The Blue Bookcase!
The question this week comes from Readerbuzz (Salut, Debbie Nance, j'aime ta question!):
What is the most difficult literary work you've ever read? What made it so difficult?
Great question, and what an easy one for me to answer! When I first read the question, I was like, "hmmmm....I don't know....." And then it hit me.
Zola. Emile Zola.
I took a Zola class last semester. We read two of his books (en francais, of course): Le ventre de Paris (in English it's The Belly of Paris, or sometimes it's translated something like The Fat and the Skinny, lol), and L'Assommoir (which I think is usually just translated with the same title..). Those were BY FAR the hardest books I've ever read.
It could be because they were in French, but I beg to differ. I've been reading French literature for a long time now. It could possibly have been his writing style + the French. You see, Zola is what you might call a "naturalist". Or at least an old fashioned naturalist who thought that personality traits were passed on from a woman's first lover to all her future kids, no matter if he was their father or not. And other strange stuff which I don't feel like getting into.
Zola also loved to describe things. Vividly. At first, this is really nice. But there are only so many times you can read about all the different colors of the flowers and meats and people and vegetables in the market, only so many times you can tolerate the smells of the cheese shops and meat markets, only so many times you can stand to read about the different blood puddings and pig intestines in the meat shop. And definitely there are only so many times that you can bare to hear about one woman's slow (and I mean S-L-O-W) descent into alcoholism. Oh the bad choices she made.
Don't get me wrong, I really liked the books (for the most part) and will probably be reading more Zola soon (for my own pleasure, not for school). Once I'm finally over the "Semester of Gervaise and les Quenu", I hope I can start over with Zola.
"Hey Emile," I'd like to say.
"Can we start over? I feel we've gotten off on the wrong foot. I want to give this a second chance."
"Ah oui, bien sur".
And then everything will be just spiffy.
And what's really funny is that I can totally see myself someday doing a huge long dissertation on the symbolism in Zola, because you could write a book about all of it. The color of the water near the dyeshop, the differences in skinny and fat people and how their lives are so drastically different based on their belly sizes (Zola wasn't saying that being skinny or round was bad, mind you. It was a sort of subtle way of showing the social differences between two classes of people after the Revolution and that other Revolution and that other Revolution and...yeah, you get the point.).
What I'm trying to say is that the books were insanely a lot to take in in just one semester. I went a little crazy because of them and all the stuff inside of them. There is so much to each of them and I'd like to spend more time disecting them both. If you want to read Zola, you have to be prepared to take your time and possibly pull out your hair every once in a while. Because for real, Gervaise sometimes just needs to grow up.
And that was my super long rant about Emile Zola. Wow. I feel like a heavy weight that I've been carrying on my shoulders since last semester has finally lifted.