The Belly of Paris
The Belly of Paris (Le Ventre de Paris) is one of Émile Zola's most wonderfully descriptive, humorous, and exciting fictions. In this novel, the author of Germinal, L'Assommoir, Nana, and Thérèse Raquin chooses as his locale the newly-built food markets of Paris. Into this extravagance of food—which Zola describes in set pieces that wet the tongue, excite the ear, and stir up the belly—he places his young hero, the half-starved Florent, who has just escaped imprisonment in Cayenne. Florent finds himself at odds with a world he now knows is unjust. Gradually he takes up with the local Socialists, who are more at home in bars than on the revolutionary streets.
The intricate, beautifully detailed story of the markets of Les Halles, a story of wealth and poverty set against a sumptuous banquet of food and commerce, makes The Belly of Paris highly engaging reading.