Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Did they allow this sort of thing in 1871?

They had a night of wild love. The hothouse joined them in their lovemaking, burned with the heat of their passion. Renee's body...was completely swollen with sensuality, and the clean outline of her shoulders and waist stood out with feline sharpness against the ink spot the black fur left on the yellow sand of the path. She eyed Maxime, her prey, lying on his back beneath her in a posture of utter surrender...

No, it's not an extract from the latest Black Lace book. In fact, the author is Mr Emile Zola and this racy prose is from his second Rougon-Macquart novel 'The Kill'. This novel has been waiting for a new translation for over a century when suddenly, like London buses, two come along at once. I'm reading Arthur Goldhammer's excellent version.

There's a bit of sauce in 'The Kill', but it's mostly a superb portrait of a decadent society in the grip of financial speculation, aided and abetted by a corrupt political system.

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