Left on his own, Jacques remained where he was and continued to gaze at the still, slumped heap, which appeared no more than a blurred mass in the dim lamplight cast along the ground. And the inner agitation that had quickened his steps, the horrible fascination that kept him standing there, culminated in one piercing insight that burst from the depths of his being: that man, the one he’d seen with the knife in his fist, he had dared! that man had travelled the distance of his desire, that man had killed! Oh! to stop being a coward, to have the satisfaction at last, to plunge the knife in! And what about him, who’d spent the last ten years desperately wanting to do just that! There was, in the midst of his fevered interest, a measure of self-contempt, of admiration for the other man, and above all the need to see the thing for himself, an unquenchable thirst to drink in the spectacle of the tatter of humanity, the broken puppet, the limp rag, to which a living creature is reduced by the mere stab of a knife. What he only dreamt about that other man had done, and there it was. If he were to kill, that’s what would be lying on the ground. His pulse raced madly, and his violent itch to kill grew fiercer, like a sexual urge, at the sight of this sorry corpse. He took a step forward, drew closer, like a nervous child coming to terms with its fears. Yes! He would dare, he too would dare!— Émile Zola, La Bête humaine (1890), ch. 2
On 19 November 2015, we’ll be hosting our first 2015/16 BookTalk event: a ‘dark listening’ of the ninth episode from the Season 1 of the BBC’s forthcoming radio adaptation of Émile Zola’s Rougon-Macquart novel series. Find out more here!