I have something else. It smells damnably strong in me. I only have to appear and the audience will be
hanging out their tongues. A skin. Oh, what a skin I’ve got. I am an amusing creature, a lovely girl. I sing
like a trombone. My laughter makes a delightful dimple appear in my chin. I have a little red mouth and
bright blue eyes. The reddish hair on my neck looks like an animal’s pelt. I am so plump and white. I am
sure of the sovereign power of my flesh. I have round shoulders, Amazon breasts, the rosy tips of which
stand up as stiff and straight as spears. My broad hips sway voluptuously. My deadly smile of a man-eater. My slightest movements fan the flames of desire. With a twitch of my little finger I can stir men’s flesh. My lips are moist, my eyes sparkling. Close to my ear I have a patch of delicate, satiny skin. Champagne makes me tipsy straightaway. No one can teach me anything about lady-like behaviour. I am not a fool. I want people to show me a bit of respect. I have a cool scented hand. I am the devil, with my laughter, my breasts and my crupper, which seems swollen with vice. My dimpled face seems fraught with desire. I have an unnaturally red mouth in an unnaturally white face, and exaggerated eyes, ringed with black and burning fiercely, as if ravaged by love. I stand out, white and gigantic. My hair reaches down below my waist. Little golden hairs curl low down between my shoulders. My smile is adorable in its embarrassment and submissiveness. The naked flesh of my lithe arms and white shoulders. I am a Venus with the rouge scarcely washed from my cheeks. I experience sudden fits of blushing, flurries of emotion, which leave me trembling. My desires make me feel ashamed. My heart is full to bursting. My childhood ambitions have been greatly surpassed. I taste the novel sensations experienced by young girls. I am intoxicated by the scent of leaves. I feel like a schoolgirl. I savour delicious novelty and voluptuous terrors. I am subject to the fancies of a sentimental girl. I gaze at the moon for hours. I am afraid of dying. I am utterly silly. My maternal affection is as violent as a fit of madness. I am charmed by my existence. I thoroughly enjoy playing the role of lady of the manor. I am rather thoughtful. I am in a very excited state. I am obstinate. I loathe Paris and am not going back there in a hurry. I have been rather pale and serious. I do not intend to take advice from anybody. I am lost in reverie. I really have not behaved very well. I have certainly changed. I am prey to the inner anguish of trying to come to a decision. I am filled with white-hot fury. I grow resigned. I cannot tear myself away from the shop-windows. I have no idea where the money has gone. I boast of being a model of economy. I tremble with repressed indignation. One of my pleasures is to undress in front of the mirror. A passion for my body, an ecstatic admiration of my satin skin and the supple lines of my figure, keeps me serious, attentive, and absorbed in my love of myself. I am as well made as a plant nurtured on a dung-heap. I have become of nature, a ferment of destruction. I have a little brown mole just above my right hip; it strikes me as both quaint and pretty. I have the torso of a plump Venus. My mane of loosened yellow hair covers my back with the fell of a lioness. I have the solid loins and the firm body of an Amazon. The lines of my fair flesh vanish in golden gleams. My rounded contours shine like silk. My body is covered with fine hair, reddish down which turns my skin to velvet. There is something of the beast about my equine crupper and flanks, about the fleshy curves and deep hollows of my body. I am the golden beast. I am stupid, vile, and deceitful. I am good-natured and hate hurting other people. I consider myself to be extremely kind. I look so plump and pink. I am not a spiteful woman. I have a kind heart. I am a superbly full-bodied, fair-skinned girl. I affect a desire for solitude and simplicity. I am as supple as fine linen; my skin grows delicate, all pink and white, so soft and pleasing to the touch that I look more beautiful than ever. I am broadminded. I dream of playing the part of a respectable woman. I smile gaily under the rain of little golden curls, which falls around the blue of my made-up eyes and the red of my painted lips. I have the supple grace of a serpent, the studied yet seemingly involuntary carelessness of dress that is exquisitely elegant, the nervous distinction
of a pedigree cat. I have an instinctive feeling for elegance. I have never been able to break myself of the
habit of sitting on the floor to take off my stockings. The warm scent of violets is the disturbing perfume
peculiar to me. I am radiant. I no longer think of anything but my beauty, forever inspecting my body. I can strip naked at any moment and in front on anyone without having any cause to blush. Solitude saddens me straightaway. I am miserable when I am alone. I feel a sudden blossoming of my nature. I long for domination and to destroy everything. I feel the power of my sex. I have plump limbs and coarse plebeian laughter. Childish fears and horrible fantasies come to me in waking nightmares. The sight of my breasts, hips, and thighs increases my terror. I tremble at the idea of death. My continual desires burn fiercely. The slightest breath from my lips changes gold into ashes which the wind sweeps away. Nothing remains intact in my hands; everything is broken or dirtied or withered between my little white fingers. I draw back my lips to display my white teeth. I picture myself as a silver statuette symbolising the warm voluptuous delights of darkness. Some days I go mad, smashing everything and wearing myself out in frenzies of love and anger, but looking irresistible all the same. My growing needs sharpen my appetite, and I can clean out a man with one snap of my teeth. I devour everything. I pass by like an invading army. I scorch the earth on which my little foot rests. I am tyrannical in my triumph. The passion for defiling things is inborn in me. My delicate hands leave abominable traces, corrupting with their touch whatever they have broken. I have white skin and a mane of red hair. I stretch out the glory of my naked limbs. I rest my feet on human skulls and am surrounded by catastrophes. I have finished my labour of ruin and death. My sex rises in a halo of glory and blazes down on my prostrate victims. I am as unconscious of my actions as a splendid animal, ignorant of the havoc I wreak, and as good-natured as ever. I am big and plump, splendidly healthy and splendidly gay. I look as clean and wholesome and brand-new as if I have never been used.
Here I have 'digested' or condensed Zola's novel Nana according to the attributes/descriptions afford his eponymous heroine, who is a ferment of destruction. In the novel, Nana manifests herself as a commodity, or has the form of a commodity, in so far as she has two forms, physical and of value. An inhabitant of the demi-monde, in public she is condemned, while in private she is tolerated. The cleavage between her use and exchange is less clearly demarcated. Her body has useful qualities, and these qualities are also of value. Nana is of value because she has been used; her potential for use is realised and very finely calibrated.Nana manifests herself as a commodity, or has the form of a commodity, in so far as she has two forms, physical and of value. She is an object and a bearer of value. Nana eludes possession, no matter how manytimes she is had or by how many. As she is passed from man to man, even shared at times, she accrues value, until all Paris lies at her feet. Her value lies in that she can be exchanged, passed on. Zola writes of his character that she leaves only ruins and cadavers about her, destroying all she touches. Gustave Flaubert writes that she becomes myth without ceasing to be a woman.
Sharon Kivland on “Nana”