Emile Zola, La Bête humaine [The Human Beast]

Katherine Sian Griffiths (Cardiff University)
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La Bête humaine

is the seventeenth of the twenty novels making up Emile Zola’s Rougon-Macquart series, the series designed to map the fate of a fictional family under the Second Empire in France. It was serialised in

La Vie populaire

between November 1889 and March 1890 before being published in volume form by Charpentier in March 1890. Born of Zola’s desire to write two separate novels, one focussing on crime and the other on the world of railways,

La Bête humaine

merges both themes, using a train route as the setting for a tale of sex, murder, political corruption and judicial incompetence. Zola’s novel, as Henri Mitterand points out, immediately sparked very conflicting responses. Lombroso commented on the verisimilitude of Zola’s description of the criminal mind, whilst…

2280 words

Citation: Griffiths, Katherine Sian. "La Bête humaine". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 09 September 2008 [https://www.litencyc.com/php/sworks.php?rec=true&UID=11320, accessed 22 April 2024.]

11320 La Bête humaine 3 Historical context notes are intended to give basic and preliminary information on a topic. In some cases they will be expanded into longer entries as the Literary Encyclopedia evolves.

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