Brian Nelson’s choice of title for Zola’s novel—Pot Luck
—was truly a smart decision on his part. On the one hand, the title is a good reflection of the mixed bourgeois class—the families and servants—living in that Paris apartment building; yet, the title also reflects the effervescent style Zola used when he wrote this story. It’s like a pot that’s at a rolling boil. The story is full of energy...one scene easily flows into the next and is told with such energy that you don’t really get a chance to form a preference for one storyline over another. Each character and storyline is wickedly good, whether you’re attending one of M. Bachelard’s gastronomic extravaganzas, or waiting for one of Saturnin’s ironic murderous reflections, or whether you’re following one of the young Octave Moret’s attempts at balancing dream and desire, i.e. realize his business dreams while trying to catch a real Parisian woman.
is stuffed with ideas and themes, and even though there’s a lot of fun times on the surface, underneath there’s a lot of irony that exposes the hypocrisy, greed and squalor of the bourgeoisie. How Zola reveals this squalor, though, is truly masterful. The images, sights and smells he creates with his frank descriptions are so bleak!
Two of my favorite sections:
Octave and Trublot in one of the servant’s rooms: [Trublot] could not find his gloves; he shook the petticoats, turned the bedclothes inside out raising such a cloud of dust and such a fusty smell of dirty linen that Octave, half-choking, opened the window.
a Bachelard feast:All four looked at each other and chuckled. Their bellies distended to bursting-point, they slowly, selfishly proceeded to digest, like four worthy bourgeois citizens who had just enjoyed stuffing themselves away from family worries. It had cost a fortune, no one else was there to partake of it with them; no girl was there to take advantage of their relaxed mood; so they were able to unbutton and, as it were, lay their paunches on the table. With half-closed eyes, they at first refrained from speaking, each absorbed in his own personal bliss. Then, feeling completely free [...] they placed their elbows on the table, put their red faces close together and talked endlessly about women.