Nana (nah-NAH), an ignorant courtesan whose beauty, selfishness, and erotic cunning prove disastrous to the men of fashion who patronize her. A product of the Paris streets, she is discovered by a theatrical promoter and becomes a success by captivating men with her sexual charm. Soon she has a clientele that includes the richest men in Paris. Tiring of this life, she goes to live with a brutal comic actor. When her fortunes reach a low ebb, she is reduced to streetwalking. Later, an infatuated nobleman becomes her protector. Her financial and sexual extravagances achieve new extremes as she acquires a lavish mansion, new lovers, and a lesbian prostitute. Many of her lovers ruin themselves; one goes to prison, and two commit suicide. Ironically, she dies of smallpox, her beautiful and notorious body ravaged by the disease.
M. Fauchery (foh-sheh-REE), a second-rate journalist who writes about Nana in the press, at first favorably and later adversely. A hanger-on of the theater and society, he spends his time seducing other men’s wives.
M. Steiner (SHTI-nehr), a wealthy and crooked Jewish banker who pursues actresses. He is twice Nana’s lover, the first time providing her with an estate. His financial career roughly parallels Nana’s erotic career; he is spectacularly successful, suffers heavy losses, and then regains his fortune before he falls again, this time to bankruptcy.
Georges Hugon (zhohrzh ew-GOH[N]), a pampered, effeminate, silly...
(The entire section is 702 words.)