• The Dream

Set against a sleepy cathedral town in northern France, Emile Zola’s novel The Dream (Le Rêve, 1888) is a love idyll between a poor embroideress and the son of a wealthy aristocratic family.

A far cry from the seething, teeming world evoked in Zola’s best-known novels, it may at first seem a strange interlude between La Terre and La Bête Humaine in the twenty-volume sequence known as the Rougon-Macquart cycle.

However, belying its appearance as a simple fairytale the work reveals many of Zola’s characteristic themes, the conflict between heredity and environment, between spirituality and sensuality, between the powerful and the powerless. The dream of Angélique, the central character, is at once reality and illusion, and this interplay provides the driving force of the novel.

Above all, it is, as Zola himself described it, ‘a poem of passion’, showing the lyrical dimension of his genius. This important new translation, the first in English since that of Eliza Chase in 1893, recaptures the vigour of Zola’s original. The translator also provides a helpful introduction that situates the novel in the context of Zola’s life and work as a whole.

Translated from the French and introduced by Michael Glencross

‘Zola uses the veneer of a religious fable to explore themes themes of sensuality, mortality, adolescence and the nature of belief . . . A fascinating and painstakingly detailed pyschological novel that staggers in its attention to detail and its lyricism . . . at once a love idyll, a sophisticated criticism of Catholicism and experiment in symbolist writing. This new English translation, the first in over a century, serves the text well.’ – Paris Voice
‘In his fascinating introduction to this text, translator Michael Glencross draws attention to the use of colour and flower symbolism . . . The central character, Angelique, is an embroideress of ecclesiastical garments, using roses and lilies in her work; the roses are symbolic of conflict between heredity and environment, the white of the lilies denotes innocence and temptation, the bareness of flesh, the colour of a woman's intimate undergarments. As Glencross futrher explains, Zola also places emphasis on the contrast of dark and light, the shadows in a church, the brightness of moonlight, the ceremony of last rites, when death takes us from a darkening world to a glorious bright place . . .So much, so academic, you might be thinking, but you don't need to follow that, nor the historical context of this among the social concerns of the period to enjoy this ‘fairytale’ . . . The story is reminiscent of tales by Grimm or Andersen in which women are locked up, waiting to be rescued, romantic, and fatalistic.' – Susie Maguire, The Herald
'For some time now, anglophone readers seeking English editions of the earlier and later Zola works have been poorly served, now they have a new translation.' – Times Literary Supplement


ÉMILE ZOLA (1840–1902) was a French novelist, playwright and journalist, best known for the novel Germinal which, along with The Dream, is a constituent of the twenty-volume series Les Rougon-Macquart. He was a prominent advocate of literary naturalism and played a role in the the political liberalization of France. He is well known for his principled and courageous defence of Alfred Dreyfus, a Jewish army officer who was falsely accused and convicted of espionage and the victim of institutionalized antisemitism. Zola was nominated for the first and second Nobel Prize in Literature in 1901 and 1902.
Bibliographic Data
Date Published 3rd May 2005
ISBN Number 9780720612530
Pages 224

The Dream

  • £9.95


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Tags: Classics, French Literature, Fiction in Translation, Michael Glencross, classic literature, france, french novels, zola, emile zola