Emile Zola  

Jean Gourdon's Four Days


"The Four Days of Jean Gourdon" (Les Quatre Journees de Jean Gourdon; 1874, in: Nouveaux Contes a Ninon) deserves to rank among the very best things to which Zola has signed his name. It is a study of four typical days in the life of a Provençal peasant of the better sort, told by the man himself...

In the first of these it is "Spring": Jean Gourdon is eighteen years of age, and he steals away from the house of his uncle Lazare, a country priest, that he may meet his coy sweetheart Babet by the waters of the broad Durance...

Next follows a day in "Summer," five years later; Jean, as a soldier in the Italian war, goes through the horrors of a battle and is wounded. This episode, which has something in common with the "Sevastopol" of Tolstoy, is exceedingly ingenious in its observation of the sentiments of a common man under fire...

The "Autumn" of the story occurs fifteen years later. Jean and Babet have now long been married. They are rich, healthy, devoted to one another, respected by all their neighbours; but there is a single happiness lacking - they have no child. Only now, when the corn and the grapes are ripe, this gift also is to be theirs...

The optimistic tone has hitherto been so consistently preserved, that one must almost resent the tragedy of the fourth day. This is eighteen years later, on a Winter's night: The river Durance rises in spate...

It is impossible to give an impression of the charm and romantic sweetness of this little masterpiece. It raises many curious reflections to consider that this exquisitely pathetic pastoral, with all its gracious and tender personages, should have been written by the master of Naturalism, the author of "Germinal" and of "Pot-Bouille" ("Piping Hot!"). (Edmund Gosse)


More info about the Rougon-Macquart series at Wikipedia.


Emile Zola: The Conquest of Plassans (Rougon-Macquart)


In the US:
Mondial Bookstore

In the UK:

In Canada:






Fiction (French Classics, Social History)



Book Type:
5 x 8 in, Perfect Bound - Paperback)


We recommend

Emile Zola: The Joy of Life (Zest for Life) - Rougon-Macquart

The Conquest of Plassans
(The Rougon-Macquart)

image 2
The Mysteries of Marseille
An early, seldom published novel