Click here for the Home Page

Brian Nelson

Professor, Department of French Studies, Editor
Monash University, Melbourne, Australia 
Camargo Foundation Fellowship: 2006 - Fall

Project: A new translation/edition of Zola’s novel Le Ventre de Paris (1873). This is the fourth of a series of translations/editions of Zola’s novels produced for Oxford University Press (the World’s Classics series).  My general aim is to create a new readership for Zola in the English-speaking world (my translation/edition of Au Bonheur des Dames [The Ladies’ Paradise, 1995] has sold c. 23,000 copies to date). My aim as a translator is to transform Zola’s prose into a work of art that approaches the original, that is, is faithful to the spirit of the original. This means capturing the structure and rhythms, the tone and texture, and the lexical choices --in sum, the particular idiom-- of Zola’s novel, as well as preserving the ‘feel’ of the social context out of which the novel emerged and which it represents. My work as a translator complements my critical work on Zola. Each OUP volume includes a critical introduction and extensive explanatory notes. The themes and issues addressed in my introduction to The Belly of Paris include: Zola’s social vision (his preoccupation with change and with the emergence of a new, mass society; his satirical representation of the bourgeoisie and the Second Empire); the ways in which the novel inaugurated Zola’s ‘naturalist’ method (the infusion of the text with vast amounts of documentary detail which gives the novel an encyclopaedic quality and considerable ethnographic value); Zola’s desire to explore the limits of descriptive discourse; his use of symbol and myth (The Belly of Paris is literature, not a document; its originality lies in its metaphoric elaborations and its atmospheric intensity, and the challenge for the translator is to capture and sustain its textual dynamism; the giant markets, Les Halles, are used as a figuration of the new consumerism of petit-bourgeois society, whose devotion to food is inseparable from its devotion to the government; the struggle between the Fat and the Thin is the novel’s central theme, providing it with its plot and symbolic structure). The volume is scheduled for publication in October 2007.