The heart of the Ventre de Paris – Emile Zola

Le Ventre de Paris, published in 1873, offers abundant descriptions of the city of Paris.

Here is one, found in chapter 1:

“Now he could hear the long roll that started from Les Halles. Paris was chewing up its two million inhabitants. It was like a great central organ beating furiously, throwing the blood of life into all the veins. Noise of colossal jaws, din made of the uproar of supply, from the lashings of the big dealers leaving for the neighborhood markets, to the dragging savages of the poor women going from door to door offering salads, in baskets.”

Émile Zola. The belly of Paris.

The Halles de Paris is the key place. They appear monstrous, and become almost a person in their own right, or as bounded above, a living heart.

As the title of the book indicates, the market and food are very present. Here, one will like the disproportion presented by Zola: to discuss a quarter of an hour for a penny.

“From the pavilion to the roadway, the coming and going of the hoods was animated, in the middle of the knocked heads, of the fat words, of the noise of the voices hoarse to discuss a quarter of an hour for a penny. And Florent was astonished by the calm of the market gardeners, with their madras and their tanned complexion, in this chattering chatter of the Halles.”

Émile Zola. The belly of Paris.

General Knowledge: the city