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'GERMINAL' was published in 1885, after occupying Zola during the previous year. In accordance with his usual custom--but to a greater extent than with any other of his books except La Débâcle--he accumulated material beforehand. For six months he travelled about the coal-mining district in northern France and Belgium, especially the Borinage around Mons, note-book in hand. 'He was inquisitive, was that gentleman', miner told Sherard who visited the neighbourhood at a later period and found that the miners in every village knew Germinal. That was a tribute of admiration the book deserved, but it was never one of Zola's most popular novels; it was neither amusing enough nor outrageous enough to attract the multitude. Yet Germinal occupies a place among Zola's works which is constantly becoming more assured, so that to some critics it even begins to seem the only book of his that in the end may survive. In his own time, as we know, the accredited critics of the day could find no condemnation severe enough for Zola. Brunetière attacked him perpetually with a fury that seemed inexhaustible; Schérer could not even bear to hear his name mentioned; Anatole France, though he lived to relent, thought it would have been better if he had never been born. Even at that time, however, there were critics who inclined to view Germinal more favourably. Thus Faguet, who was the recognized academic critic of the end of the last century, while he held that posterity would be unable to understand how Zola could ever have been popular, yet recognized him as in Germinal the heroic representative of democracy, incomparable in his power of describing crowds, and he realized how marvellous is the conclusion of this book." - Excerpted from Translator's Introduction

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