The great and prolific novelist Emile Zola's fame rests far too much on just one and a half words: J'accuse.
And that doesn't come from one of his novels.
You know those people who are effortlessly successful at everything they do? Well, Zola wasn't one of them. He failed the exams he needed to get into Law School, and then worked as a clerk (he ended up running the publicity department of the publisher Hachette) while writing reviews and being less than enthusiastic about the man who was first president, then emperor, of France, Napoleon III (those were interesting times).
Zola was interested in writing realistically (perhaps his passion for photography was linked with this) and half his novels (that's about twenty) form the Rougon-Macquart series about the lives of two families in the mid 1800s. Most of the books are set in Paris, but Germinal is set in the poverty-stricken mining villages of Northern France.
Germinal is an amazing read. It reminded me of DH Lawrence to begin with, but the society of Village 240 makes Lawrence's people look positively soft, straight-laced and pallid. Above all, if there's a book that demonstrates that the human spirit will survive (though not unscathed) in conditions close to those of Hell, then this is it.
Do you like dystopian books? Well, Germinal presents a truly horrifying dystopia which claims, at least, to be as close as a novel can get to reality. It addresses issues of politics, class, progress, mechanisation, heredity and sexual equality.
And it's a simply tremendous read.
Word To Consider Today: Germinal. Germinal was the name of the seventh month of the French Revolutionary Calendar, which was in Spring. The word is connected with germination, which comes from the Latin germen, bud.