by Emile Zola, Douglas Parmee


View All Available Formats & Editions
Choose Expedited Shipping at checkout for guaranteed delivery by Thursday, July 25


Prompted by his theories of heredity and environment, Zola set out out to show Nana, "the golden fly", rising out of the underworld to feed on society--a predetermined product of her origins. Nana's latent destructiveness is mirrored in the Empire's, and they reflect each others' disintegration and final collapse in 1890.

Built around the book's scientific skeleton is a powerful, sensual atmosphere and a rich use of words which elevate the novel beyond the realistic platform into a "poem of male desires."

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780199538690
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Publication date: 09/28/2009
Series: Oxford World's Classics Series
Edition description: Reissue
Pages: 464
Sales rank: 399,236
Product dimensions: 5.00(w) x 7.60(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

Émile Édouard Charles Antoine Zola (1840 - 1902) was a French novelist, playwright, journalist, the best-known practitioner of the literary school of naturalism and an important contributor to the development of theatrical naturalism. He was a major figure in the political liberalization of France and in the exoneration of the falsely accused and convicted army officer Alfred Dreyfus, which is encapsulated in the renowned newspaper headline J'accuse. Zola was nominated for the first and second Nobel Prize in Literature in 1901 and 1902.

Ernest Alfred Vizetelly (1853-1922) was an English journalist and author. He was a son of the English publisher Henry Vizetelly, by his first marriage to Ellen Elizabeth Pollard. He was known as a war correspondent. Ernest republished some of his father's works by Émile Zola but modified them. Ernest was present with his father at the Siege of Paris during the Franco-Prussian War and wrote a memoir of his experiences My Days of Adventure; the Fall of France, 1870-71 which also contains an autobiographical introduction.

Read an Excerpt



Dover Publications, Inc.

Copyright © 2007 Dover Publications, Inc.
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-486-11480-4


AT NINE O'CLOCK the Variety Theatre was still almost empty. In the balcony and orchestra stalls a few persons waited, lost amidst the garnet-coloured velvet seats, in the faint light of the half extinguished gasalier. The huge crimson curtain was enveloped in shadow, and not a sound came from the stage behind. The foot-lights were not yet lit up, and the seats of the musicians were unoccupied. High up, however, in the third gallery, close to the roof—displaying figures of naked women and children floating among clouds, to which the gas imparted a greenish tinge—were heard the sounds of shouts and laughter above a continual hum of conversation, and a crowd of men and women, all wearing the caps of the working classes, were seated in rows reaching almost to the gilded festoons of the ceiling. Now and again an attendant would appear, fussily conducting a lady and gentleman to their seats—the gentleman in evening dress, and the lady slim and slightly stooping, and glancing slowly over the house. Two young men suddenly appeared in the stalls close to the orchestra. They remained standing, looking round about them.

"What did I tell you, Hector?" exclaimed the elder—a tall fellow, with a slight, black moustache. "We have come too early. You might just as well have allowed me to finish my cigar."

An attendant passed by at this moment. "Oh! M. Fauchery," she said familiarly, "it will not begin for half an hour."

"Then why on earth do they say nine o'clock on the bills?" asked Hector, whose long, thin face assumed an expression of intense annoyance. "This very morning Clarisse, who is in the piece, assured me that the curtain would go up at nine, precisely."

For a minute they relapsed into silence, as they raised their heads and gazed into the shadows of the boxes; but the green paper, with which the latter were lined, made them obscurer still. Below, the small boxes under the balcony disappeared in total darkness. In the balcony boxes only a very stout lady, leaning heavily on the velvet covered balustrade was to be seen. To the right and the left, between high columns, the stage boxes, hung with drapery deeply fringed, remained empty. The body of the house, decorated in white and gold, relieved by pale green, seemed to disappear filled as it was with a misty haze arising from the subdued light emanating from the huge crystal gasalier.

"Did you succeed in securing a stage-box for Lucy?" asked Hector.

"Yes," replied the other, "but not without a deal of trouble. Oh! there is no danger of Lucy's coming too early—not she!" He stifled a yawn, and then, after a brief silence, resumed; "You are lucky, you who have never yet been present at a first night. 'The Blonde Venus' will be the success of the year. Every one has been speaking of the piece for six months past. Ah! my boy, such music—such 'go'! Bordenave, who knows what's what, kept it purposely for the time of the Exhibition."

Hector listened religiously. At length he hazarded a question: "And Nana—the new star who is to play Venus—do you know her?"

"Oh, hang it! are you going to begin that too?" exclaimed Fauchery, gesticulating wildly. "Ever since this morning I have heard of nothing but Nana. I have met more than twenty fellows I know, and it has been Nana here and Nana there! Do you suppose I know every petticoat in Paris? Nana is one of Bordenave's inventions. She must be something choice!"

After this explosion he calmed down a little. But the emptiness of the house, the dim light that pervaded the whole, the opening and shutting of doors, and the hushed voices suggestive of a church, irritated him.

"Confound it!" he said, suddenly. "I can't stand this, you know. I must go out. Perhaps we shall meet Bordenave below. He will give us some details."

In the marble paved vestibule, where the box-office was situated, they found the public beginning to arrive. Through the three open doors all the busy throng on the Boulevards could be seen enjoying the beautiful April evening. Carriages dashed up to the theatre, and the doors were slammed noisily. People entered by twos and threes, and, after stopping at the box-office, ascended the double staircase in the rear—the women walking slowly with a swinging gait. In the glare of the gas were pasted, on the naked walls of this hall, whose meagre decorations in the style of the Empire suggested the peristyle of a card-board temple, some enormous yellow posters, in which Nana's name appeared in huge black letters. Men were loitering in front of these bills as they read them, while others were standing about talking among themselves, and blocking up the doorways; whilst near the box-office a thick-set man, with a big, clean-shaved face, was roughly replying to some people who were in vain endeavouring to obtain seats.

"There's Bordenave!" said Fauchery, as he and Hector descended the stairs.

But the manager had caught sight of him. "You are a nice fellow," he called out. "That is the way you write me a notice, is it? I opened the 'Figaro' this morning—not a word."

"Wait a bit," replied Fauchery. "I must see your Nana before I can write about her. Besides, I made no promise!"

Then, to prevent further discussion, he presented his cousin, M. Hector de la Faloise, a young man who had come to complete his education in Paris. The manager weighed the young man at a glance; but Hector surveyed the manager with some little emotion. This then was Bordenave, the exhibitor of women, whom he treated in the style of a prison warder, and whose brain was ever hatching some fresh moneymaking scheme—a perfect cynic, always shouting, or spitting, or smacking his thighs, and possessing the coarse mind of a trooper! Hector was anxious to make a good impression on him.

"Your theatre—" he began, in clear, musical tones.

Bordenave interrupted him quietly, and said, with the coolness of a man who prefers to call things by their right names: "Say my brothel, rather."

Fauchery laughed approvingly, but La Faloise was shocked to a degree, and his meditated compliment stuck in his throat, as he endeavoured to look as though he appreciated the joke. The manager had rushed off to shake hands with a dramatic critic whose criticisms had great influence, and, when he returned, La Faloise had almost recovered himself. He feared lest he should be regarded as a provincial if he appeared too much disconcerted.

"I have been told," he began, wishing at any rate to say something, "that Nana has a delicious voice."

"She!" cried the manager, shrugging his shoulders—"she has no more voice than a squirt."

The young man hastened to add: "Besides, she is an excellent actress."

"She!—a regular lump! She never knows where to put her hands or her feet."

La Faloise coloured slightly. He was at a loss what to understand. He managed to stammer out: "On no account would I have missed this first night. I know that your theatre—"

"Say my brothel," interrupted Bordenave again, with the cool obstinacy of a man thoroughly convinced.

Meanwhile Fauchery had been calmly examining the women as they entered. He now came to his cousin's assistance, when he saw him doubtful whether to laugh or be angry. "Gratify Bordenave; call his theatre just what he desires, as it amuses him. And as for you, my dear fellow, you need not try to fool us. If your Nana can't sing and can't play, you will make a regular fiasco of it to-night. And that is just what I am expecting."

"A fiasco! a fiasco!" exclaimed the manager, whose face became purple with rage. "Is it necessary for a woman to know how to sing and act? Ah! my boy, you are much too stupid. Nana has something else, damn her! and something that will make up for anything she may lack. I scented it, and she has plenty of it, or I have only the nose of a fool! You will see, you will see—she has only to appear, and all the spectators will at once smack their lips." He raised his big hands, which trembled with enthusiasm, and then, lowering his voice, murmured to himself, "Yes, she will go far—ah! damn her! yes, she will go far. A skin—oh, such a skin!"

Then, in answer to Fauchery's questions, he condescended to give certain details, making use of such offensive language that he quite shocked Hector. He had become acquainted with Nana, and wished to bring her out; and it so happened that he was in want of a Venus. He never allowed a woman to hang on to him very long; he preferred to let the public have its share of her at once. But he had had a damnable time in his shop; the arrival of this great hulking girl had revolutionized everything. Rose Mignon, his star, a fine actress and an adorable singer, threatened daily to leave him in the lurch. Divining a rival in Nana she was furious. And the playbills—Deuce take it! what a row they had caused. However, he had decided to print the names of the two actresses in letters of equal size. They had better not badger him too much. When one of his little women, as he called them, Clarisse or Simone, did not do as she was told, he just kicked her behind. If he treated them differently they would never leave him any peace. He dealt in them, and he knew what they were worth, the hussies!

"Ah!" he exclaimed, interrupting himself. "There come Mignon and Steiner! They are always together. You know that Steiner begins to have had enough of Rose; so the husband sticks to him like a plaster lest he should escape."

The flaring gas jets running along the cornice of the theatre threw a sheet of vivid light over the footpath. Two small trees stood out clearly with their fresh green foliage, and a pillar was so brilliantly illuminated by the blaze of light that the bills posted upon it could be read at a distance as clearly as at midday; whilst, afar off, the dense darkness of the Boulevards was studded with multitudinous lights, revealing the surging of an ever moving crowd. Many of the men did not enter the theatre at once, but loitered outside to finish their cigars and chat under the gaslight, which gave a livid pallor to their faces, and threw their shadows, short and black, upon the asphalt beneath. Mignon, a tall, stout fellow, with the square head of the Hercules of a travelling show, shouldered his way through the crowd, dragging on his arm the banker Steiner—a short man, with a big stomach and a round face fringed with a greyish beard.

"Well!" said Bordenave to the banker, "you saw her yesterday in my office."

"Ah! that was her, was it?" exclaimed Steiner. "I thought as much. Only, I was going out as she entered; I scarcely saw her."

Mignon listened with downcast eyes, all the time nervously twisting a large diamond ring on his little finger. He knew at once that they were talking of Nana. Then as Bordenave proceeded to give a description of his new star which caused the banker's eyes to sparkle, he decided to interfere.

"That'll do, my dear fellow; she's not worth looking at. The public will soon send her to the right about. Steiner, my boy, you know that my wife is expecting you in her dressingroom."

He tried to lead him away, but Steiner refused to leave Bordenave. The crowd at the box-office became more compact, the buzz of voices grew louder, and the name of Nana was repeated over and over again with a sing-song enunciation of its two syllables. The men, standing in front of the posters, read it out loud; others, as they passed, uttered it interrogatively, while the women, smiling and uneasy, repeated it softly with an air of surprise. No one knew Nana. Where on earth had Nana come from? And little jokes were passed about from ear to ear, and little tales told. The very name sounded like a caress, and fell familiarly from the lips of every one. Its constant repetition amused the crowd and kept it in a good humour. A fever of curiosity took possession of everybody—that Parisian curiosity which is sometimes as violent as an attack of brain fever. All were eager to see Nana. One lady had the train of her dress torn, and a gentleman lost his hat.

"Ah! you ask me too much," cried Bordenave, whom twenty men were besieging with questions. "You will see her presently. I must be off, they are waiting for me."

He disappeared, radiant at having inflamed his public. Mignon shrugged his shoulders, and reminded Steiner that Rose was expecting him to show him her costume for the first act.

"Hallo! there's Lucy, over there, getting out of her carriage," said La Faloise to Fauchery.

It was in fact Lucy Stewart—a little, ugly woman of about forty, with a neck too long, a thin, drawn face, and thick lips, but so lively, so graceful, that she charmed every one. She was accompanied by Caroline Héquet and her mother. Caroline with her frigid beauty, the mother very stately, and looking as if she were stuffed.

"You are coming with us, of course," she said to Fauchery; "I have kept a place for you."

"So that I shall see nothing!—not if I know it!" he answered. "I have an orchestra stall; I prefer to be there."

Lucy fired up at once. Was he afraid to be seen with her? Then suddenly calming down, she jumped to another subject.

"Why did you never tell me that you knew Nana?"

"Nana! I never saw her!"

"Is that really true? I have been assured that you once slept with her."

But Mignon, who was in front, put his finger to his lips to signal to them to be silent. And when Lucy asked why, he pointed to a young man who had just passed, murmuring, "Nana's sweetheart."

They all stared after him. He was certainly very good-looking. Fauchery recognised him: his name was Daguenet, and he had squandered a fortune of three hundred thousand francs on women, and now dabbled in stocks in order to make a little money with which he could treat them to an occasional bouquet and dinner. Lucy thought he had very handsome eyes.

"Ah! there's Blanche!" she exclaimed. "It was she who told me that you had slept with Nana."

Blanche de Sivry, a heavy blonde, whose pretty face was getting too fat, arrived, accompanied by a slender, well-dressed man with a most distinguished air.

"Count Xavier de Vandeuvres," whispered Fauchery to La Faloise.

The count shook hands with the journalist, whilst a lively discussion took place between Lucy and Blanche. They quite blocked up the entry with their skirts covered with flounces, one in pink and the other in blue, and Nana's name fell from their lips so frequently that the crowd lingered to listen. The count at length led Blanche away, but Nana's name did not cease to resound from the four corners of the vestibule in louder and more eager tones. Would they never begin? The men pulled out their watches, late comers leaped from their carriages before they really drew up, and the groups left the pavement, whilst the passers-by, as they slowly crossed the stream of light, stretched their necks to see what was going on in the theatre. A street urchin who came up whistling, stood for a moment before one of the posters at the door; then, in a drunken voice shouted out, "Oh, my! Nana!" and reeled on his way, dragging his old shoes along the asphalt. People laughed, and several well-dressed gentleman repeated, "Nana! Oh, my! Nana!" The crush was tremendous. A quarrel broke out at the box-office, the cries for Nana increased; one of those stupid fits of brutal excitement common to crowds had taken possession of this mass of people. Suddenly, above this uproar, the sound of a bell was heard. The rumour extended to the Boulevards that the curtain was about to rise, and there was more pushing and struggling; every one wished to get in; the employés of the theatre were at their wits' end. Mignon, looking uneasy, seized hold of Steiner, who had not been to inspect the dress Rose was to wear. At the first tinkle of the bell, La Faloise pushed through the crowd, dragging Fauchery with him, fearing lest he should miss the overture. Lucy Stewart was irritated by all these demonstrations of eagerness. What vulgar persons to push ladies about! She remained to the last with Caroline Héquet and her mother. At length the vestibule was empty; outside, the Boulevards maintained their prolonged rumble.

"As if their pieces were always funny!" Lucy kept repeating as she ascended the stairs.


Excerpted from Nana by ÉMILE ZOLA, Burton Rascoe, JANET BAINE KOPITO. Copyright © 2007 Dover Publications, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Dover Publications, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See All Customer Reviews

Nana (Barnes & Noble Classics Series) 3.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 94 reviews.
Seghetto More than 1 year ago
The first 1/3 or so of the book was pretty dull. The only real strong parts of the book happen towards the end. The interplay between Nana and her courtiers is ridiculous. The plot was very well thought out. This was the 9th in a series of 23 novels. The commentary stresses that this series was thought of by Zola as an experiment, needless to say that it shows. The characters are introduced one after the other. Towards the end it is pretty hard to sympathize with any of them besides the main 3 or 4.
albertgoldfain on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Zola's modernist classic from the Rougon-Macquart series of novels. I believe the title character is supposed to be a thinly veiled metaphor for Paris at the end of the 19th century (the end of the second empire), but I don't know enough about the time period for this to resonate. The novel starts with a nice description of the "popular" theater of the time but doesn't really gain much momentum until the final three chapters (the horse race chapter could be a story on its own). The intervening chapters are filled with verbose descriptions (Zola's so-called "naturalistic" style). It is almost like a pointilist painting where someone goes into details about each point. All I can remember is the overall impression.
AlexAustin on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Zola creates a brilliantly shallow woman who uses beauty and sex to keep numerous balls in the air. Merciless.
jwhenderson on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I read this book as part of a "Literary Cityscapes" class at the University of Chicago. The focus of the class was on novels in which Paris was an important factor if not a character. In Nana we have a novel inspired by real life characters, an operetta singer, who are transformed into a steamy story romance and demimondaines as the Second Empire is about to expire. I enjoyed the realistic description of the light opera scene with Zola's detail depiction of the performance of La blonde Vénus, a fictional operetta modelled after Offenbach's La belle Hélène, in which Nana is cast as the lead. Nana unfortunately leads a life not atypical for paramours (see La Traviata) and yet, the realistic portrayal of Parisian society raises this novel above the typical story. Zola again achieves artistic brilliance with his naturalistic novelization of real life.
Clara53 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A word on the importance of good translation. I read this book in two translations. First half - by an unknown translator, as there was no title page in this old book that I had bought a while ago at a library sale, there was just a year written in pencil by the owner (1953), the pages were very yellow, so it might even date earlier than that. The translation was not very good at all, and to prove it, as I was in the middle of the book, I borrowed a newer library copy to finish reading it in another translation, and oh, what a difference! (This one was translated by George Holden). The reading became so much more enjoyable. But the fact that I didn't give up on the book while reading the first half in really poor translation, certainly shows in favor of the author.I won't presume to aspire to give an adequate review on this classic. Zola is, doubtless, one of the great masters of literature. As to the plot, only one word comes to mind: ruin. It obviously goes beyond the carefree world of Parisian courtesans; it's dramatic, self-induced ruin as represented by the protagonist and prompted by society of that time.
ablueidol on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
These were some of the first books I read as an adult and authors like Zola and Tolstoy made 19th century literature live far more then Dickens ever did for me
Stbalbach on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
What an amazing novel. From the first blow-away chapter it is a speeding hot-house driven by the unpredictable winds of lust and fortune, time is compressed so minutes of ecstasy seem like years, and years can go by in minutes. Nana's addictive qualities ensnare both vile and vulnerable, perversely encouraged by society in the decedent years leading up to the Franco-Prussian crises. Chapter 5's description of the inner workings of a theater is an unforgettable submersion into Dante's Inferno. The gruesome ending is a Realist version of 'Dr Jekyl and Mr Hyde', or 'The Picture of Dorian Gray' (both later works and probably influenced by Zola). In the end there were no villains, just victims.The most difficult element is keeping the many secondary characters straight, it is a crowded novel. They are introduced in rapid fire sequence and the details (age, weight, background, relations etc) are spread throughout so the characters are not easily visualized which can make the plot often confusing, a whirl of people. Yet this is exactly the point, imagine the modern club scene or college parties.The symbolism throughout is intense and unusual for Zola, this is the least Naturalistic of his novels, yet is retains its realism, as Flaubert said: "Nana turns into myth, without ceasing to be real."
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago