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Conservative and working-class, Jean Macquart is an experienced, middle-aged soldier in the French army, who has endured deep personal loss. When he first meets the wealthy and mercurial Maurice Levasseur, who never seems to have suffered, his hatred is immediate. But after they are thrown together during the disastrous Franco-Prussian war of 1870-71, the pair are compelled to understand one other. Forging a profound friendship, they must struggle together to endure a disorganised and brutal war, the savage destruction of France's Second Empire and the fall of Napoleon III. One of the greatest of all war novels, The Debacle is the nineteenth novel in Zola's great Rougon-Macquart cycle. A forceful and deeply moving tale of close friendship, it is also a fascinating chronicle of the events that were to lead, in the words of Zola himself, to 'the murder of a nation'.
Only the brave give their lives.’ Towards the Place du Collège the trap carrying the marshal disappeared into the swelling crowds, among whom the most far-fetched reports from the battlefield were already going round. The mist was thinning and the streets filling with sunshine. But then there came a harsh voice from the courtyard: ‘Ladies, it isn’t there you are wanted, but in here!’ All three went in and found themselves confronted by Major Bouroche, the medical officer, who had already
thumbs along to stop the blood from the humeral artery. ‘Lay him down again!’ Bouroche couldn’t help chuckling as he went on to the ligature, for he had done the job in thirty-five seconds. All that had to be done now was to pull the bit of loose flesh down over the wound, like a flat epaulette. It was a nice, tricky business because of the danger, as a man could empty out all his blood in three minutes through the humeral artery, to say nothing of the risk of death every time you sit a patient
softly: ‘Yes, it’s me. I’ve had enough of fighting for nothing, so I’ve sloped off… I say, Pa Fouchard, I suppose you don’t want a farm-hand?’ At once the old man recovered all his wariness. As a matter of fact he did want one. But there was no point in saying so. ‘A new hand, oh dear no, not just now… But come in all the same and have a drink. I’m certainly not going to leave you high and dry in the middle of the road.’ Indoors, Silvine was putting the stew on the fire and little Chariot was
than being a prisoner with the Prussians, isn’t it?… You’ve got some horses, Monsieur Fouchard, and you’ll see whether I can love them and look after them!’ The old man’s eyes glittered. He held up his glass once again and concluded the business without undue haste: ‘Oh well, as it will help you I don’t mind if I do… I’ll take you on… But as to any wages, can’t discuss that until the war is over, because I don’t really need anybody and times are too hard!’ Silvine was still sitting there with
vain last night to warm up the stew. Only twelve hours late. ‘Three cheers for the quartermaster!’ called Chouteau. ‘Never mind, here it is,’ said Loubet. ‘Now you’ll see the lovely stew I’m going to make you!’ He usually took on the eats, and they were all grateful, for he cooked marvellously. But he would pile the most extraordinary jobs on to Lapoulle. ‘Go and find the champagne, go and fetch the truffles…’ That morning he hit on a weird idea, typical of a Paris smartie pulling the leg of