Emile Zola: L'Assommoir [The Dram Shop]

(3327 words)

When L’Assommoir appeared in serial form in 1876, Zola’s bold and uncensorious presentation of the seamier sides of working-class life caused an immediate outcry, and its author was held to be immoral, depraved, even pornographic. Henry Vizetelly, its first English translator, went to prison in 1889 for daring to translate it. Zola, however, saw his novel as “de la morale en action” [“morality in action”]. It appeared as a single volume in 1877, and was an immediate success — becoming the first best-seller of the nineteenth century. The novel tells the life-story of Gervaise Macquart, a young washer-woman from Provence, abandoned in Paris by her …

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Minogue, Valerie . "L'Assommoir". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 17 May 2008
[http://www.litencyc.com/php/sworks.php?rec=true&UID=11315, accessed 07 October 2015.]