It is taking me longer to read The Masterpiece than Germinal. I am enjoying it, but it is not as fast paced as Germinal which had me on the edge of my seat and flipping through pages in anticipation. The relationship between Claude and Christine is not really that interesting for me, I haven't progressed that far into their story yet, but I am sure it is going to be filled with the unnecessary drama of young, angst ridden passion. The focus of the story for me is the ambition of the artists and the discussion of their desire to succeed in and for some, like Claude, revolutionise their chosen field.
When we first meet Claude he is stalking through the city at night, as is his custom, and on other walks his frustrated and confused inner thoughts seem to meander and turn as much as his unplanned rambles. Claude does not just stalk the streets alone; we often see him traversing the city with his friends and fellow artists. I love the constant walking that Claude and his friends spend so much time engaged in; the way Zola makes his characters frequently ramble around Paris helps to create a feeling of action and movement in the novel. Also, as Paris is so connected to the young men's professional lives - it is the visual stimulus of their working lives and the cultural capital from which they seek critical acclaim - we need to "see" the city to appreciate its presence - these lengthy rambles achieve this in a subtle way without feeling too much like a guide book (although, I have been using Google images to see the streets that Claude habitually passes on his rambles).
"They had just walked right across Paris, one of their favourite jaunts, although they had other favourites too; all along the riverside, for example, or over part of the fortifications, from the Porte Saint-Jacques, say, to Les Moulineaux; or perhaps out to Pere-Lachaise and back round the outer boulevards. For a whole day at a time they would roam the streets and squares, as long as their legs would carry them, as if they wanted to conquer one district after another by flinging their startling theories in the face of its houses. The pavements they tramped were their battlefield, the very soil of which produced an ecstasy which drugged their fatigue."
|Claude walking along the Quai de Bourbon.|