ZOLA: BLOOD, SEX & MONEY
Between 1870 and the mid-1890s, the French novelist Émile Zola wrote twenty novels which he intended to be a portrait of France's Second Empire - a period, as Zola saw it, of unprecedented greed and corruption in public life, mirror by brutal moral decay in private life. He wanted to continue the panoramic ambition of Balzac's Comédie Humaine, but now informed more strongly by the latest discoveries in the natural and social sciences. These were the books that made Zola's reputation; some of the books - L'Assommoir, Nana, Germinal, La Terre, La Bête Humaine, Le Débâcle - have established global reputations as classics of French literature. But among the lesser-known books there are some remarkable discoveries to be made: I'm really pleased to have had a chance to work on some of my favourite lesser-known books, like Le Rêve and L'Argent. Collectively they are known as the 'Rougon-Macquart', after the two branches of the family - legitimate and illegitimate - whose ups and downs the books follow over several generations.
And we're adapting all of them for Radio 4. We're doing so under the title Émile Zola: Blood, Sex & Money. There are 27 episodes arranged across three seasons, each season taking one of the themes in the overall title. The nine episodes will be broadcast on consecutive days, an intense punch of drama over a long week from Saturday to the following Sunday. It is the biggest adaptation Radio 4 has ever broadcast and very exciting to be part of. Thrillingly, our narrator is the extraordinary Glenda Jackson.
I've been involved in the project right from the beginning, playing a key role in finding the shape of the series to pitch to the Radio Drama commissioner. I'm lead writer on the first series and third series. I will have written 7 of the episodes in total - amounting to around writing 7 hours of radio in just over a year. Phew.
My episodes are:
- Season 1, Blood: ep 1 (Animals), ep 2 (Fire), ep 3 (Trains)
- Season 2, Sex: ep 3 (Family), ep 4 (Lovesick)
- Season 3, Money: ep 1 (Crash), ep. 9 (Ghosts).
I will add links to pages on each individual play as I write them.