Monday, 18 January 2010
Zola And The Mine Horse
In 1884 Zola went down into the mines at Anzin to do the documentation for what was to become the novel Germinal. Posing as a secretary for a member of the French Chamber of Deputies, he descended into the pits wearing his city clothes, his frock coat, high stiff collar, and high stiff hat, and carrying a notebook and pen. One day Zola and the miners who were serving as his guide were 150 feet below the ground when Zola noticed an enormous workhorse, a Percheron, pulling a sled piled with coal through a tunnel. Zola asked, 'How do you get that animal in and out of the mine every day?' At first the miners thought he was joking. Then they realized he was serious, and one of them said, 'Mr. Zola, don't you understand? That horse comes down here once, when he's a colt, barely more than a foal, and still able to fit into the buckets that bring us down here. That horse grows up down here. He grows blind down here after a year or two, from the lack of light. He hauls coal down here until he can't haul it anymore, and then he dies down here, and his bones are buried down here.'