The thirteenth novel in Émile Zola's great Rougon-Macquart sequence, Germinal expresses outrage at the exploitation of the many by the few, but also shows humanity's 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 in debt, unable to feed and clothe their families. When conditions in the mining community deteriorate even further, Lantier finds himself leading a strike that could mean starvation or salvation for all.
Author Biography: Émile Zola (1840-1902) was the leading figure in the French school of naturalistic fiction. His principal work, Les Rougon-Macquart, is a panorama of mid-nineteenth century French life in a cycle of twenty novels which Zola wrote over a period of twenty-two years.
Roger Pearson is professor of French at the University of Oxford and fellow and tutor in French at The Queen's College, Oxford.