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“He thereupon handed the flag to one of the other insurgents and quitted the ranks, almost carrying the girl in his arms…”
The Fortune of the Rougons originally published in 1871, is the first novel in Émile Zola's monumental twenty-volume series Les Rougon-Macquart.
Zola wrote the Rougon-Macquart series as a history of France’s Second Empire of Napoleon III (1852 to 1870).
The novel begins with the late-night secret rendezvous of two teenage lovers in a secluded cemetery. Silvère, a 17-year-old apprentice coach-maker, has come to take a final stroll with 13-year-old Miette before he leaves to join the insurgents who are protesting the coup d'état in which Louis Napoleon has overthrown the French republic and proclaimed himself emperor.
Zola uses their walk in the winter moonlight to set the stage and describe at length the town of Plassans, its people and its surroundings.
Much to their surprise and delight, when they have strayed several miles from Plassans, the two teens encounter the very column of fighters whom Silvère has planned to join.
Armed with scythes, pitchforks and a few ancient muskets, they march together, singing the Marseilles, into Plassans.
In a satisfyingly vast and intricate plot, the fates and fortunes of the disparate descendants of one Provencal family are traced in detail.
Zola brilliantly recreates the chaos and confusion of the coup d’état: the older generation is venal; the younger generation naive and doomed.
Its publication sparked such notoriety that it quickly turned into a best seller, and it has long ruled as a classic of French literature.
EMILE ZOLA (1840 –1902) was a French writer, a major figure of the literary school of naturalism and an important contributor to the development of the modern novel. Zola was nominated for both the first and second Nobel Prize in Literature in 1901 and 1902.