, Emile Zola's immense success in romance, was also a play that turned an oven and was forgotten.

The manuscript is found at auction and the opportunity is unique to acquire an unpublished one.

Sotheby's Paris opens online sales on Tuesday and until December 8 for these 454 leaves signed by the hand of the famous naturalist novelist, between 1885 and 1887.

Only a few specialists have been able to read them and see how Zola transcribed for the stage one of the peaks of his work, on the revolt of coal miners in the North of France in the 1860s. This adaptation project was expensive to the author of



He took care of it alone, instead of delegating the task, as with


or "


, to the playwright William Busnach."

Interest aroused by the television series

The audience of Parisian theaters, at that time, "is popular and it is the one they want to reach", explains Diana Cooper-Richet, researcher at the University of Versailles-Saint-Quentin who studied the failure of this process. room. For her, a publication of the text could "bring something new to the knowledge of Zola's work". It would give a more precise idea "of his troubles with censorship, of the concessions he was prepared to make to see the show".

A confidential critical edition was released in 1989, thanks to Canadian scholar James Bernard Sanders in Quebec.

Of 200 pages, it contains only "a few extracts" and omits "the multiple variants revealed by the manuscript", underlines Sophie Dufresne, of Sotheby's.

Interest in


was aroused by the broadcast by France 2 of a serial adaptation.

With its six 52-minute episodes, this television production, a great audience success, lasts about as long as the play, a five-hour marathon.

A manuscript estimated between 100,000 and 150,000 euros

According to Sotheby's, it is “the last major manuscript of Emile Zola still in private hands”.

Most of the writer's manuscripts, including that of the novel, which can be consulted online, belong to the National Library of France (BnF) and the rest to other institutions.

Asked by AFP on its intentions, the BnF refused to comment before the sale.



is estimated between 100,000 and 150,000 euros.

The name of the seller is not revealed: Sotheby's speaks of a “European” collector who “wishes to remain anonymous” and does not say “more about the itinerary of the manuscript”.


is a cursed play, mutilated to satisfy censors who found it subversive, and exhausted by criticism.

Two versions, between censorship and critical press

When Zola, crowned with the success of the novel, submits it in 1885 to the “Examination Commission” which deals with censorship, a nasty surprise: unfavorable opinion.

Describing the anger of workers against their employers, violently repressed, in a book of 600 pages, still passes;

to represent them on stage, no, too risky.

The government follows and bans the work in this form.

The novelist will insist, mitigate the violence of the subject, and obtain the green light for a watered-down version, on display in 1888. It displeases the press.

Zola defends it vigorously, for example by obtaining a free performance from the Théâtre du Châtelet which attracts 20,000 curious people, for only 3,500 seats.

Lost sentence: he will never be recognized as a playwright.


"Germinal": How to dust off this old classic by Emile Zola?


North: "This time, I have eaten some minor", two former background miners recount their experience of "Germinal"

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