Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Joyce & Zola: Salacious & Scintillating

 After two fascinating concurrent lectures, one common theme leapt from the warm, dark lecture theatre. Sensationalism. The ramblings of Joyce (Ulysses) and the drama of Zola (Germinal) both seek to evoke a strong reaction from their readers.You can taste the bile of both writers; the novels are bold and uncompromising.

They strip away convention and etiquette and expose what they believe to be the harsh reality of the world. I think of dipping into Ulysses, like a child dipping into a huge tub of chocolate ice cream; it’s messy but good. I enjoy the raw semantics, the crude depiction of war, sex and suppression. Both Novels convey a powerful message and create allegories for social injustice. Ulysses’ modernist style permits the idea of liberty, the freedom of the writing and the freedom of the thought. Much of the novel reads like a stream of consciousness, the voice of the novel is heard through the imagery; Joyce paints us a picture of the time. Zola does the same, rather than using the voices of the characters to tell the story, he uses the suffering and the hardship of their lives to show the audience who his characters are. The writing in both novels has clear inspiration from the time they were created.

Germinal (1885) has a clear motivation to reveal the oppression of capitalism, the influence of Carl Marx has a clear voice. The ‘iron fist inside the velvet glove’ is what is keeping Germinal’s characters from reasonable living conditions. Zola’s character Etienne provides an insight into the world of the proletariat. The struggle for a voice under suppression. Throughout the novel, the conditions of the miners worsen and the result can only be a strike, where they can use the only strength they have, numbers.

This inevitable revolt is an example of the dialectic theory; synthesis Hegel defined as the result of a thesis and an antithesis co-existing; the synthesis is the consequence, in this case a strike.

Germinal’s title refers to the name of a month in the French Republican Calendar, a spring month, as ‘German’ derives from the Latin word meaning ‘seed’, the novel describes the hope for a better future, Zola plants a seed he hopes will grow into realisation of the need for change.

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