Lurid, Gaudy or Tasteless Covers

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When searching for books by Émile Zola we often come across books with terrible covers; sometimes they’re lurid, sometimes tacky, sometimes just crap. It has to be said that some of the worst covers are the Elek Book versions, where the original hardcovers had those hideous yellow covers and the later paperback versions (Bestseller Library) had quite terrible artwork and were brightly coloured as well. It’s a shame because the Elek translations are generally very good.

The intention here is to have a slideshow of any Émile Zola covers that can be classified either as tacky, lurid, lewd, gaudy, crap, or in other words those that are not tasteful, understated or boring. This will always be a subjective decision but hopefully those included fit the bill.  We intend to update this with new covers as they become available.

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33 comments on “Lurid, Gaudy or Tasteless Covers

  1. Marvelous finds, Jonathan. I have to say that the one which “shocked” me most is Doctor Pascal. I had to read the caption to see which book Fatal Intimacy was. Actually that cover does a good job of capturing the novel which is rather lurid on its own, lol. The Beast in Man looks like a comic book cover.

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    • Jonathan says:

      Until I started to look for them I didn’t realise just how many there are out there. I must admit that Fatal Intimacy is quite good and Nana is quite tasteful – it’s from a painting by Dominique Ingres called ‘La Petite Baigneuse’. I’m hoping to find some more.

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  2. kaggsysbookishramblings says:

    Heck! Those are definitely some of the *worst* covers I’ve seen !!

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  3. Guy Savage says:

    Here’s one to add: (Not Zola but you get the point)

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Guy Savage says:

    Did you get this one:

    Nana looks like a stripper

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jonathan says:

      Thanks Guy. Dagny supplied a few which included that one. There certainly are a lot more around than I originally thought.

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  5. Some new ones since I last checked. Love those old covers, even if they are rather mind-boggling at times–perhaps it should be especially when they are mind-boggling. Thanks for finding them, Jonathan.

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  6. Another new one! Thanks, Jonathan. Poor Gervaise.

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  7. Lisa Hill says:

    This might well be my favourite page on this entire blog!

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    • Jonathan says:

      He! He! They are compelling aren’t they? I’ve seen quite a few more on eBay, Amazon etc. but can’t use images here of course.

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      • Lisa Hill says:

        I shall scour my local 2nd hand sources for more.

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        • Lisa Hill says:

          Jonathan, have you got the Elek cover of ‘Savage Paris’ (Le ventre de Paris)? I just found it on the weekend. I’ll scan it for you If not.

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          • Jonathan says:

            I’ve got the paperback version which is on the slideshow but not the yellow hardback version. You could scan it and put it in the media library. It may even be a completely different one!

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            • Lisa Hill says:

              Coming up now…
              Done!

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              • Jonathan says:

                Thanks for that one Lisa, it’s probably one of the ‘best’ of the yellow Elek ones that I’ve seen – it’s enough to give small children nightmares. I’m envious of you for owning it!

                Liked by 2 people

                • Lisa Hill says:

                  I couldn’t believe my luck when I saw it … I think the bookseller was a bit bemused … there I was buying supertasteful Folio Society titles – Vasari’s Lives of the Artist, and Goodbye to all That by Rovert Graves – and then I pounced on the supertacky Zola!

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              • Great find, Lisa! I laughed and laughed when I saw it. Actually it’s probably not too far off the mark as a portrayal of Gervaise’ sister (named Lisa). She’s been described as filling a doorway. I wonder if that beanpole is supposed to be her husband, Quenu. I don’t recall a description of him offhand.

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                • Jonathan says:

                  I think the beanpole must be Florent; he became a fish inspector didn’t he? I’m sure Quenu must have been quite large himself 🙂 It’s strange but the cover would make more sense with the Vizetelly title ‘The Fat and the Thin’.

                  Liked by 1 person

                  • Indeed it would fit ‘The Fat and the Thin.’You are probably right, Jonathan, about who it is. I just don’t remember at all. I’ve only read this one once. I have a newish translation which I’m waiting to read when it comes up at the Goodreads group. The Belly of Paris by Brian Nelson.

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  8. Anokatony says:

    This is a wonderful slide show, perhaps the best I’ve seen on the Internet. It makes me hungry to read Emile Zola now. I like these old lurid, tasteless, and/or gaudy covers. Book covers today are just too tasteful.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Lisa Hill says:

      Our Jonathan is a clever fellow:)
      Can we expect to see a Zola review on your blog soon?

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    • Jonathan says:

      Thanks Anakatony. Sometimes I get a bit fed up with the more tasteful covers that appear on the classics; they often look nice but they’re all a bit ‘samey’. In fact with some of Zola’s novels the lurid covers are more honest – especially Nana, The Earth, Pot Luck, La Bete Humaine for example.

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  9. There’s an “Oh, my” cover of Nana at http://wp.me/p2EJxs-lm

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Jonathan says:

    I just found a great blog about book covers and design called ‘Caustic Cover Critic’. There’s an excellent post on Zola books with loads of lurid covers – see here.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. […] for their amusingly tacky covers, and they play a starring role in Jonathan’s post about Lurid, Gaudy or Tasteless Covers at the Books of Émile Zola blog – do check out his slideshow to see what I […]

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