Unjustly deported to Devil's Island following Louis-Napoleon's coup-d'état in December 1851, Florent Quenu escapes and returns to Paris. He finds the city changed beyond recognition. The old Marché des Innocents has been knocked down as part of Haussmann's grand program of urban reconstruction, replaced by Les Halles, the spectacular new food markets. Disgusted by a bourgeois society whose devotion to food is inseparable from its devotion to the Government, Florent attempts an insurrection. Les Halles, apocalyptic and destructive, play an active role in Zola's picture of a world in which food and the injustice of society are inextricably linked.
This is the first English translation in fifty years of Le Ventre de Paris (The Belly of Paris). The third in Zola's great cycle, Les Rougon-Macquart, it is as enthralling as Germinal, Thérèse Raquin, and the other novels in the series. Its focus on the great Paris food hall, Les Halles--combined with Zola's famous impressionist descriptions of food--make this a particularly memorable novel. Brian Nelson's lively translation captures the spirit of Zola's world and his Introduction illuminates the use of food in the novel to represent social class, social attitudes, political conflicts, and other aspect of the culture of the time. The bibliography and notes ensure that this is the most critically up-to-date edition of the novel in print.
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The Belly of Paris
By Stephen Balbach - November 11, 2010
The Belly of Paris (French 1873; tr. Brian Nelson 2007) is one of the earlier works in Zola's 20-volume Rougon-Macquart series. It takes place in 1858 in the great Parisian food market of Les Halles. While the plot is somewhat anemic, the real strength is in the descriptions of Les Halles, its vendors and mainly the food itself. Vast quantities of food. Zola reaches levels of such lush detail to make one both ravenous, and nauseous with sights and smells before the age of refrigeration and knowledge of bacteria. On another level the novel is a satire of the greedy Bourgeois, or middle-class, which are depicted as the comfortable "fat people", in contrast to the revolutionary inclined and dangerous "thin people". Beneath the proper and upright middle class is a greedy animal driven by materialism, ready to stomp out threats to its creature comforts. Zola's criticism of the Bourgeois has both the particular historical interest of 19th century France, and universal timelessness. It's... read more
By M. Hannon "imveiled" - November 14, 2011
I picked this up after seeing it included on a 'great books about food' list. The descriptions of food are both divine and disgusting. The plot - revolution against the uppper class and the blind support of the upper class by those who struggle is timeless. I wonder if a screen play has ever been attempted. This one would translate beautifully to the screen!
Belly of Paris review
By Karen Korman "KKORMAN -BOOK LOVER" - March 11, 2012
Wonderfully evocative of the underpinnings of Paris - the language is marvelous - you can taste the food and experience it all.
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