This young novelist, Claude’s best friend in The Masterpiece, actually represented Émile Zola’s personalities which makes this book the most autobiographical in Les Rougon-Macquart series. Sandoz was portrayed as an amiable and enthusiast young man, loved socializing and was always attentive to his friends. He had a habit of inviting his artist friends to have dinner in his humble house every Thursday evening, and to have warm discussions—or rather debates—around arts and politics after the meals. He continued this habit even after marriage.
Sandoz was indeed the oldest of the gang, but it’s not the only reason that he appeared to have a fatherly quality. Despite of being one of the members of the revolutionary young artists, Sandoz had a proportional and healthy life. Unlike his maniac friends, Sandoz possessed the ability to balance his creativity and his personal life. He did confess that sometimes he would be carried away by his imagination, that he’d forgot everything surround him; he would be drowned into his works and ignored his family. Nevertheless, he still kept his marriage well enough, and he have never neglected the Thursday’s dinner for his friends! I should say that Sandoz was the ‘glue’ of the gang. I believe Sandoz was the wisest and most logical artist of them all.
Portrait of Emile Zola - Paul Cezanne, 1864
Among the young artists, Sandoz befriended Claude Lantier most closely. I think it’s because Sandoz’ fatherly quality perfectly matched Claude’s childish and trustful personalities. Sandoz understood Claude very well, he never laughed at his mistakes, not because he was afraid to hurt his best friend’s feeling, but more because he knew that Claude was very sensitive, and criticizing him openly just brought him down. Sandoz knew how to bring it softly to encourage his friend. And when Claude did not do Sandoz’ suggestion and failed, Sandoz never blamed him.
When Claude completely failed, unlike the others, Sandoz kept befriending him; he even worried about him and took great care of him and Christine. Sandoz was willingly to put his effort and time to take Claude on their strolls to break his despair. And finally, at the funeral, Sandoz faithfully defended his poor friend; and was one of few who attended the funeral and took dear old Claude to his last resting.
What a friend Pierre Sandoz was, and how lucky Claude for having such a good friend! I won’t talk about Sandoz’ novels, for Sandoz is Zola, and we all know how genius this French novelist and Naturalist is!
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