M Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction and Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel and post Colonial Asian Fiction are some of my Literary Interests

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Wednesday, July 24, 2013

"The Boot Polishing Virgin" by Emile Zola (from Parisian Sketches, 1880)


Emile Zola is among the greats of European literature.   My favorite, of the four of his many novels I have read, is Nana.     There are twenty novels in his monumental saga of French life, The Rougen Macquart Cycle.  I think a reading of these novels in publication order would be a great reading experience.  I could not let Paris in July come to an end without posting on a story by Zola.  (You can buy for $2.99 an  e book  English edition of the complete works of Zola). 

"The Boot Licking Virgin", taken from a set of four set in Paris short stories, Parisian Sketches, is pretty much a near for its time r rated account of an man raving on to himself about how one of his young female  household staff looks  when she is sleeping.  His first focus of attention is on her "large alabaster bust" which he can glimpse a bit.   The desired female body type, we see this in other writers of 19th century France, was heavier than today and she is described as "plump".  At the end of the story a conversation between the man and the young woman makes me wonder if she is still a virgin.  One of her duties was to polish the boots of the household.   The ending is interesting.  There are no innocents in Zola's Paris.  
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I enjoyed this story for the same reasons its first readers probably did.  Zola has much better work than this O. Henryist story, but it was fun to read.  I think the next Zola novel I read will be The Ladies Paradise, set in  a Paris department store. 


This is my third year as a participant in the Paris in July Reading Event hosted by Book Bath and Thyme for Tea.   I find this a very interesting and creative event of the sort that helps build the book blog community.  You will find  lots of reading ideas on the host blogs.  I am greatly enjoying participating in this event.  It has motivated me to revisit the work of some of the true giants of European literature, Marcel Proust, Guy de Maupassant, Andre Gide, Honore Balzac and today Zola.  I plan to next post on a short story by Anatole France.

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