The idea of the plot of “Therese Raquin,” according to M. Paul Alexis, Zola’s biographer, came from a novel called “La Venus de Gordes” contributed to the “Figaro” by Adolphe Belot and Ernest Daudet — the brother of Alphonse Daudet — in collaboration. In this story the authors dealt with the murder of a man by his wife and her paramour, followed by the trial of the murderers at the assizes. Zola, in noticing the book in the “Figaro,” when it arrived for review, pointed out that a much more powerful story might be written on the same subject by invoking divine instead of human justice. For instance, showing the two murderers safe from earthly consequences, yet separated by the pool of blood between them, haunted by their crime, and detesting one another for the deed done together.
It then occurred to Zola to write the tale on these lines himself. Convinced that the idea was good, he elaborated it with the greatest care and all the skill at his command, the result being that he produced a volume which proved his first genuine success, and which is still considered by many to be his very best book.
SURBITON, 1 December, 1901.
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