Nantas by Émile Zola.

Nantas is a short story by Émile Zola first published in Le Messager de l'Europe in 1878, the same year as A Love Episode. However it has far more in common with one of Zola's earlier novels - The Kill (1872). In The Kill Astride Rougon comes to Paris to make his fortune. He struggles in poverty until he marries Renée, a woman of high social standing who needs to marry as she is pregnant as a result of being raped. Her dowry gives Astride, who changes his name to Saccard, the means to speculate and accumulate, leading to phenomenal financial success.

The similarities with Nantas are striking, indeed I thought Nantas had been written before The Kill as a study or experiment with the plot. But no it came later, and in truth it cannot be called identical. In Nantas the hero of the tale, Nantas, has come to Paris to make his fortune, however like Saccard he struggles and reaches the point where he bitterly contemplates killing himself (in part, as he says, to punish Paris). But one day he is visited by Mlle Chuin who wishes him to marry Mlle Flavie, a young woman of high society parents who is pregnant having been seduced. He agrees, and like Saccard in The Kill, he looks over Paris that evening saying "You're all mine now".

Their marriage is a very business-like affair, cold and calculated, with both living separate lives. However, Nantas ends up falling in love with Flavie and regrets the promise that she could live her life as an independent woman.

Nantas is an interesting exploration of the idea of strength and the act of conquering. Nantas has been successful in his aim having virtually conquered Pairs, showing what luck and determination can achieve. But without the love of his wife he is far from satisfied, and as he was on the brink of suicide in his earlier poverty, so he finds himself once again with love for Flavie. For that there is more of the romantic (I use that word very loosely) in Nantas than there was in The Kill. It's not Zola's strongest work, and I can't help but wonder why exactly he wrote it, but even so it's enjoyable and rather satisfying, and I think others who have also read The Kill will find it the same.

And that was my 25th title for the Deal Me In Challenge. Next week - Fasti by Ovid.


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