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This book was converted from its physical edition to the digital format by a community of volunteers. You may find it for free on the web. Purchase of the Kindle edition includes wireless delivery.

30 review for La d�b�cle

  1. 4 out of 5

    Edward

    Introduction Note on the Translation Select Bibliography A Chronology of Émile Zola The Franco-Prussian War and the Commune Maps The Fictional Characters --La Débâcle Explanatory Notes

  2. 4 out of 5

    Jan-Maat

    Underfed soldiers are led apparently haphazardly about Northern France. At one point on their continual marching they see Napoleon III on horseback, the make-up not able to hide that he is dying of cancer and as such a symbol of the second empire on horseback - slowly dying but trying to cover things up with a brightly painted exterior. Eventually the Germans put them all out of their misery. As this is part of Zola's great cycle several of the main characters are related to characters in other Underfed soldiers are led apparently haphazardly about Northern France. At one point on their continual marching they see Napoleon III on horseback, the make-up not able to hide that he is dying of cancer and as such a symbol of the second empire on horseback - slowly dying but trying to cover things up with a brightly painted exterior. Eventually the Germans put them all out of their misery. As this is part of Zola's great cycle several of the main characters are related to characters in other books and the family resemblances and inherited characteristics are significant. However it's not essential to have read any other work by Zola to enjoy this book.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Bettie

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b07zv3gp Description: Adelaide Fouque (Dide) is 104 years old, trapped in her small room in the local asylum, but omniscient as she broods over her extended family. As a young woman, she gave birth to two dynasties that exemplified French society - one legitimate, rich, powerful, obsessive and corrupt; the other illegitimate, poor, vulnerable, weak and depraved. France is on the brink of a new Empire. Her family is a turbulent mix of the good, the bad and the http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b07zv3gp Description: Adelaide Fouque (Dide) is 104 years old, trapped in her small room in the local asylum, but omniscient as she broods over her extended family. As a young woman, she gave birth to two dynasties that exemplified French society - one legitimate, rich, powerful, obsessive and corrupt; the other illegitimate, poor, vulnerable, weak and depraved. France is on the brink of a new Empire. Her family is a turbulent mix of the good, the bad and the misguided. Damaged by a lifetime of seizures and her mind scarred by trauma but Dide cannot forget her family. "What did I bring into this world? Wolves... I have raised a family of Wolves... I have watched their years. I will tell their story. Crime by crime. Blood by blood." The Rougon-Macquart saga, themed around Blood, Sex and Money, is a mash-up of Zola's 20 novels, drawing us into 19th century France and the tragic, farcical reign of Napoleon III, as it marches forward towards a modern, industrialised society. Episode 1: Crash: Dide engages in a desperate bid to stop daughter-in-law Félicité Rougon's unscrupulous plans to make the family the ultimate in wealth and politics in all of France. Meteoric rise and spectacular fall of Aristide Rougon, whose wild money making speculations in 19th century France are almost an exact mirror of the money markets of today. As he struggles with Bourse, Dide starts to hatch a plan to get out and reveal the truth about the Rougon Macquart evil deeds to the world. Dide Glenda Jackson Aristide Samuel West Caroline Frances Grey Felicite Fenella Woolgar Episode 2: Massacre: In a radical re-imagining of Zola's classic novel Germinal, the powerful Rougon brothers - Eugene and Aristide - become embroiled in a volatile miners' strike in North East France, whilst their grandmother plots her escape from the asylum at Tulettes. Dide Glenda Jackson Eugene Robert Jack Aristide Samuel West Etienne Richard Fleeshman Episode 3: Trapped: Continuing our radical re-imagining of Zola's classic novel Germinal, following the violent collapse of the Montsou miners' strike, Etienne Lantier heads back to work determined to find love where revolution has failed. As his great grandmother contemplates the true nature of struggle, Etienne faces a greater reckoning than he could ever have imagined. Dide Glenda Jackson Etienne Richard Fleeshman Catherine Sally Messham Chaval Philip Correia Souvarine Raad Rawi Episode 4: Swindle: Return of the award winning series. Double Oscar winning actress Glenda Jackson, with Pippa Heywood and Mathew Horne lead this wonderfully wicked episode. Jackson stars as the 104 year old matriarch trapped in a lunatic asylum, whilst her relatives wreak havoc in their greedy endeavours to acquire and make money. Sidonie, takes in her orphaned niece, Pauline, and manages to siphon off her considerable fortune. Dide Glenda Jackson Sidonie Pippa Heywood Actor Mathew Horne Pauline (younger) Sydney Wade Pauline (older) Gracie Kelly Episode 5: Inheritance: First of a two part drama set in the depths of rural France where families fight over ownership of land, and the earth takes precedence over humanity. An unflinching and gritty account of rural life in 19th century France, inspired largely by Zola's novel The Earth. Dide Glenda Jackson Jean Matthew McNulty Lise Angela Griffin Francoise Emma Rigby Fouan David Schofield Episode 6: Reap: Concluding part of drama set in the depths of rural France where families fight over ownership of land, and the earth takes precedence over humanity. Francoise lies dying on her farm, after being attacked by her cousin and sister, husband and wife, Buteau and Lise. An unflinching and gritty account of rural life in 19th century France, inspired largely by Zola's novel The Earth. Dide Glenda Jackson Fouan David Schofield Lambourdieu David Schofield Jean Matthew McNulty Lise Angela Griffin Buteau Jason Done Francoise Emma Rigby Jesu Danny Kirrane Episode 7: Fate: Two Rougon brothers, Eugene and Aristide, head to Prussia. One on a diplomatic mission to prevent war, one chasing an arms deal. When their worlds clash, the repercussions are monumental. Dide Glenda Jackson Eugene Robert Jack Aristide Samuel West King of Prussia John Bett Episode 8: Apocalypse: The forces of Blood, Sex and Money come to violent fruition in the author's visceral exploration of the Franco Prussian War. Precipitated in the corridors of power, the war is for ordinary men to fight. Land worker Jean Macquart returns to the army where he makes an unlikely emotional connection with a young soldier under his command. Meanwhile, his Grandmother is on the brink of escape from the asylum at Tulettes. Dide Glenda Jackson Jean Matthew McNulty Maurice Luke Newberry Pascal Jonathan Tafler Henriette Karen Bartke Weiss Stephen Critchlow Episode 9: Dide escapes from the asylum and sets about stopping daughter-in-law Félicité Rougon's unscrupulous plans to make the family rule supreme in wealth and politics across France. Her third grandson, Pascal, unites his scientific research with her family memories to publish a book that will blow the whistle on all the appalling misdeeds and weaknesses of Dide's family line. But Félicité will stop at nothing to prevent publication. When Pascal falls in love, to his great surprise, Félicité finds a chink in his armour - with disastrous results. Dide Glenda Jackson Felicite Fenella Woolgar Antoine Adrian Scarborough Pascal Jonathan Tafler Clotilde Elizabeth Boag Mayor David Bamber Available on Gutenberg Opening: In the middle of the broad, fertile plain that stretches away in the direction of the Rhine, a mile and a quarter from Mulhausen, the camp was pitched. In the fitful light of the overcast August day, beneath the lowering sky that was filled with heavy drifting clouds, the long lines of squat white shelter-tents seemed to cower closer to the ground, and the muskets, stacked at regular intervals along the regimental fronts, made little spots of brightness, while over all the sentries with loaded pieces kept watch and ward, motionless as statues, straining their eyes to pierce the purplish mists that lay on the horizon and showed where the mighty river ran.

  4. 5 out of 5

    William2

    This is superb. A historical novel about the astonishing failure of the French at Sedan on Prussia's 1870 invasion. I've read it two or three times, and will read it again. What greater praise can there be than that?

  5. 4 out of 5

    Cphe

    Normally not prone to leaving five star reviews but this one was warranted. This novel deals with the events of the Franco - Prussian War. Delves into the incompetence of the leaders and the impact on soldiers engaged on the front line. Fascinating look at how the campaign was fought, the enormity of the conflict for the common man, the horror of war. Quite a stirring and poignant read. Went into this without any expectations, not having read the author before. From the Guardian 1000 list.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Jim

    Emile Zola takes as his subject one of the most searing moments in French history: The defeat at Sedan in the abortive Franco-Prussian War, followed by the Paris Commune, in which the inhabitants of Paris, in effect, rose up and nullified the Versailles government under Adolphe Thiers. The action is seen through the eyes of two soldier friends, Jean Macquart and Maurice Levasseur. Although the breadth of the subject matter makes it difficult for The Debacle not to appear to be too diffuse, Zola Emile Zola takes as his subject one of the most searing moments in French history: The defeat at Sedan in the abortive Franco-Prussian War, followed by the Paris Commune, in which the inhabitants of Paris, in effect, rose up and nullified the Versailles government under Adolphe Thiers. The action is seen through the eyes of two soldier friends, Jean Macquart and Maurice Levasseur. Although the breadth of the subject matter makes it difficult for The Debacle not to appear to be too diffuse, Zola never loses the thread of his story. We see the massive confusion and demoralization of the badly-led French Army; the precision with which the Germans under von Moltke defeated them utterly; the cruelty of the occupation; and the fury of the Communards as they responded to the defeat by burning down Paris. This is not an easy book to read, as Zola does not avoid describing in full the horrors of war and rebellion. Yet I think it stands as one of the greatest books about war ever written.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Phrodrick

    Emile Zola's La Debacle is his heavily researched novel about the sudden and complete failure of the French effort to win the Franco Prussian war. Sudden and complete failure being a text book definition of a debacle and hardly a spoiler. The war itself is generally understood to be the result of German Chancellor Bismarck’s plan to create a German, Protestant State firmly under the leadership of Prussia. That France let itself be so maneuvered is a question Zola will not address. In fact, it Emile Zola's La Debacle is his heavily researched novel about the sudden and complete failure of the French effort to win the Franco Prussian war. Sudden and complete failure being a text book definition of a debacle and hardly a spoiler. The war itself is generally understood to be the result of German Chancellor Bismarck’s plan to create a German, Protestant State firmly under the leadership of Prussia. That France let itself be so maneuvered is a question Zola will not address. In fact, it was France that declared the war. France was so certain of victory that the included notes tell us the field army was only issued maps of Germany. The failure of French Arms and leadership was such that the entire war lasted barely a year. After many years of research, some say 20, Zola wrote La Debacle as his summation of the war with a coda that covers the proportionally bloody and failed Commune. Fair warning this is not going to be a light read. If you have little patience with male-centric military fiction you are going to miss a miss a well told tale, but your patience will not have been tried. The novel is told in 3 very distinct parts. Part I, we meet the squad that will be the main focus of the novel. Part II is the Battle of Sedan and Part III the aftermath of battle ending with the failed revolution in Paris known as the Commune. The infantry squad, a tiny unit in the7th Army Corps who will largely people the characters of the novel we meet our central characters. Former farmer, experienced soldier, Jean Macquart who ties this book to the rest of Zola’s Rougan-Macquart series. Educated and emotional new recruit Maurice Levasseur who will become a brother in arms to Jean And what will become the usual collection of people who are the rest of the squad. Along the way we will interact with a few civilians including Henriette, twin sister to Maurice who will have something like a romance with Jean. Given the title and the history it is not a spoiler to say that the book is fatalistic in tone. Zola, or this translator (Elinor Donday) makes frequent use of the term illusion which will become a foreshadowing of the next disaster. We share the exhaustion of the soldiers marched and counter marched to no consistent plan (Part I) lead into the death trap of Sedan (Part II) and left to struggle for animal level survival as the remnant of a crushed army in a country that has lost faith in its government (Part III). I have not the depth to be certain, but there is much about this novel that strikes me as somewhat new in war novel. His research is detailed. Perhaps too much so. Zola is reporting events he was alive to see, but he was a reporter and was not present for these events. This is the army at war from the trench line not as fought by lone heroes, or clever officers. In fact, anyone over the rank of Colonel can be assumed to be useless, by nature or by the inflexibility of the French command structure. This is an army of the people, giving us something like what will become the typical cross section of society to be found in Battle Cry or the Naked and the Dead. The tone is clearly anti-war and while hardly nationalistic, it is also anti-communist. A theme one cannot expect to find in earlier war novels. The graphic depiction of battle field hospitals, the mistreatment of prisoners and the brutality of occupation are also topics for which I can cite no precedence, but at much more likely to be found in later novels. For all the argued parallels with Tolstoy’s War and Peace, the Count’s war is almost antiseptic compared with Zola’s. Then again Zola was an early adopter of Naturalism and such unblinking narrative could be expected. Having mentioned that Le Debacle may have been too well researched, Zola gives us a realistic grunts view of the confusion and frustrations of fighting a lost cause. He also includes side skirmishes and related details not always necessary for the plot. Perhaps because of his research he had heard numerous times that the outcome was obvious. Perhaps this led him to have too many characters clearly envisioning the looming disaster. Why and how could the generals be so inept? The raw recruits seemed to see it all at a glance. Everyone except the commander knew that Sedan was a death trap. Everyone else knew exactly which escape route needed to be held so that a better defense was possible. The initial response to Le Debacle was outrage that a person, Zola who could have volunteered and in fact avoided the war and much of the after math could be this critical. As the French absorbed that they had been failed, this became the top selling of Zola’s books. It may not be the best modern war, or anti-war novel, but is among the first.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Laura Leilani

    Wow, this was great. This has to be one of the best books ever written that describes what it's like to be in a war. War and Peace was a mess compared to this. How can people prefer War and Peace over this work? The characters are believable, the story is very simple, but the descriptions of the conditions are downright unforgettable. The book does a fantastic job of showing you how deeply people feel when put in life and death situations where their country, beliefs and entire way of life are Wow, this was great. This has to be one of the best books ever written that describes what it's like to be in a war. War and Peace was a mess compared to this. How can people prefer War and Peace over this work? The characters are believable, the story is very simple, but the descriptions of the conditions are downright unforgettable. The book does a fantastic job of showing you how deeply people feel when put in life and death situations where their country, beliefs and entire way of life are at stake. This translation was by Leonard Tancock and it was fantastic. The beauty and soul of Zolas writing were really captured. The book reads like poetry, if you know what I mean.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth (Alaska)

    Zola was an admirer of Balzac and wanted to write a similar collection of novels as La Comédie humaine of his hero, but he was unable to quite see how to do it. When the Second Empire of Napoleon III fell in 1870-71, Zola was able to finally formulate his plan. He began with the coup d'etat in 1848 with his The Fortune of the Rougons and wrote through to the collapse of the Empire with La Débâcle. Yes, there is one more in the series, Le Docteur Pascal - I don't expect the drama, but rather a Zola was an admirer of Balzac and wanted to write a similar collection of novels as La Comédie humaine of his hero, but he was unable to quite see how to do it. When the Second Empire of Napoleon III fell in 1870-71, Zola was able to finally formulate his plan. He began with the coup d'etat in 1848 with his The Fortune of the Rougons and wrote through to the collapse of the Empire with La Débâcle. Yes, there is one more in the series, Le Docteur Pascal - I don't expect the drama, but rather a "wrapping up." One of Zola's strengths (and he had many!) was his ability to portray a scene of multitudes. As Cecil B. DeMille did in film, Zola did with his pen. If our great captains sleep soundly the night before a battle, it is like enough for the reason that their fatigue will not let them do otherwise. He was conscious of no sound save the equal, deep-drawn breathing of that slumbering multitude, rising from the darkening camp like the gentle respiration of some huge monster; beyond that all was void. He only knew that the 5th corps was close at hand, encamped beneath the rampart, that the 1st's line extended from the wood of la Garenne to la Moncelle, while the 12th was posted on the other side of the city, at Bazeilles; and all were sleeping; the whole length of that long line, from the nearest tent to the most remote, for miles and miles, that low, faint murmur ascended in rhythmic unison from the dark, mysterious bosom of the night. Then outside this circle lay another region, the realm of the unknown, whence also sounds came intermittently to his ears, so vague, so distant, that he scarcely knew whether they were not the throbbings of his own excited pulses; the indistinct trot of cavalry plashing over the low ground, the dull rumble of gun and caisson along the roads, and, still more marked, the heavy tramp of marching men; the gathering on the heights above of that black swarm, engaged in strengthening the meshes of their net, from which night itself had not served to divert them. Someone has written that this is one of the great war novels of all time. It is the story of the Franco-Prussian war. The novel is broken into three parts. The first is set in the days before the great battle of the Sedan. The second part is the battle itself, in which Napoleon III was so defeated that he surrendered. The final part takes place over the several months of the aftermath, where France - and especially Paris - descended into a civil war. This period was indeed, a debacle. While I think the novel starts slowly, Zola's great prose made sure that I never wanted to leave it. It is not all multitudes, by any means. Zola's characters are strongly written and with emotion. I have said elsewhere that in a few years I might pick up the more recent translations. Though I have no intention of reading them all, this is one I hope I can get to again.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Abi

    When I think of war novels, I'm inexorably drawn towards the literature of WWI. Maybe because I've studied them more, maybe because it was the first genuinely modern war, a naive continent wrenched into the brutality of the twentieth century. It's relatively easy to forget that the Great War doesn't have the monopoly on modern European war literature. It seems such a unique experience, at that time when warfare was changing forever, but of course the seeds of those changes in warfare are to be When I think of war novels, I'm inexorably drawn towards the literature of WWI. Maybe because I've studied them more, maybe because it was the first genuinely modern war, a naive continent wrenched into the brutality of the twentieth century. It's relatively easy to forget that the Great War doesn't have the monopoly on modern European war literature. It seems such a unique experience, at that time when warfare was changing forever, but of course the seeds of those changes in warfare are to be found in the conflicts of the 19th century. The Franco-Prussian War never really featured in my imagination with regards to war literature. If I'm honest, I really knew next to nothing about it this time last year. Which is fairly disgraceful, I suppose, but I'm not French or German so the most I'd heard of it was as a small foreign policy blip that Gladstone had to respond to. La Debacle infinitely expanded my understanding of the period, but was also just a great war novel, complete with all the themes I was well familiar with from WWI literature. There were hopelessly incompetent generals, strong male bonds, frustration and futility, lots of gore, misguided patriotic optimism, tragic loss of life; all the things that make up the universal tragedy of war, especially a war fought by an ill-equipped, ill-organised and ill-prepared side against an enemy who was far stronger and more efficient than they had anticipated. There is the defeat of the old-fashioned methods at the hands of modern techniques (the cavalry are gunned down, light brigade style, when they are used at all), the useless and incapacitated Emperor powerless to save his Empire, French glory is well and truly decapitated; the debacle is not just a military defeat, it is the driving into the dust of the French nation and the Second Empire. The country must be rebuilt from scratch at the end of the novel. France learned early the lessons that would be beaten into most of the rest of Europe in 1914 (although they don't seem to have profited much by them). Some of it was a little overblown, in typical French style (Maurice and Jean: just-friends status far more questionable than Frodo and Sam), and Zola also threw in plenty of soap opera style plotlines to keep it from being just a dry military chronicle. Some of the characters are somewhat two-dimensional, often conforming to easily recognisable moral types, but Zola is anything but ham-fisted and the simplified stereotyping didn't jar. It did, however, in my opinion, prevent the novel from being deeply moving and achieving its emotional potential. It was an entertaining (although the detailed descriptions of the movements of various army corps around various villages were a little hard to follow) and informative read, and overall I think that as historical novels go, this is a very fine one.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Teresa

    The catastrophe of the Franco-Prussian war according to Zola. Even if I went to a French school and I did learn about this war, it is only reading this book that I have realised what it meant for France and its people, as well as for Napoleon III. Zola mercilessly describes the chaos and lack of organisation inside the French army (compared to the efficiency of Prussia), during and before the war. It particularly concentrates on the battle of Sedan, a battle when it became clear that France was The catastrophe of the Franco-Prussian war according to Zola. Even if I went to a French school and I did learn about this war, it is only reading this book that I have realised what it meant for France and its people, as well as for Napoleon III. Zola mercilessly describes the chaos and lack of organisation inside the French army (compared to the efficiency of Prussia), during and before the war. It particularly concentrates on the battle of Sedan, a battle when it became clear that France was going to lose. The novel has also its fair amount of personal drama through the lives of Maurice (a young and idealistic bourgeois) and Jean (the farmer who was also one of the main characters of The Earth), and their tragic friendship. Despitemy lack of enthusiasm for Military History, I enjoyed this book and it is certainly among the best of the saga.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Jenny

    I found the first two sections of this novel slow at times. But the third and final section, as well as the powerful ending, make the slow development of the friendship between Jean and Maurice worthwhile. Covers the brief Franco-Prussian war and its horrific aftermath in Paris. A window into the continually complex French history, teeter-tottering between monarchy and republicanism, and the divide between Paris and the countryside, as seen within a family and a friendship.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Robert French

    On my mother's side, my great grandparents emigrated to the United States in the 1870's. Family stories implied that they emigrated before and possibly because of the Franco-Prussian War. They may also have left to avoid family members from being drafted into the Prussian Army. I recently did some additional research and understand that the conscription of every male Prussian of military age in the event of mobilization was enacted by Albrecht von Roon, the Prussian Minister of War in 1860s. On my mother's side, my great grandparents emigrated to the United States in the 1870's. Family stories implied that they emigrated before and possibly because of the Franco-Prussian War. They may also have left to avoid family members from being drafted into the Prussian Army. I recently did some additional research and understand that the conscription of every male Prussian of military age in the event of mobilization was enacted by Albrecht von Roon, the Prussian Minister of War in 1860s. This was probably the basis for the immigration of my great grandfather. I have always wanted to read more about the Franco-Prussian War, but there is a serious lack of books both in English and even on the shelves. La Débâcle is one of the few books including novels that I have been able to locate about this time in European history. Ironically the novel La Débâcle is from the French side, and my ancestors were from the winning side. They were from near Bavaria. I even have some interesting old photographs of my grandfather in a traditional Bavarian military style uniform (and he was living in the U.S. at that time). After starting to read the novel, I realized I needed a lot more information and historical background, so I am putting it on the shelf for now and have ordered Geoffrey Wawro's book The Franco-Prussian War: The German Conquest of France in 1870-1871.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Aaron Arnold

    Last year I read Germinal, which was about post-Second Empire coal miners struggling to survive the Industrial Revolution. This volume (#19 of 20) of the Rougon-Macquart universe is set a bit earlier, beginning in 1870 right before the fatal blow to Napoleon III's reign at the infamous Battle of Sedan and finishing at the climax of the Paris Commune. Most of the book is taken up by a sort of buddy movie starring two ordinary French soldiers suffering through the poor organization and even worse Last year I read Germinal, which was about post-Second Empire coal miners struggling to survive the Industrial Revolution. This volume (#19 of 20) of the Rougon-Macquart universe is set a bit earlier, beginning in 1870 right before the fatal blow to Napoleon III's reign at the infamous Battle of Sedan and finishing at the climax of the Paris Commune. Most of the book is taken up by a sort of buddy movie starring two ordinary French soldiers suffering through the poor organization and even worse planning of the Emperor's ill-starred war with Prussia, following the nonsensical marches and countermarches as the leadership desperately tries to confront the devastating foreign invasion. Zola has a real gift for taking ragged peasant characters and placing them through all sorts of dramatic events without losing sight of their human qualities, and I really enjoyed the climactic ending with the two at the barricades of Paris. It's interesting to compare Zola to other French writers; I haven't read very many at all, but even though the book is part of Zola's grand cycle and filled with portentous philosophizing about all sorts of things, he almost never stoops to the level of using people as simple allegorical sock puppets the way that Victor Hugo does (though I also enjoyed Hugo). I've got two more of the series (#7 L'Assommoir and #14 L'Oeuvre) and maybe I will try to finish the whole icosology someday.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Greg

    I read the Penguin Classics edition, translated by Leonard Tancock, which, I will admit, gave me the liberty to refer to the title as "The Debacle," which I appreciated, as my tongue doesn't work very well in French. The Tancock translation works fine, but it did seem a little rigid at times; the Penguin version of GERMINAL goes by without any effort at all, so I was surprised when I had to work through parts of this book. Maybe the Oxford version is better? Someone recommended this novel as I read the Penguin Classics edition, translated by Leonard Tancock, which, I will admit, gave me the liberty to refer to the title as "The Debacle," which I appreciated, as my tongue doesn't work very well in French. The Tancock translation works fine, but it did seem a little rigid at times; the Penguin version of GERMINAL goes by without any effort at all, so I was surprised when I had to work through parts of this book. Maybe the Oxford version is better? Someone recommended this novel as being the "greatest war novel ever written." I won't go that far in praise of it, but I will go pretty far. As historical fiction goes, THE DEBACLE is tough to top. Zola is so good. The book, too, isn't a bad way to gather an understanding of just what in the world happened in Europe in the 1860s and seventies - how the French Republican tradition become solidified, and how the stage for the Thirty Years War of the 20th century was already set in important ways by 1871. France was intent upon humiliating Germany at Versailles, but their reasons for it didn't all come from what happened between 1914 and 1918. That motivation went back further.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Fanda Kutubuku

    Only second after Germinal, The Debacle is the best war novel I've read so far.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Skip

    Anyone with romantic notions of war might want to read this book to be purged of such a misled notion. War is horror, it is filth, with those fighting being thrown away, as if their lives had no meaning except to be used as a piece on a board by politicians, military people, whatever, whomever. The people who put on their wars should be taken out and shot before they have a chance to do their damage; the slaughter and killing of innocent people. Zola also takes us directly into the Commune, Anyone with romantic notions of war might want to read this book to be purged of such a misled notion. War is horror, it is filth, with those fighting being thrown away, as if their lives had no meaning except to be used as a piece on a board by politicians, military people, whatever, whomever. The people who put on their wars should be taken out and shot before they have a chance to do their damage; the slaughter and killing of innocent people. Zola also takes us directly into the Commune, immediately following the 1870 war with Germany. He tells why the Commune began, how it continued, as well as the madness that ensued. Zola's description of the the view from the Seine River the night Paris was burning, is worth the price of the book. I came away from reading this book with the horrid way people act, their inhumanity toward each other.

  18. 4 out of 5

    David C Ward

    An historical novel about the Franco Prussian War, with a coda about the Commune and the destruction of Paris. It effectively ends Zola’s great cycle about the second empire. It doesn’t really work as a novel because it’s packed with too much military detail, both general strategy and the details of army life. The central relationship is the friendship between Jean and Maurice, forged in combat across class lines, and their survival as comrades. Other family members in and around Sedan, the site An historical novel about the Franco Prussian War, with a coda about the Commune and the destruction of Paris. It effectively ends Zola’s great cycle about the second empire. It doesn’t really work as a novel because it’s packed with too much military detail, both general strategy and the details of army life. The central relationship is the friendship between Jean and Maurice, forged in combat across class lines, and their survival as comrades. Other family members in and around Sedan, the site of france’s disastrous defeat, are also involved. The civil war of the commune is treated as France tearing itself apart after the shame of both the defeat and the degeneracy caused by the Empire. Naturally Jean kills Maurice almost by accident during the fighting in Paris. Maurice had become an almost unhinged Communard, while rhe stoic peasant Jean does his duty.

  19. 4 out of 5

    R.K. Cowles

    3 1/2 stars

  20. 5 out of 5

    Anna

    'The Debacle' is Zola’s account of 1870 and 1871, a painful period for France. It is, however, still not as traumatic to read as Germinal, which one doesn’t so much read as attempt to survive. When I started to read 'The Debacle', I was hopeful that it would dwell on the Paris Commune, which I am fascinated by. Sadly, this is not the case and the majority of the narrative concerns the Franco-Prussian war, which France lost in a spectacularly disastrous fashion. Nevertheless, it paints an 'The Debacle' is Zola’s account of 1870 and 1871, a painful period for France. It is, however, still not as traumatic to read as Germinal, which one doesn’t so much read as attempt to survive. When I started to read 'The Debacle', I was hopeful that it would dwell on the Paris Commune, which I am fascinated by. Sadly, this is not the case and the majority of the narrative concerns the Franco-Prussian war, which France lost in a spectacularly disastrous fashion. Nevertheless, it paints an incredibly vivid portrait of that war and of the chaos it caused. Zola never hesitates to depict the gruesome wounds, casual cruelties, and arbitrary horrors that ensued. The Franco-Prussian war prefigured WWI in a sense, as it involved new technologies that caused appalling casualty levels, cavalry already appeared obsolete, and civilians were killed by urban bombings. For much of the first half of the novel, the narrative clings quite tightly to Maurice and Jean, two soldiers forced to march hither and yon by a series of confused and incompetent generals. They and the rest of the army around them are tired, hungry, annoyed, and have yet to see a Prussian, let alone fight one. When they do finally engage the enemy, the battle is brutal and catastrophic. This first half of the book does, however, cement the strong bond of friendship between Maurice and Jean, which is crucial to the remainder of the narrative. In the latter part, the two of them appear more and more like symbols of two tendencies in French national character. Perhaps these could be generalised as rural and urban, though that would be an oversimplification. Jean is sensible, stolid, tough, and essentially conservative, whilst Maurice’s mental state would today invite a diagnosis of bipolar disorder. Both are capable of incredibly courageous acts, as well as strong solidarity with each other. They are also capable, however, of bitter conflict. I think they work better as archetypes than characters for much of the book, which I do not mean as a criticism. This is an epic novel of immense events, so to focus on ordinary soldiers rather than commanders invites such an approach. The reader is nonetheless invested in Maurice and Jean’s struggle to survive. The secondary characters are also an interesting bunch, often demonstrating the damaging secondary effects war has on widowed women, bankrupted business owners, traumatised children, and horses. Zola has a great deal of sympathy, which makes his depiction of horrors all the more powerful. As for Zola’s perspective on the Commune, which he was in Paris for, it is very much that of someone who saw it as a further stage of the war tearing France apart, rather than anything politically significant. He dwells on the horrific manner of the Commune’s fall, and the vicious reprisals that followed, rather than what it was trying to do. The earlier siege of Paris is also largely passed over, as the point of view during that period is left with characters in the countryside, worrying about the capital but unable to get news. Compared to Germinal, and the rest of his oeuvre according to the introduction, this is a novel as commentary on specific historical events rather than as more general social commentary. The introduction also reinforced my feeling that it had been very carefully researched using the accounts of witnesses to events. 'The Debacle' was first published only 21 years after the events depicted. Zola is an extraordinary writer and he certainly brings the war to life, albeit without the focus on the Paris Commune that I would have liked. Still, this emphasises an important point - to the rest of France, the wider war was the immediate and significant concern, not upheaval in Paris. The Commune took place during a siege and thus had a certain insularity. Still fascinating, though.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Charles Puskas

    Well-researched historical fiction on the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71 by a great French novelist, Emile Zola (Germinal). It was written 23 years after the event and the author read a stack of accounts and was able to interview some eyewitnesses. His fictional and quasi-historical characters help you to empathize with those (military and civilian) who experienced this tragic war and its aftermath which was an indirect cause of WW I. Many of his favorite characters suffer or die as he narrates Well-researched historical fiction on the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71 by a great French novelist, Emile Zola (Germinal). It was written 23 years after the event and the author read a stack of accounts and was able to interview some eyewitnesses. His fictional and quasi-historical characters help you to empathize with those (military and civilian) who experienced this tragic war and its aftermath which was an indirect cause of WW I. Many of his favorite characters suffer or die as he narrates each battle and scene with great descriptive detail. Although the author, Zola, believed that the leadership of the Commune was incompetent and that their cause was futile from the start(and of course he was greatly saddened by the conflagration of Paris!). He did provide some rationale for the creation of the Commune: despair over a poorly fought war, dissatisfaction with the current incompetent government leadership, Franco-German oppression, utopian hopes for a better France, even having Maurice (one central character) join forces with them against the Thiers government. Jean, the main character (and close friend of Maurice), remains with the Thiers army stationed in Versailles. Jean and Maurice's sister, who carry on despite great suffering, are two examples of hero and Henriette, heroine for Zola. I enjoy historical fiction especially with literary merit, as in this case by a first-rate novelist. The Oxford classics edition (annotated) is replete with helpful maps, chronology, a list of characters and helpful endnotes (by Robert Lethbridge). British English translation by Elinor Dorday was "bloody good." Helpful also are the following aids and resources: Geoffrey Wawro's The Franco-Prussian War (Cambridge, 2003), a good map of Paris showing all the arrondissements for the final conflict in Paris, and the DVD film "La Commune" (Paris, 1871) by Peter Watkins (2001).

  22. 5 out of 5

    J.M. Hushour

    The penultimate novel in Zola's Les Rougon-Macquart is one of the rare ones I found uninteresting to a certain degree. More than any other of the twenty novels of the series, here Zola immerses himself in his meticulous attention to historical detail. This is arguably necessary from the point of view of his goal writ large: to portray the downfall and final, disastrous end of the Second Empire and Napoleon III. So, yes, yes, he has to cover the endless marches across northern France, Sedan and The penultimate novel in Zola's Les Rougon-Macquart is one of the rare ones I found uninteresting to a certain degree. More than any other of the twenty novels of the series, here Zola immerses himself in his meticulous attention to historical detail. This is arguably necessary from the point of view of his goal writ large: to portray the downfall and final, disastrous end of the Second Empire and Napoleon III. So, yes, yes, he has to cover the endless marches across northern France, Sedan and its horrors, with a rushed final act discussing both far-removed and in-thy-face the stupidity of the Commune and the government reaction to it. As a work of fiction of this kind, with a clear social and historical goal, one can expect a certain degree of this kind of thing, the detail and misplaced characterization which fixates on the 7th Corps as a whole while most of its individual foci are bland and soulless. Jean Macquart (of "La Terre") and his subordinate Maurice are the real soul of the book and Zola doesn't spend nearly enough time on them. When he does, the novel shines. Throw in Maurice's twin sister, Henriette, whose husband gets shot in the face by Prussians, and you've got the whole, holy triumvirate of Marianne, the peasant, and the mad-dog revolutionary with a heart of gold. Their story was what I liked the most and their ill-fated and ill-timed resolution at the end was outstanding. Don't misunderstand: much of the historical bits detailing the horror of the siege of Paris, the virtual garrison prison of Sedan, and the little terrible things here and there that occur in the heat and wake of battle, were just great. But as a literary whole, the book tends to peak and trough.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Mike Clinton

    I went through an arc with this book, which started out slow and uneventful; it must have been Zola's purpose, though, to convey the plodding and desultory sense of aimlessness and helplessness that affected the French soldiers in the lead-up to Sedan. The intricacies of the various sub-plots, the grand sweep and nuances of the historical scenes, the predicaments and personalities of the characters,the vivid and forceful language Zola uses all engrossed me, though, and I became drawn in and I went through an arc with this book, which started out slow and uneventful; it must have been Zola's purpose, though, to convey the plodding and desultory sense of aimlessness and helplessness that affected the French soldiers in the lead-up to Sedan. The intricacies of the various sub-plots, the grand sweep and nuances of the historical scenes, the predicaments and personalities of the characters,the vivid and forceful language Zola uses all engrossed me, though, and I became drawn in and compelled by the story in the way that great novels can do with readers. Even before the end of the first part, I experienced that excitement of looking forward to the next chapter while at the same time not wanting to press on so quickly that the pleasure of reading ended before I wanted it to. For me, that's the best measure of how much I enjoy a book. Still, the last two chapters were so melodramatic, preachy, and contrived that it diminished the book somewhat in my estimation. I understand that this was a grand ending not just to the book but to the entire Rougon-Macquart series, but I was still disappointed with it. I'm still ranking the book itself with 5 stars, though.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Aurimas Novikovas

    So far the finest selection of French literature. Although I`ve enjoyed many novels written by Zola, Proust, Hugo and others, this piece of literature seems to be the best. If you look into it from the point of view of criticism, La Débâcle is undeniably strong. If you look into it from the aesthetic point of view, the book moves one more than one might expect. E.Zola did a huge research and depicted the maybe ugliest French war in a very precise and fine way. Characters are also exciting, So far the finest selection of French literature. Although I`ve enjoyed many novels written by Zola, Proust, Hugo and others, this piece of literature seems to be the best. If you look into it from the point of view of criticism, La Débâcle is undeniably strong. If you look into it from the aesthetic point of view, the book moves one more than one might expect. E.Zola did a huge research and depicted the maybe ugliest French war in a very precise and fine way. Characters are also exciting, surely, it`s not a surprise if one knows what E.Zola was writing all his life. Part 3 of the novel, I suppose, might be considered as one of the greatest pieces of literature. Unexpectedly fine. Those who are sensitive and "too kind", please, beware the aggressiveness of the book. Goddamn, it`s maybe the first time when I only praise the text and don`t see any weaknesses...

  25. 5 out of 5

    Gill

    Book 19 of the Rougon Maquart series. I skim-read this, so I'm marking it as unfinished rather than as read. I think it would have been of great interest to its French audience at its time of publication, not many years after the FrancoPrussian war. I enjoyed reading about several characters who had appeared in earlier books in the series. I skimmed very quickly through the parts relating to actual battles. In fact the main violence, comes in a nonbattlefield sequence. Only 1 book to go!

  26. 4 out of 5

    The Idiot

    Definitely in my top 5 books of all time and probably my number one.

  27. 5 out of 5

    T.

    Zola has a way of making me feel that he has personally experienced everything he writes about. This is a depressing but fascinating look at 1870 France during the Prussian war. Fascinating.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Steve Gordon

    A fascinating look at the Franco-Prussian War through the eyes, mostly, of Jean Macquart. My only irritation was Zola's seeming to make the Communards the villains of the fall of Paris.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Lucy

    Brilliant but horrible.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Eadweard

    Very good historical fiction.

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