This is the ninth volume in Zola's Rougon-Macquart series, translated by Ernest Alfred Vizetelly (1853-1922).
This short story explores a human characteristic we see in these times that may in fact contribute to the downfall of the entire human species: narcissism. Nana is a beautiful woman wholly devoted to herself (not unlike Narcissus) and she employs herself as a courtesan of so many men, it is hard to keep track of them all. Like Narcissus, there are scenes in the story where Nana admires herself for long periods of time before the mirror but why not? It is her beauty that is her power so she must keep track of it at all times. Better to manipulate her many victims, and manipulate she does though perhaps the one she is damaging the most is herself. The human condition. It is all here. Beauty, power, greed, avarice, loss, pain, cold-heartedness...Nana seems to have no ability whatsoever for introspection. Like a blind person, she cannot see where she is taking herself but still she barrels down the road of her life-- damn the torpedoes, full steam ahead. The pinnacle of the story is the horse race in which, a horse bearing her name elevates Nana to her greatest notoriety and pride. Of course, she decides the whole affair is about her...This story is something like being at a carnival. As soon as you think things have settled down, Nana takes you on yet another ride and it is not rooted in her zest for life, but in her relentless zest for one person--herself. We see elements of this in our society today and perhaps we will never escape narcissistic pleasures. Perhaps this comes with being human. Learn and enjoy.--Submitted by Virginia Arthur
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