The Universal Exhibition of 1867, from Money, by Emile Zola

July 5th, 2006

from Money, by Emile Zola, (translated by Ernest Allen Vizetelly)
London: Chatto & Windus, 1894
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It was on April 1, in the midst of fetes, that the Universal Exhibition of 1867 was opened with triumphal splendor. The Empire’s great “season” was beginning, that supreme gala season which was to turn Paris into the hostelry of the entire world–a hostelry gay with bunting, song, and music, where there was feasting and love-making in every room. Never had a regime at the zenith of its power convoked the nations to such a colossal spree. From the four corners of the earth a long procession of emperors, kings, and princes started on the march towards the Tuileries, which were all ablaze like some palace in the crowning scene of an extravaganza.

And it was at this same period, a fortnight after the Exhibition opened, that Saccard inaugurated the monumental pile in which he had insisted upon lodging the Universal. Six months had sufficed to erect it; workmen had toiled day and night without losing an hour, performing a miracle which is only possible in Paris; and a superb facade was now displayed, rich is flowery ornamentation, suggestive in some respects of a temple, in others of a music hall–a facade of such a luxurious aspect that passers-by stopped short in groups to gaze upon it. And within all was sumptuous; the millions in the coffers seemed to have streamed along the walls. A grand staircase led to the boardroom, which was all purple and gold, as splendid as the auditorium of an opera house. On every side you found carpets and hangings, offices fitted up with a dazzling wealth of furniture. Fastened in the walls of the basement, where the share offices were installed, were huge safes, with deep oven-like mouths, and transparent glass partitions enabled the public to perceive them, ranged there like the barrels of gold that figure in the folk-tales, and in which slumber the incalculable treasures of the fairies. And the nations with their kings on their way to the Exhibition would be able to come and view them, for all was ready, the new building awaited them, to dazzle them, catch them one by one, like an irresistible golden trap scintillating in the sunlight.

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