The Joy of Life

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La joie de vivre (English: The Joy of Life) is the twelfth novel in the Rougon-Macquart series by Émile Zola. It was serialized in the periodical Gil Blas in 1883 before being published in book form by Charpentier in February 1884.

The novel opens in 1863 and covers about 10 years. Ten-year-old Pauline’s parents have died, and she comes to live with the Chanteaus, relatives on her father’s side, in the seaside village of Bonneville, some 10 kilometers from Arromanches-les-Bains in Normandy. Zola contrasts Pauline’s optimism and open-heartedness with the illness, resentment, and depression prevalent in the Chanteau household. In particular, the 19-year-old son Lazare, a student of the writings of Schopenhauer, is convinced of life’s futility and infused with pessimism and nihilism, which he attempts to express in an unfinished Symphony of Sorrow.