Part of Emile Zola’s multigenerational Rougon-Macquart saga, The Belly of Paris
is the story of Florent Quenu, a wrongly accused man who escapes imprisonment on Devil’s Island. Returning to his native Paris, Florent finds a city he barely recognizes, with its working classes displaced to make way for broad boulevards and bourgeois flats. Living with his brother’s family in the newly rebuilt Les Halles market, Florent is soon caught up in a dangerous maelstrom of food and politics. Amid intrigue among the market’s sellers–the fishmonger, the charcutière, the fruit girl, and the cheese vendor–and the glorious culinary bounty of their labors, we see the dramatic difference between “fat and thin” (the rich and the poor) and how the widening gulf between them strains a city to the breaking point.
Translated and with an Introduction by the celebrated historian and food writer Mark Kurlansky, The Belly of Paris
offers fascinating perspectives on the French capital during the Second Empire–and, of course, tantalizing descriptions of its sumptuous repasts.
"‘In an age when gastronomic fiction has become fashionable,’ Emile Zola's 1873 novel The Belly of Paris... ‘seems ahead of its time,’ writes food historian Mark Kurlansky in the introduction to his new translation of the book. Set amid the bustling Les Halles market, the novel ‘revolves around the graphically illustrated conceit that the bourgeoisie not only eats too much but has an unhealthy obsession with food.’ Its descriptions of cuisine, too, are notable for their length, detail and humor.”—Washington Post
“It’s totally appropriate that food-writer Mark Kurlansky should helm Modern Library Classics’ new translation of Émile Zola’s The Belly of Paris. Not only does he have a keen ear for Zola’s revolutionary naturalism, he also captures the passion at the heart (or gut) of The Belly of Paris–a passion for food." —Biblioklept