Item description for La Bete Humaine (Pocket Classiques) by Marie-Therese Ligot Emile Zola...
Did possessing and killing amount to the same thing deep within the dark recesses of the human beast? La Bete humaine (1890), is one of Zola's most violent and explicit works. On one level a tale of murder, passion and possession, it is also a compassionate study of individuals derailed by atavistic forces beyond their control. Zola considered this his `most finely worked' novel, and in it he powerfully evokes life at the end of the Second Empire in France, where society seemed to be hurtling into the future like the new locomotives and railways it was building. While expressing the hope that human nature evolves through education and gradually frees itself of the burden of inherited evil, he is constantly reminding us that under the veneer of technological progress there remains, always, the beast within. This new translation captures Zola's fast-paced yet deliberately dispassionate style, while the introduction and detailed notes place the novel in its social, historical, and literary context.
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Est. Packaging Dimensions: Length: 6.69" Width: 4.25" Height: 0.94" Weight: 0.53 lbs.
Publisher Pocket French
ISBN 2266082612 ISBN13 9782266082617
Reviews - What do customers think about La Bete Humaine (Pocket Classiques)?
Murder on the PARIS express meets Tell Tale Heart Sep 22, 2007
This is the first Zola novel I have read and I could not put it down. Though in many instances the author gives very lengthy and detailed descriptions that slow the flow of the novel, the plight of the main characters finds a way to captivate the audience and keep them reading. This book, written in the late 19th century, has all the elements that current suspense fiction is famous for. Murder, cover up, suspicion, adultry, jealousy, revenge; the list goes on and on.
Zola meets Dostoevski at Kafka's house Aug 24, 2006
This is one of the most violent novels ever written. As other novels in the Rougon-Macquart series focused on alcoholism or prostitution or politics or the artworld, this novel focuses on murder. It seems that every character here is some kind of murderer, that the entire human race consists either of murderers or potential murderers needing only the right spark to set off their explosions. The setting for Zola's story is the world of the Paris railroad, the neighborhood around the Gare St.Lazare, a fitting environment in which to place people who often seem more like mechanized murder-machines than well-rounded human beings. The power of this novel comes not from its realism but from its strangeness. It is, in its way, as bizarre as anything concocted by Hoffmann or Poe. This is where Zola's Naturalism comes full-circle and meets the Poe-esque terror of "Therese Raquin", Zola's early 'Naturalistic' ghost story. The conjunction gives this novel more of a Modernist feel than we usually find in Zola's work. I should also mention the prose. The publisher's choice of a Monet 'Gare St.Lazare' painting for the cover of this edition is fitting because Zola's prose here seems to be influenced by his own experience of Impressionist paintings. It seems that Monet and his cohorts taught Zola how to see and describe the modern world in a new way.
Trainspotting Jul 28, 2005
Jacques seems like a normal man from the outside, and judged by the standards of his contempraries he is. It's the Second Empire and as Zola has foreseen, the rise of the steam railway has created enormous changes in the fabric of the social order. To analyze this phenomenon more deeply, Zola hit on a lovely idea, to investigate the lives of those who work on the railroad and its linked industries. What he didn't expect was what he came up with, a clear link between sex murder and high speed railways. This link was to give rise within a few years of LA BETE HUMAINE's publication to the so-called "trunk murders." As Jacques realizes, trains make it possible to remove one of the awkward social reasons why men do not kill--because in general it was impossible to remove oneself from one's victim's body fast enough to avert suspicion. You coukd bury the body, but it could still be traced back to you. Now, in the 1880s, really all you had to do was put it on a train and science would steam it away from you at great rates of speed, putting infinite distances between you and your crime.
Agatha Christie took some elements of LA BETE HUMAINE and modernized them a bit in her 1950s thriller THE 4:20 FROM PADDINGTON. Both novels share the same surrealistic image--the murder seen framed in the window of a passing train that you see, so vividly, for one moment only, then it's gone as though it never happened. (Freudians interpret this discomfiture as another version of the so-called "primal scene.") Christie's murderer is a sort of updated Jacques, a man on whom the veneer of civilization is only as thick as his bank account and his convenience.
But, in LA BETE HUMAINE, if you think Jacques is badm wait till you meet up with Severine, the "heroine" of the book, a woman so bad she makes other noir protagonists look like Pollyanna. She is beautiful, selfish, conniving, self-absorbed and yet what makes her tick is her acute understanding of her social position and the way things get done, and undone, by forces we cannot control. The negotiation of such tricky, slippery moral slopes is something that a sociopath can handle with ease. No wonder this novel made such good "noir" movies later on, one by Renoir, one by Fritz Lang.
A thriller with depth May 3, 2005
In this book, Zola dives headlong into his fascination with "the human beast" by examining the psychology of murder. The novel is also a detailed portrait of the lives of railroad workers. The main character is Jacques Lantier, son of Gervaise Macquart (of L'Assomoir), a railroad engineer who works the line between Paris and Le Havre. Jacques feels a nagging compulsion to kill every woman he's attracted to. Fortunately, up to this point he has been able to control himself, but who knows how long he will be able to restrain the killer inside? Jacques is not the only character with murder on his mind; in fact, everyone in the book seems to be plotting to kill someone. Murder for love, murder for greed, murder for revenge are all represented. Zola has crammed so much violence and suspense into the plot, that on the surface he's written a fabulous piece of pulp fiction. Though the book pushes the boundaries of believability, it's also a fascinating study of human nature. The reader gains a window into the minds of the characters that reminds one of Poe's best tales. Underlying the criminal plot threads is a deeper level of social commentary, scientific inquiry, and philosophical debate. Zola shows how the rise of industrial technology contributes to the moral degeneration and dehumanization of the populace. He portrays Jacques' relationship with his engine as a symbiotic, almost romantic relationship. Meanwhile Jacques' Aunt Phasie and her family operate a crossing/switching station in the middle of nowhere, where their only interaction with the outside world comes in split-second views of nameless passengers being carted off to unknown destinations. While the railroad provides speed and convenience, it also generates social isolation and anonymity. Fans of Zola or readers of classical literature in general will certainly enjoy this book. Even fans of contemporary suspense fiction should find it entertaining and thought-provoking.
A Victim of Beastly Instincts Apr 15, 2004
There is something very profound in "La Bete Humaine/The Beast in Man", in spite of the fact that all of its characters have a very superficial mentality. Its scenes recreate very well the atmosphere of the late days of the Second Empire. Jacques Lantier is the main character, but the novel is not at all centered around him or his urge to kill women; only as late as chapter eight he attempts to commit a violent act and it is as late as chapter eleven that he does commit a violent act. The abundance of adultery, police incompetence, two single murders (chapters one and twelve), a multiple murder (chapter ten) both committed purely out of jealousy and an uxoricide committed out of greed all show the living environment and the morale of those days. Definitely, one of the major novels of the Rougon-Macquart series.