Random Quote #81 topic: zola-dictionary, A Zola Dictionary; the Characters of the Rougon-Macquart Novels of Emile Zola, Patterson, J. G

COUPEAU (ANNA, known as NANA), born 1852, was the only child of Coupeau
and Gervaise Macquart, his wife. Almost from infancy she was allowed to
run wild in the gutters of Paris, and even in childhood her instincts
were vicious. At thirteen years of age she was sent to learn
artificial-flower making in the establishment of Madame Titreville,
whose forewoman was Madame Lerat, Nana's aunt. She had been there some
time when she began to receive attentions from an elderly gentleman who
had noticed her going to work. Meantime her father and mother had taken
to drink so seriously that home life had become intolerable, and, after
one of innumerable quarrels, Nana ran away to her venerable admirer.
After a few months she tired of him and left, to spend her time amongst
the low-class dancing-halls, in one of which she was found by her
father, who brought her home, where she remained for a fortnight, and
then ran off again. From time to time she returned, but her visits
gradually became less frequent till they ceased. L'Assommoir.

At sixteen years of age she had a child by an unknown father, and two
years later was installed in a flat in Boulevard Haussmann by a rich
merchant of Moscow, who had come to pass the winter in Paris. Bordenave,
the director of the Theatre des Varietes, gave her a part in a play
called _La Blonde Venus_, and though her voice was poor and she
was ignorant of acting, she was by the sheer force of her beauty an
immediate and overwhelming success. All Paris was at her feet; Comte
Muffat, Steiner, the Prince of Scots himself, came in turn to offer
homage. It seemed as if this girl, born of four or five generations of
drunkards and brought up on the pavements of Paris, was to revenge her
race upon the idle rich by the wild extravagances into which she dragged
them. Muffat and Steiner were her lovers, and ruined themselves by
the vast sums which she squandered; Georges Hugon killed himself from
jealousy of his brother Philippe, who embezzled for her sake, and
brought himself to imprisonment and disgrace; Vandeuvres too, after
courting dishonour, met death at his own hand; and Foucarmont, stripped
bare and cast off, went to perish in the China seas. The procession was
unending; more money was always required. After a successful appearance
in a play called _Melusine_, Nana suddenly left Paris and went to the
East. Strange stories were told of her--the conquest of a viceroy, a
colossal fortune acquired in Russia--but nothing definite was known.
When she returned to Paris in 1870 she found that her son Louiset had
been attacked by small-pox, and she herself contracted the disease from
him. A few days later she died in a room in the Grand Hotel, nursed only
by Rose Mignon, who had come to her in her trouble. The war with Germany
had just broken out, and as she lay dying the passing crowds were
shouting ceaselessly, "A Berlin, A Berlin." Nana.


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