Saturday, 24 October 2015

Nana - a lady of our times

I've just finished Nana. It's hard to know where to begin to describe it. A sprawling masterpiece is a good start. It's incredibly graphic - loaded with promiscuous sex - it is gluttonous, full of angst and revenge - Nana could be perceived as a shallow and vacuous character if you read this book alone and don't understand where she came from so I'd recommend L'Assommoir first - I'd also read about her brother in Germinal -

Nana is very contemporary - a quite insignificant character with no discernible talent on the surface, yet she reaches the very top of society. In one sense she is a whore - a street prostitute - a promiscuous vapid tramp - in another she is the ultimate libertarian- a goddess - she uses her powerful sexuality to destroy men and make her fortune - somewhere deep inside her she is avenging her mothers misery and abject poverty - she is a working class warrior who uses her sex as a weapon of mass destruction against the sneering snobs of the "society" set.

Zola is known as the Dickens of France -this is a disservice to Zola- his writing is far greater - none of his characters are cartoon like - they are real - and messy - no one is going to come along and rescue these poor souls - I've found that Dickens sat on the fence politically - Zola doesn't - he loathes the 2nd Empire - he loathes the greed and injustice- he reaches into mythology and creates a Helen of Troy for Paris and France .....Zola writes of her sex as ...."a tiny slit, unmentionable and yet possessing the power to shift world's" ...that's her vagina if you haven't quite grasped it .....

All 400 plus pages are utterly compelling - the newly rebuilt Paris, the one we know today of rich wide boulevards, is the glamorous and seedy setting of this brilliant brilliant book which though written in 1880 is very much of today ....

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