Germinal on repeat

Edna wakes at 5 AM; each morning the same chores, there are cows to milk and manure to clean, then breakfast for Joe.

“Why’s coffee so weak?”
“We’re down to the last beans.”

Joe has nothing to add, no payments from the mine as long as they are on strike, no more credit from the company store.

“There’s a union meeting later today. There are blacklegs in the mine”.
“There’s always another meeting… They will always find scab to replace you.”
“But we cannot give up”.

Edna looks at the door, knowing what it means.

“I’ll fix your dinner… somehow.”

© Karen Rawson

I’m sure I was not the only one who saw the steep uphill climb, and my thought went to sisyphean life of the miners in Zola’s novel Germinal.

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May 2, 2018

52 responses to “Germinal on repeat

  1. A stark portrayal of such a difficult situation — and I, too, am a sucker for a labor story. Although the song I would have linked to probably would be from Billy Bragg. 🙂

  2. I love this. It feels very authentic. The dialogue is very natural and the way the couple is struggling to survive financially is something a lot of couples face and have to try to find a way through it. Brilliant write.

  3. I have Germinal in my bookcase – in French, of course, and have not had the courage to pick it up yet. It’s a big one!
    Now… I’m feeling the urge to read it!
    Loved your take, Björn

  4. They will do without coffee, and when they stick together, no one will die of hunger. Solidarity is the only thing that moves us all forward. If we wait for the rich people… Great description of hardship and determination, Björn.

  5. Reminds me of the miners’ strikes in the UK in the 70s and 80s. That decision – defy the strike so you can eat, or hold on… nice one!

  6. Like Ali, your story reminded me of the miners’ strike in the UK. Factual accounts that I read at the time chime exactly with your story. That was how it was. (Not the company store bit, of course, but all the rest of it).
    Good writing Bjorn; true to life and very relevant.

  7. Edna’s desperation and Joe’s determination are both so well defined. I imagine Edna wishes Joe wasn’t quite so stubborn as she scratches around to feed them.

  8. Bjorn, interesting tale of the desperate times of working in the mines. The miners have helped make this country what it is today and it seems they get the raw end of the deal. Nicely written!

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