'I really don't understand how people can blame a priest so much, when he strays from the path.'
The Sin of AbbA (c) Mouret tells the compelling story of the young priest Serge Mouret. Striving after spiritual purity and sanctity, he lives a life of constant prayer, but his neglect of all physical needs leads to serious illness, followed by amnesia. No longer knowing he is a priest, he falls in love with his nurse Albine. Together, like a latter-day Adam and Eve, they roam through an Eden-like garden called the 'Paradou', seeking a forbidden tree in whose shade they will
make love. Zola memorably shows their gradual awakening to sexuality, and his poetic descriptions of the luxuriant and beautiful Paradou create a lyrical celebration of Nature. When Serge regains his memory and recalls his priestly vows, anguish inevitably follows.
The whole story, with its numerous biblical parallels, becomes a poetic reworking of the Fall of Man and a questioning of the very meaning of innocence and sin. Zola explores the conflict between Church and Nature, the sterility of the Church and the fertility of Nature. This new translation includes a wide-ranging and helpful introduction and explanatory notes.
Valerie Minogue has taught at the universities of Cardiff, Queen Mary, London, and Swansea. She is co-founder of Romance Studies and has been President of the Emile Zola Society, London, since 2005. She was made an Officier dans l'Ordre des Palmes Academiques in 2012.