By Émile Zola

Si les contes et nouvelles de sa jeunesse frappent par leur fantaisie, les textes rassemblés dans ce quantity, parus entre 1875 et 1899, font de Zola, à l'égal d'un Maupassant, l'un des maîtres de l. a. nouvelle naturaliste, et l'un des maîtres de los angeles nouvelle tout courtroom. Tantôt librement inspirées de faits divers rapportés dans l. a. presse d'alors (L'Inondation), tantôt proches de l'étude sociale (Comment on meurt) ou de los angeles satire pittoresque - Les Coquillages de Monsieur Chabre est un petit chef-d'oeuvre d'amoralité sur le thème de l'adultère -, ces narrations donnent à voir le romancier en vacances, libéré du poids des théories, tout entier livré au plaisir d'écrire. Le résultat est souvent étonnant: explorant l. a. veine fantastique, Zola conte dans Angeline l'histoire d'une maison hantée; dans los angeles Mort d'Olivier Bécaille, ce sont ses propres obsessions qu'il dévoile, à travers l'angoissante aventure d'un homme enterré vivant... Qu'ils soient célèbres, comme L'Attaque du moulin qui figura en tête du recueil naturaliste des Soirées de Médan, ou injustement tombés dans l'oubli, ces récits constituent une lecture quintessential pour tous ceux qui croient connaître l'auteur des Rougon-Macquart.

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Extra info for Contes et nouvelles (1875-1899) : Tome 2

Sample text

He mounts the horse and whips it into action. The magic horse flies him to the roof of another palace and, as the dervish dismounts, the horse lashes out with its tail, striking out his right eye. The dervish finds that he has been brought back to the palace of the ten one-eyed men. His story has been a warning to the curious. It is as if the storyteller is teasing the audience, saying to them: ‘Beware. ’ Also, perhaps, the interdiction ‘Whatever you do, do not do this’ acts as a kind of dam, slowing the narrative stream of the plot.

As soon as the newcomer had sat down, a huge dust-devil appeared in the middle of the desert, clearing away to show the ‘ifrit with a drawn sword in his hand and sparks shooting from his eyes. ’ The merchant sobbed and wept, while the three old men shed tears, wailed and lamented. ’ The ‘ifrit agreed to do this if he found the story marvellous, AND SO THE OLD MAN BEGAN HIS TALE: Know, ‘ifrit, that this gazelle is my cousin, my own flesh and blood. I married her when she was still young and stayed with her for thirty years without her bearing me a child.

The storytellers had only a slight interest in the lives of the fellahin or peasants (though there are a few stories about them). Beyond the walls of the city of the storytellers lay mostly wasteland and desert, populated by huntsmen, woodcutters, bandits and ghuls. The storytellers and their listeners rarely ventured beyond the city and into the desert. It was rarely that they entered a palace, and never its harem; certainly they never visited the Valley of Diamonds or the Island of Waq-Waq with its trees bearing human fruit.

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