The Belly of Paris; Or, The Fat and The Thin (Le Ventre de Paris)
by Emile Zola
The third novel in Zola's twenty-volume series entitled "Les Rougon-Macquart," this story revolves around and within the 21-acre market Les Halles Centrales of Paris. The starving scholar Florent has escaped his unwarranted exile on Devil's Island, and he is alternately entranced and disgusted by his refuge in 'the belly of Paris.' Zola describes the market and Florent's experiences in the midst of it with his characteristically captivating comprehension, foreshadowing the total mastery of working-class speech in his later works. Florent makes a friend of Claude Lantier, a painter who explains the battle being waged in the vast Central Markets between the 'fat' burghers and 'thin' lower class, in which Florent is soon embroiled. He is a man caught between the fat and the thin, and this lack of allegiance leads to painful condemnation and Florent's ultimate disintegration. Presented here is the somewhat expurgated 1895 translation of Ernest Alfred Vizetelly, entitled "The Fat and the Thin".