Germinal in the Theatre, Zola's Crusade against Censorship

Germinal in the Theatre, Zola's Crusade against Censorship

The last great manuscript by Zola in private hands
The last great manuscript by Zola in private hands

G erminal, a play in five acts and twelve tableaux. Autograph manuscript, unsigned, [spring-summer 1885].

Germinal is the only novel for which Zola himself wrote the theatrical adaptation. The thirteenth book from the Rougon-Macquart series, it is Émile Zola's great social novel, advocating for a new ideal in which, for the first time, the relationship between the working class and that of the wealthy bourgeoisie is addressed without taboo. The play is a perfectly autonomous work in relation to the novel published in March 1885.

This exceptional manuscript, extensively reworked and corrected, reveals the very first version of the play. It would be radically edited at the request of the censors, who demanded the removal of words that might give the play a "socialist and nihilist nature". Zola embarked on a tireless crusade against censorship, revealing his determination to make his mark in writing for the theatre. On 7 November 1885, he expressed his indignation in Le Figaro: "The book has been freed. The newspaper has been freed. Is the theatre condemned to eternal servitude? [...] It is shameful that in a great country like ours, at the moment, literature is the only glory left standing”.

After a three-year ban, the play was finally performed at the Théâtre du Châtelet in April 1888.

Books & Manuscripts

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