Germinal (1885) is the thirteenth novel in Émile Zola's twenty-volume series Les Rougon-Macquart. Often considered Zola's masterpiece and one of the most significant novels in the French tradition, the novel - an uncompromisingly harsh and realistic story of a coalminers' strike in northern France in the 1860s - has been published and translated in over one hundred countries as well as inspiring five film adaptations and two TV productions.
The title refers to the name of a month of the French Republican Calendar, a spring month. Germen is a Latin word which means "seed"; the novel describes the hope for a better future that seeds amongst the miners.
Germinal was written between April 1884 and January 1885. It was first serialized between November 1884 and February 1885 in the periodical Gil Blas, then in March 1885 published as a book.
The novel's central character is Étienne Lantier, previously seen in L'Assommoir (1877), a young migrant worker who arrives at the foreboding coal mining town of Montsou in the bleak area of the far north of France to earn a living as a miner. Sacked from his previous job on the railways for assaulting a superior, Étienne was originally to have been...