Le ventre de Paris


leshalles


Le ventre de Paris of Emile Zola represented for me one of the most fulfilling moment of read-out, started and finished at Villa Lazzaroni, on Via Appia in Rome.

I had completely canceled myself and from a park bench I lived the spell to find myself among the kiosks of the Halles and Parisian districts, between the gastronomy shops and the fruit carts. I was really immersed in the perfumes and colors of the market.

The ventre is a text characterized by pictorial influences. Zola refers, using the term macchie (spots), to the Macchiaiolis' artists. In meticulous descriptions, there's an homage to Flemish art and the exaltation of detail, as well as in changes of light we find the relationship with Monet's impressionism.

Some criticisms emphasize it's not an absolute masterpiece but just a good novel, but I will debate it from a subjective point of view because I loved it.

I think the beginning is a moment in which the description already reaches high narrative levels while the end, bitter, tears the meat off the body. Within these two points, Zola's microcosm is animated and the interaction between characters takes shape, passing through the tragicomic paradoxes and symbolism such as Florent's thinness which counteracts the roundness of his brother and his sister-in-law, expressions of the opulence of that environment. Food, meant as wealth, is one of the themes which puts together lesser plots and tales.

It's a text doesn't perpetuate only Paris in 1858 - the Second Empire of Napoleon III - but it becomes a cross section of modern society.

The fate brings Florent, escaped from the Cayenne prison where he was imprisoned for being an opposition to the Empire, by his half-brother Quenu, who became rich thanks to the inheritance of their uncle and the good management of his wife, Lisa, who was already uncle's assistant. The couple welcomes Florent lovingly offering him his part of inheritance which he, however, refuses. In order to protect Florent from indiscreet questions and police, the spouses will pass him for a cousin of Lisa.

It will be precisely Lisa, worried the revolutionary nature of her brother-in-law introduces them to new risks, to signal Florent to the authority when, through a series of gossip, his activity becomes of public domain. Quenu, by cowardice, will only be able to cry, leaving the task to his wife and choosing not to intrude; he for whom Florent, when was a boy, in order to guarantee him a future, had given up on the study devoting himself to his education.

How can I not put myself in Florent's shoes?

I can't see difference between the enriched peasants of the last century who come to the Halles to sell their merchandise, and those office clerks animated by parasitic mores described, for example, by Paolo Villaggio. Baseness, hypocrisy and egoism of the characters of the Parisian lower to middle class are the same in globalized society. The roles, the thrones defended for convenience, are movements comparable to the plots that carry the fisher-woman (La Normanna) and the pizzicagnola (Lisa), historical rivals, to contend the trust and gratitude of Florent the needy and then ally against Florent the instigator, when he gets involved in subversive and sterile activities by his friend Gavard, the only one who knows his past well.

Anyone, included in an alien environment, take a reverse path to a conforming order, in most cases will go the way of Florent.

It's the story of the defense of our own space and of its respectability, about the intrigues woven by the honest people working, and it's to these characters more than ever real the author will dedicate the final epitaph.



 © ENRICO MATTIOLI 2017




© Enrico Mattioli 2017