L'Assommoir by Émile Zola (1840 - 1902)


  • 04 - Chapter I, part four

04 - Chapter I, part four

Thursday 1st January 1970

Explore the harsh and uncompromising study of alcoholism and poverty in the working-class districts of Paris in Émile Zola's L'Assommoir.
18 minutes

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L'Assommoir by Émile Zola (1840 - 1902)
Sobriety Day by Day
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L'Assommoir: A Harsh Study of Alcoholism and Poverty

Everyone thought that Gervais was scalded, but only her left foot had been slightly touched...
Émile Zola's L'Assommoir is a novel that offers a stark and unflinching portrayal of the harsh realities of poverty and alcoholism in 19th-century Paris. In this episode, listeners are treated to a reading of Chapter I, part four, in which two women engage in a violent, hair-pulling fight.
This scene serves as a microcosm of the larger issues addressed in the novel, as Gervaise and Virginie's physical altercation reveals the desperation and hopelessness that pervade the lives of those living in the working-class districts of the city. The washhouse scene that follows further emphasizes this point, as the characters are forced to endure inhumane working conditions and live in squalor.
Through Zola's vivid descriptions and unrelenting prose, listeners are transported to a world that is simultaneously gritty and poignant. The episode also touches on the novel's reception and the enduring legacy of Zola's work. Overall, this episode offers a compelling introduction to L'Assommoir and the literary school of naturalism, and is a must-listen for anyone interested in French literature or social commentary.