Short summary - L'Argent - Money
The novel takes place from 1864 to 1869. After the death of Rene - the second wife of Aristide Saccard - five months have passed. Aristide is bankrupt and excluded from the stock exchange. To restore his position, he develops a plan. His neighbor, engineer Georges Hamelin, dreams of the restoration of Christianity in the Middle East. For this, new sections of railways must be opened, streets laid, ports restored and ships built.
For the development of this enterprise, Aristide organizes a financial firm and hopes to return to the stock exchange. However, he cannot count on the help of his brother Eugene. Minister Eugene Rougon seeks to strengthen the influence of the Roman Catholic Church in France. Aristide uses this to strike at the Jewish bankers who dominate the stock exchange.
At first, the soil under the Universal Bank, created by Aristide, begins to sway. The initial capital is manipulated, a dummy is used to imitate business activity. Khamelin lives with her sister Caroline. They actively invest in banks and soon converge with Aristide.
Caroline learns about the existence of Aristide's son, Victor, whom she rescues from poverty and takes under her wing. But Victor is stingy, lazy and prone to theft. After an attack on an employee of a self-help organization, he disappears and since then no one else has seen him.
As Hamelin travels around Istanbul, the value of Universal Bank on the stock exchange increases. Aristide purchases newspapers to manipulate public opinion and strengthen the stability of his bank.
Bank Universal cannot be financed on its own. Aristide's main competitor on the stock exchange, the Jewish banker Gudermann, learns about financial fraud and attacks from his rival. He overestimates the shares, refuses his share and convinces Aristide to confide in him, promising that Bank Universal will be at its best.
Soon Gudermann will get half of the bank's assets. This leads to the collapse of “Universal”, but Guderman himself remains the winner. The damage to the depositors was enormous. Many went bankrupt, some committed suicide, and others fled.
Aristide and Khamelin are arrested and sentenced to five years in prison. Meanwhile, Eugene intervenes in the case, thanks to his petition, his brother is released. Aristide goes to Belgium. The novel ends with Carolina's preparations for leaving. She follows her brother to Rome.