Short summary - Nana - Émile Zola

French literature summaries - 2021

Short summary - Nana
Émile Zola

Anne Coupeau, nicknamed Nana, the daughter of a drunken washerwoman Gervaise Macquart and a crippled worker Coupeau, died in Paris in 1870 at the age of eighteen from smallpox, outliving her two-year-old son for several days and leaving several dozen of her lovers in grief. However, her lovers were quickly comforted. In addition, a war with the Prussians was imminent. In the room where Nana was decomposing, whose beautiful, maddening face turned into a festering mask, every now and then there was a cry: “To Berlin! To Berlin! To Berlin! "
... She made her debut at the Bordnava Theater "Variety", where the whole secular, literary and theatrical Paris gathered for the premiere of the parody operetta about the triumph of Venus over the cuckolds. Everyone has been talking about Nana for a week now - this fat girl, who could not turn around on stage, had a creaky voice, devoid of any grace, conquered the hall from her first appearance on the stage: not with talent, of course, but with the crazy call of flesh that emanated from her. This call brought all the men of the city to her feet, and she did not know how to refuse anyone, for she had sentimental haberdashery ideas about love, debauchery ceased to be a novelty to her almost from the age of fourteen, and lovers' money was the only source of her existence. Sloppy, living among untidiness and filth, spending days in supernatural idleness, Nana looked like a truly luxurious animal and as such was equally attractive to tabloid journalist Fauchery, banker Steiner, half-secular lions Vandevre and La Faloise, an aristocrat of Count Muffat. Soon, seventeen-year-old Georges Hugon was added to these admirers, a scion of an aristocratic family, a perfect child, but very quick in comprehending forbidden pleasures.
... Countess Sabine Muffat, married seventeen years old, lived a very virtuous and, in truth, boring. The count, a bilious and withdrawn man, older than his wife, paid her clearly not enough attention. Fauchery, bored at the reception at Muff, begins to seriously think about how to get her location. This does not prevent Fauchery from being present at the dinner given by Nana, gathering actors and actresses from her theater, but most importantly - men who besiege her apartment day and night. The conversation at Nana's dinner, although not much more lively, revolves around the same topics: war, politics, gossip. Gossip, however, dominates. All connections are in sight, and the ladies calmly discuss the dignity of their lovers with men. After getting drunk, Nana falls into hysterics: like any whore, she begins to demand respect from those present and laments her terrible life. Her complaints are replaced by equally hysterical declarations of love for her next cavalier - Dagne; those present pay little attention to all this, absorbed by some playing a card game, and some by pouring champagne into the piano. Not only the intellectual, but also the political elite willingly participate in such entertainments: the prince himself becomes a regular at the Variety Theater and during intermissions he always visits Nana's dressing room, or even takes her away from the performance in his own carriage. Muffat, accompanying the prince, goes crazy with jealousy: he himself, having lived a restrained and strict life for forty years, is completely absorbed in an inexplicable passion for the golden-haired Venus, a beauty, an idiot. He tries in vain for Nana: having made an appointment with him, she took a leave of absence from the theater and left for Orleans.
It was here that Georges Yugon, who had escaped from his mother, found her, whom Nana, in fits of lisping romance, calls either Zizi or Bebe. The same age as the young man, who, however, has incomparably great experience, Nana enjoys playing childhood love-friendship. There is a joint admiring the moon and shedding Zizi with unbearably vulgar nicknames, along with dressing him up in his favorite nightgown. Georges, however, has to be hidden, for Nana is visited in Orleans by both Steiner and Count Muffat. Sabine Muffat, meanwhile, finally succumbs to Fauchery's advances, but the count does not care much: he is completely absorbed in Nana. Even Fauchery's violent, harsh article about Nana, entitled The Golden Fly, does not stop him. It's hard to argue with Fauchery: Nana is indeed a golden fly, sucking death from the carrion and infecting Paris. While Muffat is reading this article in Nana's apartment, the hostess admires herself in front of the mirror, sways her whole torso, feels a mole on her thigh and a strong chest. Whatever destructive poison, whatever golden beast Muffat saw in her, he wanted her, and he wanted her all the more, the more clearly he was aware of her monstrous depravity and stupidity. Nana and informs him that Sabina, having lived with the count for nineteen years, is now cheating on him with Fauchery. After hitting her, the count runs out, and Nana allows her maid Zoya to let the next one in. After wandering all night in the rain, Muffat returns to her and comes face to face with Steiner. Steiner brought money - a thousand francs, which Nana had asked of him the day before. Driven to an extreme degree of irritation by the intrusiveness of both, Nana, generally extremely easily passing from tears to laughter, from sentimentality to anger, puts both out. She was tired of everything. The exiled and completely destroyed count returns home. At the door, he meets his wife, who has just arrived from her lover. Having kicked out the count and the banker, Nana realizes that the luxurious apartment will have to be changed to a more modest one. With the actor "Variety" fountain - a rare freak - she settles in a more modest dwelling. At first, their life flows almost idyllically, then the Fountain begins to beat her, and she is ready to find a kind of pleasure in this, but there is a limit to everything: Nana needs an outlet. A friend becomes such an outlet for her - a slut named Satin, who, without much pleasure surrendering to men and preserving a virgin-innocent look, finds much more joy in lesbian pleasures. However, once, while visiting the brothel where Atlasnaya spent the night, Nana was rounded up and barely took her feet. Count Muffat, who was seeking reconciliation, came in handy for her. She easily persuaded him to ensure that the role of a decent woman in the next premiere of Bordnav went to her, and not to her eternal rival Rosa Mignon. Muffat bought this role from Bordnave for fifteen thousand francs - he is now ready for anything. It was at his expense that Nana became the "cocotte of the highest flight." She moved to a luxurious mansion on the Avenue de Villiers, bought by the count, but left neither Georges, whom she received from time to time condescendingly, nor Atlasnaya, in whose arms she was introduced to a previously unknown vice. This does not prevent her from being carried away by Georges' brother, Philippe Hugon,
At the races in the Bois de Boulogne, Nana, surrounded by men, becomes the real queen of Paris: a red mare named "Nana" is put on the run. Doubtful pun "Who rides Nana?" causes general delight. Almost everyone bets on the red mare, and she wins the races brilliantly: Nana is carried home almost in her arms. Vandeuvre went broke at the races, but Nana doesn't care much. Vandeuvre scandals in the racing society, claiming that the result of the race was rigged, Excluded from society, he set fire to his stable and burned there with all the horses. This made Nana think about death for the first time and fear it. And soon she had a miscarriage - for two months she did not believe in her pregnancy, explaining everything as unhealthy, and almost died. The ruined Count Muffat spends all his time with her. His daughter Estella marries Dagne, but the countess looks younger and better than her daughter: her relationship with Fauchery is no longer a secret to anyone. The count has long felt like a stranger in his own home. At the wedding of Estella and Dagne, he looks old and pitiful. Dagne seizes the moment to run to Nana right before the triumph and, as he puts it, to hand her innocence to her. Both are extremely amused by this adventure.
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Nana reigns over the city. Philip Yugon, appointed regimental treasurer, brings her all the state money and goes to prison. His younger brother stabbed himself with scissors in Nana's mansion after she said she would never marry him. Count Muffat goes mad with jealousy, while Nana, one after another, ravages more and more lovers. Having found an ugly old man, the Marquis de Choir, at her place, the count finally finds the strength to escape from the monster that broke his life: ruined, he returns to his wife, who by that time broke with Fauchery, and completely devotes himself to religion. Nana soon disappears from Paris - according to rumors, she visited Russia, was supported by some prince, but did not get along with him and returned to Paris. Here her child dies - abandoned, forgotten by her Luise, motherly tenderness for which she so loved to demonstrate. The next day, she suddenly falls ill with smallpox. Her death coincides with the start of the war. Almost none of Nana's friends and lovers dares to approach her body - the fear of infection is too strong.
She lies alone in the hotel, where she arrived immediately after returning. Her face - a solid abscess - is turned upward, her right eye has collapsed, pus flows from her nose, and her cheek is covered with a red crust. Lovely red hair stands halo over the frozen mask.