Views & Reviews Medical Classics


BMJ 2008; 337 doi: (Published 24 November 2008) Cite this as: BMJ 2008;337:a2573
  1. Jim Hardy, GP principal, Bethnal Green Health Centre, London
  1. auiz67{at}

    L’Assommoir was the seventh in Zola’s great cycle of 20 novels charting the decline of the Rougon and Macquart families in the middle of the 19th century. Deliberately apolitical, L’Assommoir is set in the dirt and filth of working class Paris, where life was hard and lives depressingly short. He researched in great detail the impoverished quarter of which he wrote, so that the work is an ethnographic novel and probably the first of its kind. Zola lays bare the human spirit, exploring the theme of social mobility and its fragmentary effects on the physical and mental health of a community. Zola broke new ground by using the language of the …

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