The Fortune of the Rougons, Paperback

The Fortune of the Rougons Paperback

Part of the Oxford World's Classics series

4 out of 5 (1 rating)


'He thought he could see, in a flash, the future of the Rougon-Macquart family, a pack of wild satiated appetites in the midst of a blaze of gold and blood.' Set in the fictitious Provencal town of Plassans, The Fortune of the Rougons tells the story of Silvere and Miette, two idealistic young supporters of the republican resistance to Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte's coup d'etat in December 1851. They join the woodcutters and peasants of the Var to seize control of Plassans, opposed by the Bonapartist loyalists led by Silvere's uncle, Pierre Rougon. Meanwhile, the foundations of the Rougon family and its illegitimate Macquart branch are being laid in the brutal beginnings of the Imperial regime. The Fortune of the Rougons is the first in Zola's famous Rougon-Macquart series of novels.

In it we learn how the two branches of the family came about, and the origins of the hereditary weaknesses passed down the generations. Murder, treachery, and greed are the keynotes, and just as the Empire was established through violence, the 'fortune' of the Rougons is paid for in blood. ABOUT THE SERIES: For over 100 years Oxford World's Classics has made available the widest range of literature from around the globe.

Each affordable volume reflects Oxford's commitment to scholarship, providing the most accurate text plus a wealth of other valuable features, including expert introductions by leading authorities, helpful notes to clarify the text, up-to-date bibliographies for further study, and much more.


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Classic fiction (pre c 1945)
  • ISBN: 9780199560998



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The Fortune of the Rougons was both the first book written and the first in internal chronology of Zola's 20-volume Rougon-Macquart cycle. It tells of the origins of the Rougon and Macquart families, as well as the beginnings of France's Second Empire in 1851.The novel begins with the late-night secret rendezvous of two teenage lovers in a secluded cemetery. Silvère, a 17-year-old apprentice coachmaker, 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 languorous and reluctant walk in the winter moonlight to describe at length the town of Plassans, its people and its surroundings. (Plassans is based on Aix-en-Provence.) Much to their surprise and delight, when they have strayed several miles from Plassans, the two children encounter the very column of republicans whom Silvère has planned to join. Armed with scythes, pitchforks and a few ancient muskets, they march together, singing the Marseilles, into Plassans. Zola now digresses to give a lengthy history of the family of Adélaïde Fouque, a woman given to strange attacks of the nerves and to unconventional behavior. Inheriting her father's substantial farm, Adélaïde suprises Plassans by marrying a simple peasant named Rougon. She gives him one son, Pierre, before Rougon dies. Adélaïde then begins an affair with a smuggler named Macquart and gives birth to two illegitimate children before Macquart is killed. This sets up a conflict between the two lines: the Rougons: legitimate but somewhat tainted, grasping for wealth and bourgeois respectability; and the Macquarts: passionate and impulsive, nursing a bitterness not only against the legitimate Rougons but against all authority. They and their descendants will people all twenty of the Rougon-Macquart novels, a series which chronicles in parallel the crimes and foibles of the Second Empire.Returning to the present we find the Rougons and the Macquarts on opposite sides of the political divide. Pierre Rougon has sided with the reactionaries and is scheming to use the uprising to serve his personal ambitions. Silvère, a descendant of the Macquart line, has, of course, joined the peasants and laborers who will strive in vain to restore the Republic. The contrast between the two leaves no doubt where Zola's sympathies lay.But Zola's stated purpose in writing The Fortune of the Rougons and its sequels is to study human personality and behavior as it is shaped by two factors: heredity and environment. He doesn't describe his characters as "good" or "evil," but rather as the inevitable end result of the factors that went into their making. Zola's notions of human psychology and heredity are both archaic and simplistic by modern standards, but this detracts very little from the value of the novel."For a moment he thought he could see, in a flash, the future of the Rougon-Macquart family, a pack of wild, satiated appetites in the midst of a blaze of gold and blood." With this teaser, Zola gives us a foretaste of the Rougon-Macquart novels he had yet to write. The Fortune of the Rougons serves as both a standalone novel and as an introduction to what is to come. Zola does introduce a number of characters who will become significant only in later volumes, and his true masterpieces were yet to come, but The Fortune of the Rougons is worthwhile on its own.

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