I love classic literature, and sometimes Hollywood agrees with me. Recently, there is buzz surrounding a new movie version of Jane Erye. I’ll probably go to see it at the theatre because I enjoy a good bodice-ripper every now and then. Still, I can’t help but think of other great classics that remain trapped on the printed page. One that comes to mind is the French masterpiece, Germinal, by Emile Zola.
Written in 1885, this moving tale of a small village and its dependence on the dangerous mining industry is eerily relevant to today’s class struggles. The human condition never seems to improve over centuries; we make the same mistakes over and over again. Nonetheless, the novel is so poignantly descriptive that I was moved to tears more than once.
Although the human trials and tribulations are indeed disturbing, the fate of the mining horses caused me to weep a torrent of tears. Zola gives voice to these poor animals–one horse in particular named Bataille–and it is the saddest tale I’ve read in a long time. How cruel we humans can be to each other, but to submit our miseries and disregard on innocent animals is all too much for my tender heart!
Ah, well. If you’re up for a great story from another country in another time, then Germinal is one you should read. It is gritty and unsentimental in every aspect, including what passes for love. It also serves as a reminder of why we need unions today.