I get a book like that it will put me off that particular author, but I have heard so many good things about Germinal, and when I read up about it the description and write up appealed to me no end!


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Mikeharvey



Joined: 22 Nov 2008
Posts: 3351


Location: Lancashire

PostPosted: Tue Feb 28, 2012 10:22 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hello Himadri,
Isn't the Internet marvellous? I was wondering how many weeks your message from Hyderabad would have taken to reach the UK in 1812.  
I'm jealous that you're in India.


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Evie
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Joined: 24 Oct 2008
Posts: 3569


Location: Kenilworth, Warwickshire, UK

PostPosted: Tue Feb 28, 2012 10:39 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yes, Zola, in my experience of two novels, definitely more rooted in reality and also in the interior world of his characters.

He is also very sexually explicit - not something I have come across in any British 19C author, let alone just Dickens.

It is still a fascinating comparison, I think, as you can't help thinking of Dickens when you read Zola (well, I can't, anyway!), and yet their shared concern with the world around them - and their use of two capital cities so brilliantly as so much more than a backdrop - is conveyed in very different ways.  This ties in a bit with your question about social commentary, I think, Himadri - part of the greatness of both lies in their ability to convey social concern with great impact, and the impact comes from their literary abilities, albeit of a different nature in each writer.


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Apple



Joined: 24 Nov 2008
Posts: 1751



PostPosted: Tue Feb 28, 2012 1:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Evie wrote:
Quote:
This ties in a bit with your question about social commentary, I think, Himadri - part of the greatness of both lies in their ability to convey social concern with great impact, and the impact comes from their literary abilities, albeit of a different nature in each writer.
Yes I think someone made this point on the other thread, I thought that as well when I read through it.


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TheRejectAmidHair



Joined: 19 Nov 2008
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Location: Staines, Middlesex

PostPosted: Tue Feb 28, 2012 1:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hello Evie,

I am completely jetlagged right now and may not be articulating my thoughts very well, but the point I think I am trying to get at is this:

- If an author addresses a specific social issue of his or her times; and if that social issue has now been resolved; then is the writer's social concern a contributory factor to the literary quality of the book?

And the follow-up question:

- If it is true that the addressing of a social issue cannot be regarded as a literary quality once that social issue is no more, was it ever a literary quality?

We should possibly pursue this in the other thread and leave this one for talking about Zola, but I don't think these are very straightforward questions, and, as chris-l said in that other thread, they require more thought.

I must admit I haven't quite got my head around these questions yet. I suspect that social criticism in itself is not a literary quality, but I can't quite articulate my thoughts on it. Which means, of course, that my thoughts on this matter aren't very clear as yet.



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Apple



Joined: 24 Nov 2008
Posts: 1751



PostPosted: Tue Feb 28, 2012 2:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

TheRejectAmidHair wrote:
Hello Evie,

I am completely jetlagged right now and may not be articulating my thoughts very well, but the point I think I am trying to get at is this:

- If an author addresses a specific social issue of his or her times; and if that social issue has now been resolved; then is the writer's social concern a contributory factor to the literary quality of the book?

And the follow-up question:

- If it is true that the addressing of a social issue cannot be regarded as a literary quality once that social issue is no more, was it ever a literary quality?

We should possibly pursue this in the other thread and leave this one for talking about Zola, but I don't think these are very straightforward questions, and, as chris-l said in that other thread, they require more thought.

I must admit I haven't quite got my head around these questions yet. I suspect that social criticism in itself is not a literary quality, but I can't quite articulate my thoughts on it. Which means, of course, that my thoughts on this matter aren't very clear as yet.
I know this response was aimed at Evie but I would like to say something on it - as I have participated in the other thread about this subject.

Firstly there are few social issues which are ever totally resolved completely, they are still there under the surface in different forms even centuries later, poverty, racial prejudice etc.

A lot of the issues Dickens tackled are still there in society today but in a modern form and possibly not so in your face and polarised as they were in Victorian Britain. So having said that I think the questions you are asking cannot be answered in the context you are asking them, I think that a writers social concern is a factor to the literary quality of a book because how he/she puts across those concerns to the reader makes all the difference. The follow up question cannot be answered because as I said the same social issues are still there albeit in different forms.


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TheRejectAmidHair



Joined: 19 Nov 2008
Posts: 3864


Location: Staines, Middlesex

PostPosted: Tue Feb 28, 2012 11:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

To return to Zola:

It's always difficult to pick a favourite Zola novel, partly because the novels, though recognisably by the same author, are all very different from each other, with each offering it's own delights; and also partly because he maintained a consistently high standard. But for all that, I think I'd nominate L'Assommoir as my favourite, with Germinal, Nana and La Terre there or thereabouts. What a wonderful body of works to have left behind!



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Apple



Joined: 24 Nov 2008
Posts: 1751



PostPosted: Wed Feb 29, 2012 9:39 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

As you want to get this thread back to Zola and have therefore ignored the comment I posted in response to the questions you subsequently posted, I have taken the liberty of copying it to the social commentary thread where we can discuss it in further detail, and allow this one to return to the subject of Zola, apologies for my part in derailing this Zola thread, but I was just responding to the comments you previously posted.   Smile



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