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Set in the claustrophobic atmosphere of a dingy haberdasher's shop in the passage du Pont-Neuf in Paris, this powerful novel tells how the heroine and her lover, Laurent, kill her husband, Camille, but are subsequently haunted by visions of the dead man and prevented from enjoying the fruits of their crime. Published in 1867, this is Zola's most important work before the Rougon-Macquart series and introduces many of the themes that can be traced through the later novel cycle.
Emile Zola (1840-1902) was the leading figure in the French school of naturalistic fiction. His principal work, Les Rougon-Macquart, is a panorama of mid-19th century French life, in a cycle of 20 novels which Zola wrote over a period of 22 years. Robin Buss is a journalist and translator. His most recent translations for Penguin include The Plague by Camus and The Black Tulip by Dumas. He lives in London.