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The Dream

September 8, 2013 on 7:38 am | In Dream Types | 3 Comments

The Dream by Emile Zola

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  1. Some day my prince will come In 880 A.D. or thereabouts an anonymous French monk took 29 lines to relate the virtuous life of Saint Eulalia. A thousand years later Zola took some 250 pages to update the story and add a wealth of naturalist and spiritual detail, which still makes it only half the usual length of his offerings. “The Dream/Le Rêve” is a fairy story written in response to outraged criticism of the “bestiality” of “The Earth/La Terre”. So, it is the one Zola book that it is safe to read to children at bedtime, especially if they have trouble going to sleep. As an introduction to the legends of the saints and a guidebook to the stone carvings on church doors it is first class. Pure in heart, morally uplifting and barely a whiff of hereditary vice, the book concocts for itself only the most tenuous of links with the Rougon-Macquart family, whose doings dominate this 20-novel saga, and then promptly buries the connection for the tale’s duration. If nothing else, “The Dream” proves that Zola is a versatile writer. Try reading it after “The Earth” and before tackling “The Beast In Man/La Bête Humaine” and then think about Shakespeare’s famous remark about what a many-splendoured work is man (meaning human beings in general).

    Comment by akompano — September 8, 2013 #

  2. Pure, idyllic grace Written as a “passport to the Academy,” this novel stands alone among the Rougon-Macquart series for its pure, idyllic grace. Angelique, a daughter of Sidonie Rougon (La Curee), had been deserted by her mother, and was adopted by a maker of ecclesiastical embroideries, who with his wife lived and worked under the shadow of an ancient cathedral. In this atmosphere the child grew to womanhood, and as she fashioned the rich embroideries of the sacred vestments she had a vision of love and happiness which was ultimately realized, though the realization proved too much for her frail strength…The vast cathedral with its solemn ritual dominates the book and colours the lives of its characters. (J. G. Patterson)

    Comment by Karl Janssen — September 8, 2013 #

  3. Fractured fairy tale Within Zola’s body of work, this odd little book sticks out like a sore thumb. A stylistic departure from Zola’s characteristic Naturalism, it reads almost like a fairy tale. Angelique, the illegitimate daughter of Sidonie Rougon, is adopted by a married couple in the town of Beaumont. Angelique learns the family trade, embroidering tapestries and vestments for the town’s cathedral. She grows up in the shadow of this thirteenth-century cathedral, leading the cloistered life of an artisan. Reading becomes her favorite recreation, and romantic tales of saints and ancient royalty fascinate her. Within the centuries-old walls of the family home and the adjacent garden, Angelique leads a peaceful, content existence which imbues her with innocence and naiveté. Her passage from childhood to womanhood is irrelevant to her and goes largely unnoticed, until a young man enters her life and inspires in her dreams of a future life beyond the garden walls.Angelique is such a likeable character that the reader really roots for her to succeed in achieving those dreams. One almost forgets how totally unbelievable the plot is. The book is a pleasant enough read, but utterly inconsequential. Upon finishing the book, one asks what’s the point? It adds little to the Rougon-Macquart series as a whole. Zola’s knack for descriptive thoroughness hits and misses in this book. His vivid depictions of the artisans’ home, their lifestyle, their trade and craft captivate the reader. His long lists of saints and kings, on the other hand, inspire fatigue. Anyone who is reading the entire Rougon-Macquart series obviously should and will read this book. Casual fans of Zola’s writing would probably do better to skip it.

    Comment by Anonymous — September 8, 2013 #

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