Germinal is one of the most striking novels in the French tradition. Widely regarded as Zola's masterpiece, the novel describes the working conditions of French coal-miners in the 1860s in harsh and realistic terms it is visceral, graphic and unrelenting.
Its strong socialist principles and vivid accounts of the miners' strikes meant that the novel became a key symbol in the workers' fight against oppression, with chants of 'Germinal! Germinal!' resonating high above the author's funeral.