Zola's Paris and the Novels of the Rougon-Macquart Series

Zola's novel Paris, concluding work of Les Trois Villes (1894-98), owes much to the novels of the Rougon-Macquart series in the way of characters, details, episodes and themes. Some of the characters are very close duplications of characters appearing in the earlier series, similar details are striking in their number and coincidence and the essential themes of the novel are nearly all familiar to the reader for having appeared in one or more of the Rougon-Macquarts, It is not clear whether these repetitions or duplications are due, in Paris, to fatigue on Zola's part or whether they are – more interestingly – the products of some powerful unconscious force akin to obsession. It is possible too that in this thesis novel, and Paris is clearly that, Zola put all his effort on the message he wished to convey and neglected the more purely novelistic aspects of the work for ideological considerations. But whatever their origin, these repetitions and imitations look very much like evidence of the decline of Zola's talent, particularly of his inventive power. (RJN)

Niess, Robert J
Volume 1975-1976 Fall-Winter; 4(1-2): 8-23.