Doctor Pascal / Émile Zola ; translated by Julie Rose ; with an introduction and notes by Brian Nelson.

Zola, Émile, 1840-1902 [Browse]
Uniform title
Oxford ; New York : Oxford University Press, 2020.
xxxi, 301 pages : genealogical table ; 20 cm.


Summary note
"While La Débâcle (1892), the nineteenth novel of the Les Rougon-Macquart, brought to a close the history of the Second Empire, Dr Pascal (Le Docteur Pascal, 1893), the twentieth and final novel of the series, concludes the saga of the Rougon-Macquart family. Set in Plassans, the novel begins in 1872, after the fall of the Empire. Pascal Rougon, a doctor, first appears in The Fortune of the Rougons (1871) as the second son of Pierre and Félicité Rougon; his elder brother is Eugène Rougon, his younger brother is Aristide (Saccard). He stands apart, to such an extent that he 'did not seem to belong to the family' (The Fortune of the Rougons, p. 61). When he reappears twenty-two years later as the central figure of the novel that bears his name, it is as a heroic, almost messianic, old man, a kind of scientist-scholar, prophesying a glorious future. Devoted to medical research, he has spent his life studying genetics, chronicling and classifying the hereditary ills of his own family-the thirty descendants of his grandmother Adélaïde Fouque (Tante Dide). He keeps his files locked in a cupboard, along with a family tree he has painstakingly compiled. Additionally, he has developed a process of hypodermic injections which, he believes, will cure hereditary and nervous diseases. Pascal's young niece, Clotilde (daughter of Aristide), who lives with him, has acquired strong religious convictions under the influence of Martine, the doctor's pious old servant. Clotilde considers her uncle's work a vain, even sacrilegious, attempt to understand what can be known only by God, and begs him to destroy his manuscripts. The conflict between science and religious faith is the focus of the first half of the novel. Pascal responds to Clotilde's pleas: I believe that the future of humanity lies in the progress of reason through science. I believe that the pursuit of truth through science is the divine ideal that man ought to set himself. I believe that all is illusion and vanity outside the treasure trove of truths slowly acquired and which will never again be lost. I believe that the sum of these truths, which are always growing in number, will end up giving man incalculable power-and serenity, if not happiness... Yes, I believe in the ultimate triumph of life. (p. 000) Pascal shows his niece the genealogical tree, and, one by one, reads out his files and comments on them, rehearsing in a single sitting the narratives Zola took twenty years to produce: 'Ah! ... there's a world, a society, a whole civilisation in there, the whole of life is there, in all its manifestations, good and bad, hammered out in the forge fire that seeps all along' (p. 000). Clotilde is won over, persuaded of the power of medical science and natural evolution. Eventually, the doctor and his pupil begin an intimate and tender relationship, albeit incestuous. Pascal's mother, Félicité, is outraged that they live together out of wedlock. A financial crisis and burgeoning debts induce Pascal to send Clotilde away to Paris. He falls ill and dies before she can return. Félicité, desperate to keep the family skeletons hidden at any cost, burns her son's research papers. Clotilde, on her return, finds fragments of his work, as well as the family tree, and resolves to complete the project. Her and Pascal's child is born several months later, and the novel closes in semi-idyllic fashion-Nicholas White speaks of the 'euphoria' of the final pages(1)-by focusing on the hope for the future, and for the regeneration of the family, which is symbolized by the child. The themes of Dr Pascal, in particular its optimistic vision and the conflict it dramatizes between scientific materialism and religious faith, are best understood by placing the novel in the context not simply of Zola's original intentions for his novel series but also of the climate of ideas in France in the mid- and late-nineteenth century"-- Provided by publisher.
Bibliographic references
Includes bibliographical references.
  • Translator's note
  • Select bibliography
  • A chronology of Émile Zola
  • Family tree of the Rougon-Macquart
  • Doctor Pascal
  • Explanatory notes.
  • 9780198746164 (paperback)
  • 0198746164 (paperback)
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