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And meantime the other fish, whose death agony had been lasting all the morning as they lay on the soiled osiers of the basket-trays, slowly expired amidst all the uproar of the auctions, opening their mouths as though to inhale the moisture of the air, with great silent gasps, renewed every few seconds. Of the many characters that inhabit Le Ventre de Paris are a couple of orphans, Marjolin and Cadine, raised as brother and sister by one of the marketeers. As children, they spent all of their time together, but at the time of the events in this book, they are in their late teens and not quite as close.

In the daytime they would hide themselves away in the warehouses of the Rue au Lard, behind piles of apples and cases of oranges; and in the evening they would dive into the cellars beneath the poultry market, and secret themselves among the huge hampers of feathers which stood near the blocks where the poultry was killed.

They were quite alone there, amidst the strong smell of the poultry, and with never a sound but the sudden crowing of some rooster to break upon their babble and their laughter. And then in wintertime there was the purple plumage of the pheasants, the ashen grey of the larks, the splotched silk of the partridges, quails, and thrushes. And all these feathers freshly plucked were still warm and odoriferous, seemingly endowed with life. That afternoon the beautiful Lisa found Marjolin in the midst of the poultry.

It was warm, and whiffs of hot air passed along the narrow alleys of the pavilion. She was obliged to stoop before she could see him stretched out inside the stall, below the bare flesh of the birds. From the hooked bar up above hung fat geese, the hooks sticking in the bleeding wounds of their long stiffened necks, while their huge bodies bulged out, glowing ruddily beneath their fine down, and, with their snowy tails and wings, suggesting nudity encompassed by fine linen.

And also hanging from the bar, with ears thrown back and feet parted as though they were bent on some vigorous leap, were grey rabbits whose turned-up tails gleamed whitely, whilst their heads, with sharp teeth and dim eyes, laughed with the grin of death. On the counter of the stall plucked fowls showed their strained fleshy breasts; pigeons, crowded on osier trays, displayed the soft bare skin of innocents; ducks, with skin of rougher texture, exhibited their webbed feet; and three magnificent turkeys, speckled with blue dots, like freshly-shaven chins, slumbered on their backs amidst the black fans of their expanded tails.

On plates nearby were giblets, livers, gizzards, necks, feet, and wings; while an oval dish contained a skinned and gutted rabbit, with its four legs wide apart, its head bleeding, and its kidneys showing through its gashed belly. A streamlet of dark blood, after trickling along its back to its tail, had fallen drop by drop, staining the whiteness of the dish.

Le Ventre de Paris (Dodo Press) (French Edition)

He reclined there with his eyes half closed, encompassed by other piles of dead poultry which crowded the shelves of the stall, poultry in paper wrappers like bouquets, rows upon rows of protuberant breasts and bent legs showing confusedly. One of the vendors that figures in the narrative is a woman referred to as La Sarriette.

Frizzy hair fell over her brow like vine branches. Her bare arms and neck, indeed all the rosy flesh she showed, bloomed with the freshness of peach and cherry. She had playfully hung some cherries on her ears, black cherries which dangled against her cheeks when she stooped, shaking with merry laughter. She was eating currants, and her merriment arose from the way in which she was smearing her face with them.

Le Ventre de Paris

Her lips were bright red, glistening with the juice of the fruit, as though they had been painted and perfumed with some seraglio face-paint. A perfume of plum exhaled from her gown, while from the kerchief carelessly fastened across her breast came an odor of strawberries. Fruits of all kinds were piled around her in her narrow stall. In front was an array of choice fruits, carefully arranged in baskets, and showing like smooth round cheeks seeking to hide themselves, or glimpses of sweet childish faces, half veiled by leaves.

Especially was this the case with the peaches, the blushing peaches of Montreuil, with skin as delicate and clear as that of northern maidens, and the yellow, sun-burnt peaches from the south, brown like the damsels of Provence. The apricots, on their beds of moss, gleamed with the hue of amber or with that sunset glow which so warmly colors the necks of brunettes at the nape, just under the little wavy curls which fall below the chignon. The cherries, ranged one by one, resembled the short lips of smiling Chinese girls; the Montmorencies suggested the dumpy mouths of buxom women; the English ones were longer and graver-looking; the common black ones seemed as though they had been bruised and crushed by kisses; while the white-hearts, with their patches of rose and white, appeared to smile with mingled merriment and vexation.

Then piles of apples and pears, built up with architectural symmetry, often in pyramids, displayed the ruddy glow of budding breasts and the gleaming sheen of shoulders, quite a show of nudity, lurking modestly behind a screen of fern-leaves. By the side of these the transparent plums resembled tender, chlorotic virgins; the greengages and the Orleans plums paled as with modest innocence, while the mirabelles lay like golden beads of a rosary forgotten in a box amongst sticks of vanilla.

And the strawberries exhaled a sweet perfume—a perfume of youth—especially those little ones which are gathered in the woods, and which are far more aromatic than the large ones grown in gardens, for these breathe an insipid odor suggestive of the watering-pot. Raspberries added their fragrance to the pure scent. The currants—red, white, and black—smiled with a knowing air; whilst the heavy clusters of grapes, laden with intoxication, lay languorously at the edges of their wicker baskets, over the sides of which dangled some of the berries, scorched by the hot caresses of the voluptuous sun.

It was there that La Sarriette lived in an orchard, as it were, in an atmosphere of sweet, intoxicating scents. The cheaper fruits—the cherries, plums, and strawberries—were piled up in front of her in paper-lined baskets, and the juice coming from their bruised ripeness stained the stall-front, and steamed, with a strong perfume, in the heat.

She would feel quite giddy on those blazing July afternoons when the melons enveloped her with a powerful, vaporous odor of musk; and then with her loosened kerchief, fresh as she was with the springtide of life, she brought sudden temptation to all who saw her. It was she—it was her arms and necks which gave that semblance of amorous vitality to her fruit. On the stall next to her an old woman, a hideous old drunkard, displayed nothing but wrinkled apples, pears as flabby as herself, and cadaverous apricots of a witch-like sallowness.

The cherries looked like the red kisses of her bright lips; the silky peaches were not more delicate than her neck; to the plums she seemed to have lent the skin from her brow and chin; while some of her own crimson blood coursed through the veins of the currants.

Le Ventre de Paris | Revolvy

All the scents of the avenue of flowers behind her stall were but insipid beside the aroma of vitality which exhaled from her open baskets and falling kerchief. The cellar under the butter market is a very gloomy spot. The rows of storerooms are protected by a very fine wire meshing, as a safeguard against fire; and the gas jets, which are very few and far between, glimmer like yellow splotches destitute of radiance in the heavy, malodorous atmosphere beneath the low vault.

Madame Lecoeur, however, was at work on her butter at one of the tables placed parallel with the Rue Berger, and here a pale light filtered through the vent-holes.


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The tables, which are continually sluiced with a flood of water from the taps, are as white as though they were quite new. With her back turned to the pump in the rear, Madame Lecoeur was kneading her butter in a kind of oak box. She took some of different sorts which lay beside her, and mixed the varieties together, correcting one by another, just as is done in the blending of wines.

Bent almost double, and showing sharp, bony shoulders, and arms bared to the elbows, as scraggy and knotted as pea-rods, she dug her fists into the greasy paste in front of her, which was assuming a whitish and chalky appearance. It was trying work, and she heaved a sigh at each fresh effort.

Then she again plunged her arms into the butter, which buried them up to the elbows. La Sarriette was quite disgusted by the sight of those hideous arms working so frantically amidst the melting mass. However, she could recall the time when her own pretty little hands had manipulated the butter for whole afternoons at a time.


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  • It had even been a sort of almond-paste to her, a cosmetic which had kept her skin white and her nails delicately pink; and even now her slender fingers retained the suppleness it had endowed them with. Then she glanced at a little jar full of a sort of reddish dye. The butter women imagine that its composition is known only to themselves, and keep it very secret. However, it is merely made from Bixa orellana; used in dyeing, and for coloring cheese. Beneath the stall show-table, formed of a slab of red marble veined with grey, baskets of eggs gleamed with a chalky whiteness; while on layers of straw in boxes were Bondons, placed end to end, and Gournays, arranged like medals, forming darker patches tinted with green.

    But it was upon the table that the cheeses appeared in greatest profusion. Then there came three Brie cheeses displayed on round platters, and looking like melancholy extinct moons. Two of them, very dry, were at the full; the third, in its second quarter, was melting away in a white cream, which had spread into a pool and flowed over the little wooden barriers with which an attempt had been made to arrest its course. A Romantour, in its tin-foil wrapper, suggested a bar of nougat or some sweet cheese astray amidst all these pungent, fermenting curds.

    The Roqueforts under their glass covers also had a princely air, their fat faces marbled with blue and yellow, as though they were suffering from some unpleasant malady such as attacks the wealthy gluttons who eat too many truffles. The above description is provided as a backdrop to a conversation between Madame Lecoeur, La Sarriette, and Mademoiselle Saget, an old-maid that survives on gossip.

    As the three women stood there, taking leave of each other, the odor of the cheeses seemed to become more pestilential than ever. It was a cacophony of smells, ranging from the heavily oppressive odor of the Dutch cheeses and the Gruyeres to the alkaline pungency of the Olivets.

    La face cachée du Marais, le quartier le plus fou de Paris

    What makes Biblio different? Facebook Instagram Twitter. Sign In Register Help Cart. Cart items. Toggle navigation. Ships with Tracking Number!

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    Buy with confidence, excellent customer service! Log-in or create an account first! It is set in and around Les Halles , the enormous, busy central market of 19th-century Paris.

    Le seul hôtel à Marseille dans un bâtiment classé patrimoine mondial de l’Unesco.

    Les Halles, rebuilt in cast iron and glass during the Second Empire was a landmark of modernity in the city, the wholesale and retail center of a thriving food industry. Le Ventre de Paris translated into English under many variant titles but literally meaning The Belly of Paris is Zola's first novel entirely on the working class. The protagonist is Florent, an escaped political prisoner mistakenly arrested after the French coup of He returns to his half-brother Quenu, a charcutier and his wife Lisa Quenu formerly Macquart , with whom he finds refuge.

    They get him a job in the market as a fish inspector. After getting mixed up in an ineffectual socialist plot against the Empire, Florent is arrested and deported again.