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Reviewed by:
  • La Fabrique des Rougon-Macquart: édition des dossiers préparatoires, VII: 'Le Rêve'. La Bête humaine'par Émile Zola
  • Robert Lethbridge
É mileZ ola, La Fabrique des Rougon-Macquart: édition des dossiers préparatoires, VII: 'Le Rêve'. La Bête humaine'. Publiés par C oletteB ecker. 2 vols. ( Textes de littérature moderne et contemporaine, 179.) Paris: Honoré Champion, 2017.1498 pp.

It is worth reminding ourselves of the scope of this monumental project, of which these latest volumes form a part and in which all research libraries should continue to invest. For its intended transcription of every single one of Zola's work-notes for the twenty volumes of his Rougon-Macquart provides unparalleled access to the creative process. It can be argued that such an instrument de travailis invaluable not merely for the Zola specialist. Scholars comparing different forms of literary invention will also find in this edition a very particular imaginative dynamic. The transcription of handwritten chapter outlines, character sketches, reading notes, systematic lists, and apparently insignificant jottings are all to be found here, as are hesitations, about-turns, reminders, crossings-out, and subsequent additions squeezed between the lines. The ubiquity of the personal pronoun directing ideas brings us up close to an authorial monologue. On facing pages are photographic reproductions of the original manuscripts, including drawings, floor plans of fictional abodes, and the co-ordinates of intersecting streets, testimony to an acute spatial awareness informing the architectural conception of so many of Zola's novels. It is now some fifteen years since the appearance of the first volume of this edition (see French Studies, 62 (2008), 221; 63 (2009), 481–82; 69 (2015), 103). With this through-paginated double volume, devoted to the sixteenth and seventeenth novels of Zola's series, its completion is almost in sight. One suspects, however, that the most enormous of all his preparatory dossiers, that of La Débâcle, may require a volume of its own. Those using this resource will need to bear in mind that much of the hard work remains to be done. For the edition simply reproduces the work-notes in the rather disorganized state in which they were originally bound, when Zola's papers were acquired by the Bibliothèque nationale after his death. The most authoritative general account reconstructing for each novel both the approximate order of, and the relationship between, planning segments, remains that provided by Henri Mitterand in the Pléiade critical edition of Les Rougon- [End Page 301]Macquart (Paris: Gallimard, 1960–67). Over the last half-century, however, much more detailed studies of the genesis of virtually every novel in the series have allowed us to read their preparatory notes in sequence, starting with the ébaucheand progressing, stage by stage, to the final plans immediately preceding the drafting of each chapter. It is somewhat curious, therefore, that none of the volumes in this edition offer any such signposting, nor even a bibliography of where such guidance can be found. Instead, as in volume VI, there is a brief prefatory essay, reprinted from long ago and again mostly relating to Germinal, which contains not a single reference to either Le Rêveor La Bête humaine. It would be helpful if the final volume of this project were to include an appendix directing researchers to the scholarship essential to negotiating Zola's preparatory notes for each of his novels.

Robert Lethbridge
Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge

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Additional Information

ISSN
1468-2931
Print ISSN
0016-1128
Pages
pp. 301-302
Launched on MUSE
2019-05-17
Open Access
No
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