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Emile Zola

A Penn State Electronic Classics Series Publication Nana by Emile Zola is a publication of the Pennsylvania State University. This Portable Document file is furnished free and without any charge of any kind. Any person using this document file, for any purpose, and in any way does so at his or her own risk. Neither the Pennsylvania State Uni-versity nor Jim Manis, Faculty Editor, nor anyone associated with the Pennsylvania State University assumes any responsibility for the material contained within the document or for the file as an electronic trans-mission, in any way.

Nana by Emile Zola , the Pennsylvania State University, Electronic Classics Series, Jim Manis, Faculty Editor, Hazleton, PA 18201-1291 is a Portable Document File produced as part of an ongoing student publication project to bring classical works of literature, in English, to free and easy access of those wishing to make use of them.

Student Editors: Matt Bouis, Patty Haggerty Cover Design: Matt Bouis

Copyright © 2000 The Pennsylvania State University The Pennsylvania State University is an equal opportunity university.



ter were audible above a continuous hubbub of voices, and heads in women’s and workmen’s caps were ranged, row above row, under the wide-vaulted bays with their gilt-surrounding adornments. Every few seconds an attendant by

would make her appearance, bustling along with tickets in her hand and piloting in front of her a gentleman and a Emile Zola

lady, who took their seats, he in his evening dress, she sitting slim and undulant beside him while her eyes wandered CHAPTER I

slowly round the house.

Two young men appeared in the stalls; they kept standing and looked about them.

AT NINE O’CLOCK in the evening the body of the “Didn’t I say so, Hector?” cried the elder of the two, a house at the Theatres des Varietes was still all tall fellow with little black mustaches. “We’re too early!

but empty. A few individuals, it is true, were sit-You might quite well have allowed me to finish my cigar.” ting quietly waiting in the balcony and stalls, but these were An attendant was passing.

lost, as it were, among the ranges of seats whose cover-

“Oh, Monsieur Fauchery,” she said familiarly, “it won’t ings of cardinal velvet loomed in the subdued light of the begin for half an hour yet!”

dimly burning luster. A shadow enveloped the great red

“Then why do they advertise for nine o’clock?” mut-splash of the curtain, and not a sound came from the stage, tered Hector, whose long thin face assumed an expression the unlit footlights, the scattered desks of the orchestra. It of vexation. “Only this morning Clarisse, who’s in the piece, was only high overhead in the third gallery, round the domed swore that they’d begin at nine o’clock punctually.” ceiling where nude females and children flew in heavens For a moment they remained silent and, looking upward, which had turned green in the gaslight, that calls and laugh-scanned the shadowy boxes. But the green paper with which 3


these were hung rendered them more shadowy still. Down

“There you are; you’re beginning again!” cried Fauchery, below, under the dress circle, the lower boxes were buried casting up his arms. “Ever since this morning people have in utter night. In those on the second tier there was only been dreeing me with Nana. I’ve met more than twenty one stout lady, who was stranded, as it were, on the vel-people, and it’s Nana here and Nana there! What do I know?

vet-covered balustrade in front of her. On the right hand Am I acquainted with all the light ladies in Paris? Nana is and on the left, between lofty pilasters, the stage boxes, an invention of Bordenave’s! It must be a fine one!” bedraped with long-fringed scalloped hangings, remained He calmed himself, but the emptiness of the house, the untenanted. The house with its white and gold, relieved by dim light of the luster, the churchlike sense of self-absorp-soft green tones, lay only half disclosed to view, as though tion which the place inspired, full as it was of whispering full of a fine dust shed from the little jets of flame in the voices and the sound of doors banging—all these got on great glass luster.

his nerves.

“Did you get your stage box for Lucy?” asked Hector.

“No, by Jove,” he said all of a sudden, “one’s hair turns

“Yes,” replied his companion, “but I had some trouble to gray here. I—I’m going out. Perhaps we shall find get it. Oh, there’s no danger of Lucy coming too early!” Bordenave downstairs. He’ll give us information about He stifled a slight yawn; then after a pause: things.”

“You’re in luck’s way, you are, since you haven’t been at a Downstairs in the great marble-paved entrance hall, where first night before. The Blonde Venus will be the event of the the box office was, the public were beginning to show them-year. People have been talking about it for six months. Oh, selves. Through the three open gates might have been ob-such music, my dear boy! Such a sly dog, Bordenave! He served, passing in, the ardent life of the boulevards, which knows his business and has kept this for the exhibition sea-were all astir and aflare under the fine April night. The son.” Hector was religiously attentive. He asked a question.

sound of carriage wheels kept stopping suddenly; carriage

“And Nana, the new star who’s going to play Venus, d’you doors were noisily shut again, and people began entering know her?”

in small groups, taking their stand before the ticket bureau 4


and climbing the double flight of stairs at the end of the the young man’s measure at a glance. But Hector returned hall, up which the women loitered with swaying hips. Unhis scrutiny with deep interest. This, then, was that der the crude gaslight, round the pale, naked walls of the Bordenave, that showman of the sex who treated women entrance hall, which with its scanty First Empire decora-like a convict overseer, that clever fellow who was always tions suggested the peristyle of a toy temple, there was a at full steam over some advertising dodge, that shouting, flaring display of lofty yellow posters bearing the name of spitting, thigh-slapping fellow, that cynic with the soul of a

“Nana” in great black letters. Gentlemen, who seemed to policeman! Hector was under the impression that he ought be glued to the entry, were reading them; others, standing to discover some amiable observation for the occasion.

about, were engaged in talk, barring the doors of the house

“Your theater—” he began in dulcet tones.

in so doing, while hard by the box office a thickset man Bordenave interrupted him with a savage phrase, as be-with an extensive, close-shaven visage was giving rough comes a man who dotes on frank situations.

answers to such as pressed to engage seats.

“Call it my brothel!”

“There’s Bordenave,” said Fauchery as he came down At this Fauchery laughed approvingly, while La Faloise the stairs. But the manager had already seen him.

stopped with his pretty speech strangled in his throat, feel-

“Ah, ah! You’re a nice fellow!” he shouted at him from a ing very much shocked and striving to appear as though he distance. “That’s the way you give me a notice, is it? Why, enjoyed the phrase. The manager had dashed off to shake I opened my Figaro this morning—never a word!” hands with a dramatic critic whose column had consider-

“Wait a bit,” replied Fauchery. “I certainly must make able influence. When he returned La Faloise was recover-the acquaintance of your Nana before talking about her.

ing. He was afraid of being treated as a provincial if he Besides, I’ve made no promises.”

showed himself too much nonplused.

Then to put an end to the discussion, he introduced his

“I have been told,” he began again, longing positively to cousin, M. Hector de la Faloise, a young man who had find something to say, “that Nana has a delicious voice.” come to finish his education in Paris. The manager took

“Nana?” cried the manager, shrugging his shoulders. “The 5


voice of a squirt!”

good points, by heaven!—something which is as good as The young man made haste to add:

all the other things put together. I’ve smelled it out; it’s

“Besides being a first-rate comedian!” deuced pronounced with her, or I’ve got the scent of an

“She? Why she’s a lump! She has no notion what to do idiot. You’ll see, you’ll see! She’s only got to come on, with her hands and feet.”

and all the house will be gaping at her.” La Faloise blushed a little. He had lost his bearings. He He had held up his big hands which were trembling un-stammered:

der the influence of his eager enthusiasm, and now, having

“I wouldn’t have missed this first representation tonight relieved his feelings, he lowered his voice and grumbled to for the world. I was aware that your theater—” himself:

“Call it my brothel,” Bordenave again interpolated with

“Yes, she’ll go far! Oh yes, s’elp me, she’ll go far! A the frigid obstinacy of a man convinced.

skin—oh, what a skin she’s got!”

Meanwhile Fauchery, with extreme calmness, was look-Then as Fauchery began questioning him he consented ing at the women as they came in. He went to his cousin’s to enter into a detailed explanation, couched in phraseol-rescue when he saw him all at sea and doubtful whether to ogy so crude that Hector de la Faloise felt slightly dis-laugh or to be angry.

gusted. He had been thick with Nana, and he was anxious

“Do be pleasant to Bordenave—call his theater what he to start her on the stage. Well, just about that time he was wishes you to, since it amuses him. And you, my dear fel-in search of a Venus. He—he never let a woman encumber low, don’t keep us waiting about for nothing. If your Nana him for any length of time; he preferred to let the public neither sings nor acts you’ll find you’ve made a blunder, enjoy the benefit of her forthwith. But there was a deuce that’s all. It’s what I’m afraid of, if the truth be told.” of a row going on in his shop, which had been turned topsy-

“A blunder! A blunder!” shouted the manager, and his turvy by that big damsel’s advent. Rose Mignon, his star, a face grew purple. “Must a woman know how to act and comic actress of much subtlety and an adorable singer, was sing? Oh, my chicken, you’re too stoopid. Nana has other daily threatening to leave him in the lurch, for she was fu-6


rious and guessed the presence of a rival. And as for the sallow pallor on their faces and silhouetted their short black bill, good God! What a noise there had been about it all! It shadows on the asphalt. Mignon, a very tall, very broad had ended by his deciding to print the names of the two fellow, with the square-shaped head of a strong man at a actresses in the same-sized type. But it wouldn’t do to fair, was forcing a passage through the midst of the groups bother him. Whenever any of his little women, as he called and dragging on his arm the banker Steiner, an exceed-them—Simonne or Clarisse, for instance—wouldn’t go the ingly small man with a corporation already in evidence and way he wanted her to he just up with his foot and caught a round face framed in a setting of beard which was alher one in the rear. Otherwise life was impossible. Oh yes, ready growing gray.

he sold ‘em; he knew what they fetched, the wenches!

“Well,” said Bordenave to the banker, “you met her yes-

“Tut!” he cried, breaking off short. “Mignon and Steiner.

terday in my office.”

Always together. You know, Steiner’s getting sick of Rose;

“Ah! It was she, was it?” ejaculated Steiner. “I suspected that’s why the husband dogs his steps now for fear of his as much. Only I was coming out as she was going in, and I slipping away.”

scarcely caught a glimpse of her.” On the pavement outside, the row of gas jets flaring on Mignon was listening with half-closed eyelids and ner-the cornice of the theater cast a patch of brilliant light.

vously twisting a great diamond ring round his finger. He Two small trees, violently green, stood sharply out against had quite understood that Nana was in question. Then as it, and a column gleamed in such vivid illumination that Bordenave was drawing a portrait of his new star, which one could read the notices thereon at a distance, as though lit a flame in the eyes of the banker, he ended by joining in in broad daylight, while the dense night of the boulevard the conversation.

beyond was dotted with lights above the vague outline of

“Oh, let her alone, my dear fellow; she’s a low lot!

an ever-moving crowd. Many men did not enter the the-The public will show her the door in quick time. Steiner, ater at once but stayed outside to talk while finishing their my laddie, you know that my wife is waiting for you in cigars under the rays of the line of gas jets, which shed a her box.”



He wanted to take possession of him again. But Steiner He disappeared, enchanted at having fired his public. Mi-would not quit Bordenave. In front of them a stream of gnon shrugged his shoulders, reminding Steiner that Rose people was crowding and crushing against the ticket of-was awaiting him in order to show him the costume she fice, and there was a din of voices, in the midst of which was about to wear in the first act.

the name of Nana sounded with all the melodious vivacity

“By Jove! There’s Lucy out there, getting down from of its two syllables. The men who stood planted in front of her carriage,” said La Faloise to Fauchery.

the notices kept spelling it out loudly; others, in an interIt was, in fact, Lucy Stewart, a plain little woman, some rogative tone, uttered it as they passed; while the women, forty years old, with a disproportionately long neck, a thin, at once restless and smiling, repeated it softly with an air drawn face, a heavy mouth, but withal of such brightness, of surprise. Nobody knew Nana. Whence had Nana fallen?

such graciousness of manner, that she was really very And stories and jokes, whispered from ear to ear, went the charming. She was bringing with her Caroline Hequet and round of the crowd. The name was a caress in itself; it was her mother—Caroline a woman of a cold type of beauty, a pet name, the very familiarity of which suited every lip.

the mother a person of a most worthy demeanor, who Merely through enunciating it thus, the throng worked it-looked as if she were stuffed with straw.

self into a state of gaiety and became highly good natured.

“You’re coming with us? I’ve kept a place for you,” she A fever of curiosity urged it forward, that kind of Parisian said to Fauchery. “Oh, decidedly not! To see nothing!” he curiosity which is as violent as an access of positive unrea-made answer. “I’ve a stall; I prefer being in the stalls.” son. Everybody wanted to see Nana. A lady had the flounce Lucy grew nettled. Did he not dare show himself in her of her dress torn off; a man lost his hat.

company? Then, suddenly restraining herself and skipping

“Oh, you’re asking me too many questions about it!” to another topic:

cried Bordenave, whom a score of men were besieging

“Why haven’t you told me that you knew Nana?” with their queries. “You’re going to see her, and I’m off;

“Nana! I’ve never set eyes on her.” they want me.”

“Honor bright? I’ve been told that you’ve been to bed 8


with her.”

the way with their deeply flounced skirts, and Nana’s name But Mignon, coming in front of them, his finger to his kept repeating itself so shrilly in their conversation that lips, made them a sign to be silent. And when Lucy ques-people began to listen to them. The Count de Vandeuvres tioned him he pointed out a young man who was passing carried Blanche off. But by this time Nana’s name was echo-and murmured:

ing more loudly than ever round the four walls of the en-

“Nana’s fancy man.”

trance hall amid yearnings sharpened by delay. Why didn’t Everybody looked at him. He was a pretty fellow.

the play begin? The men pulled out their watches; late-Fauchery recognized him; it was Daguenet, a young man comers sprang from their conveyances before these had who had run through three hundred thousand francs in the fairly drawn up; the groups left the sidewalk, where the pursuit of women and who now was dabbling in stocks, in passers-by were crossing the now-vacant space of gaslit order from time to time to treat them to bouquets and din-pavement, craning their necks, as they did so, in order to ners. Lucy made the discovery that he had fine eyes.

get a peep into the theater. A street boy came up whistling

“Ah, there’s Blanche!” she cried. “It’s she who told me and planted himself before a notice at the door, then cried that you had been to bed with Nana.” out, “Woa, Nana!” in the voice of a tipsy man and hied on Blanche de Sivry, a great fair girl, whose good-looking his way with a rolling gait and a shuffling of his old boots.

face showed signs of growing fat, made her appearance in A laugh had arisen at this. Gentlemen of unimpeachable the company of a spare, sedulously well-groomed and ex-appearance repeated: “Nana, woa, Nana!” People were tremely distinguished man.

crushing; a dispute arose at the ticket office, and there was

“The Count Xavier de Vandeuvres,” Fauchery whispered a growing clamor caused by the hum of voices calling on in his companion’s ear.

Nana, demanding Nana in one of those accesses of silly The count and the journalist shook hands, while Blanche facetiousness and sheer animalism which pass over mobs.

and Lucy entered into a brisk, mutual explanation. One of But above all the din the bell that precedes the rise of the them in blue, the other in rose-pink, they stood blocking curtain became audible. “They’ve rung; they’ve rung!” The 9


rumor reached the boulevard, and thereupon followed a ings of the ceiling. The footlights were turned up and with stampede, everyone wanting to pass in, while the servants a vivid flood of brilliance lit up the curtain, the heavy purple of the theater increased their forces. Mignon, with an anx-drapery of which had all the richness befitting a palace in a ious air, at last got hold of Steiner again, the latter not fairy tale and contrasted with the meanness of the having been to see Rose’s costume. At the very first tinkle proscenium, where cracks showed the plaster under the of the bell La Faloise had cloven a way through the crowd, gilding. The place was already warm. At their music stands pulling Fauchery with him, so as not to miss the opening the orchestra were tuning their instruments amid a delicate scene. But all this eagerness on the part of the public irri-trilling of flutes, a stifled tooting of horns, a singing of tated Lucy Stewart. What brutes were these people to be violin notes, which floated forth amid the increasing up-pushing women like that! She stayed in the rear of them all roar of voices. All the spectators were talking, jostling, with Caroline Hequet and her mother. The entrance hall settling themselves in a general assault upon seats; and the was now empty, while beyond it was still heard the long-hustling rush in the side passages was now so violent that drawn rumble of the boulevard.

every door into the house was laboriously admitting the

“As though they were always funny, those pieces of inexhaustible flood of people. There were signals, rustlings theirs!” Lucy kept repeating as she climbed the stair.

of fabrics, a continual march past of skirts and head dresses, In the house Fauchery and La Faloise, in front of their accentuated by the black hue of a dress coat or a surtout.

stalls, were gazing about them anew. By this time the house Notwithstanding this, the rows of seats were little by little was resplendent. High jets of gas illumined the great glass getting filled up, while here and there a light toilet stood chandelier with a rustling of yellow and rosy flames, which out from its surroundings, a head with a delicate profile rained down a stream of brilliant light from dome to floor.

bent forward under its chignon, where flashed the light-The cardinal velvets of the seats were shot with hues of ning of a jewel. In one of the boxes the tip of a bare shoul-lake, while all the gilding shonc again, the soft green deco-der glimmered like snowy silk. Other ladies, sitting at ease, rations chastening its effect beneath the too-decided paint-languidly fanned themselves, following with their gaze the 10


pushing movements of the crowd, while young gentlemen,

“You don’t know Gaga? She was the delight of the early standing up in the stalls, their waistcoats cut very low, gar-years of Louis Philippe. Nowadays she drags her daughter denias in their buttonholes, pointed their opera glasses with about with her wherever she goes.” gloved finger tips.

La Faloise never once glanced at the young girl. The sight It was now that the two cousins began searching for the of Gaga moved him; his eyes did not leave her again. He faces of those they knew. Mignon and Steiner were together still found her very good looking but he dared not say so.

in a lower box, sitting side by side with their arms leaning Meanwhile the conductor lifted his violin bow and the for support on the velvet balustrade. Blanche de Sivry seemed orchestra attacked the overture. People still kept coming to be in sole possession of a stage box on the level of the in; the stir and noise were on the increase. Among that stalls. But La Faloise examined Daguenet before anyone else, public, peculiar to first nights and never subject to change, he being in occupation of a stall two rows in front of his there were little subsections composed of intimate friends, own. Close to him, a very young man, seventeen years old who smilingly forgathered again. Old first-nighters, hat on at the outside, some truant from college, it may be, was head, seemed familiar and quite at ease and kept exchang-straining wide a pair of fine eyes such as a cherub might ing salutations. All Paris was there, the Paris of literature, have owned. Fauchery smiled when he looked at him.

of finance and of pleasure. There were many journalists,

“Who is that lady in the balcony?” La Faloise asked sud-several authors, a number of stock-exchange people and denly. “The lady with a young girl in blue beside her.” more courtesans than honest women. It was a singularly He pointed out a large woman who was excessively tight-mixed world, composed, as it was, of all the talents and laced, a woman who had been a blonde and had now be-tarnished by all the vices, a world where the same fatigue come white and yellow of tint, her broad face, reddened and the same fever played over every face. Fauchery, whom with paint, looking puffy under a rain of little childish curls.

his cousin was questioning, showed him the boxes devoted

“It’s Gaga,” was Fauchery’s simple reply, and as this name to the newspapers and to the clubs and then named the seemed to astound his cousin, he added: dramatic critics—a lean, dried-up individual with thin, spite-11


ful lips and, chief of all, a big fellow with a good-natured Late arrivals were obliging whole rows of spectators to expression, lolling on the shoulder of his neighbor, a young rise; the doors of boxes were banging; loud voices were miss over whom he brooded with tender and paternal eyes.

heard disputing in the passages. And there was no cessa-But he interrupted himself on seeing La Faloise in the act tion of the sound of many conversations, a sound similar of bowing to some persons who occupied the box oppo-to the loud twittering of talkative sparrows at close of day.

site. He appeared surprised.

All was in confusion; the house was a medley of heads and

“What?” he queried. “You know the Count Muffat de arms which moved to and fro, their owners seating them-Beuville?”

selves or trying to make themselves comfortable or, on the

“Oh, for a long time back,” replied Hector. “The Muffats other hand, excitedly endeavoring to remain standing so as had a property near us. I often go to their house. The count’s to take a final look round. The cry of “Sit down, sit down!” with his wife and his father-in-law, the Marquis de came fiercely from the obscure depths of the pit. A shiver Chouard.”

of expectation traversed the house: at last people were And with some vanity—for he was happy in his cousin’s going to make the acquaintance of this famous Nana with astonishment—he entered into particulars. The marquis was whom Paris had been occupying itself for a whole week!

a councilor of state; the count had recently been appointed Little by little, however, the buzz of talk dwindled softly chamberlain to the empress. Fauchery, who had caught up down among occasional fresh outbursts of rough speech.

his opera glass, looked at the countess, a plump brunette And amid this swooning murmur, these perishing sighs of with a white skin and fine dark eyes.

sound, the orchestra struck up the small, lively notes of a

“You shall present me to them between the acts,” he ended waltz with a vagabond rhythm bubbling with roguish laugh-by saying. “I have already met the count, but I should like ter. The public were titillated; they were already on the to go to them on their Tuesdays.” grin. But the gang of clappers in the foremost rows of the Energetic cries of “Hush” came from the upper galleries.

pit applauded furiously. The curtain rose.

The overture had begun, but people were still coming in.

“By George!” exclaimed La Faloise, still talking away.



“There’s a man with Lucy.”

Once again the prearranged applause of the clappers alone He was looking at the stage box on the second tier to his burst forth; the public, a little out of their depth, sat wait-right, the front of which Caroline and Lucy were occupying. Nevertheless, La Faloise had clapped Clarisse Besnus, ing. At the back of this box were observable the worthy one of Bordenave’s little women, who played Iris in a soft countenance of Caroline’s mother and the side face of a blue dress with a great scarf of the seven colors of the tall young man with a noble head of light hair and an irre-rainbow looped round her waist.

proachable getup.

“You know, she draws up her chemise to put that on,” he

“Do look!” La Faloise again insisted. “There’s a man said to Fauchery, loud enough to be heard by those around there.”

him. “We tried the trick this morning. It was all up under Fauchery decided to level his opera glass at the stage her arms and round the small of her back.” box. But he turned round again directly.

But a slight rustling movement ran through the house;

“Oh, it’s Labordette,” he muttered in a careless voice, as Rose Mignon had just come on the stage as Diana. Now though that gentle man’s presence ought to strike all the though she had neither the face nor the figure for the part, world as though both natural and immaterial.

being thin and dark and of the adorable type of ugliness Behind the cousins people shouted “Silence!” They had peculiar to a Parisian street child, she nonetheless appeared to cease talking. A motionless fit now seized the house, charming and as though she were a satire on the personage and great stretches of heads, all erect and attentive, sloped she represented. Her song at her entrance on the stage was away from stalls to topmost gallery. The first act of the full of lines quaint enough to make you cry with laughter Blonde Venus took place in Olympus, a pasteboard and of complaints about Mars, who was getting ready to Olympus, with clouds in the wings and the throne of Jupi-desert her for the companionship of Venus. She sang it ter on the right of the stage. First of all Iris and Ganymede, with a chaste reserve so full of sprightly suggestiveness aided by a troupe of celestial attendants, sang a chorus that the public warmed amain. The husband and Steiner, while they arranged the seats of the gods for the council.

sitting side by side, were laughing complaisantly, and the 13


whole house broke out in a roar when Prulliere, that great Lucy began laughing with Labordette; the Count d