Mechanic Etienne Lantier in search of work wandered into coal mines. There he meets an old man, the Immortal (Vincent Mahe), so nicknamed that he was taken three times from the ground where he was to die. The Mae family has been working for the Coal Mining Company for a hundred and six years.
Morning in the working village of Two hundred Forty. At four o’clock Catherine wakes up – the eldest daughter in the Mahe family (she is 15 years old). Her brothers and sisters: Zacharias (21), Ghenlen (10 years), Alzira (9), Lenora (6), Henri, Estella (3 months). Catherine awakens Zacharias and Ghenlen. Mae and his wife are discussing how to live a whole week without money. Father with Catherine, Zacharias and Ghenlen go to work.
Etienne is taken to the Mae artel instead of the dead recluse. He descends with them all to the Vorye mine. Artel Mae works on the Guillomast layer in difficult conditions – in the face it is very hot and humid. Catherine teaches Etienne to be a haulier. At ten in the morning the miners eat breakfast. Catherine shares food with Etienne. The guy wants to kiss the girl, but another miner, Chaval, is ahead of him. Work continues. In the face comes the engineer Paul Negreel – the nephew of director Enbo. He scolds the artel for the badly mounted mounts. Kabatchik Rasner gives Etienne a free room and a loan for two weeks.
Morning at the Gregoire Manor, Piolene, begins at eight. Ms. Gregoire asks the cook to bake a layered
Wife Mae with younger children asks the storekeeper Meghra bread, then five francs from the Gregoire. Gentlemen from Piolenas give only things, Megra lends food and money, hoping that he can sleep with Catherine.
The miners’ wives are washing their bones together. After returning home, Mae and his children dine. Then all are washed directly in the kitchen: in the beginning children, then the father of the family. In the evening, Mae is engaged in the garden adjacent to the house.
Near the Reckillar, in the area of the abandoned mine, local boys and girls indulge in amorous pleasures. There, in a collapsing house, the old groom Muk lives with his son and daughter Muketta. In Reckillar, Chavall deprives Catherine of his virginity. Etienne is going crazy with jealousy.
Three weeks later Etienne gets used to the work of the miner and becomes the best hauler. In the evening he drinks beer with the machinist Suvarin, who lives in the next room at Rasner. Suvarin is a Russian anarchist nobleman who fled to France after an attempt on the emperor. One evening, Etienne receives a letter from Plushard and says that he does not mind setting up the cell of the International in Mons. In July, Mahe proposes to Etienne to become a miner.
On the last Sunday of July in Mons, a fair is held. The miners drink beer. Etienne persuades them to create a mutual support fund. The wife of Mae agrees to marry Zacharias with Philomena, from whom he has two children. In the evening, at the dance, Mahe proposes to take Etienne to stay, in order to compensate for the losses associated with the departure of his son from the family.
In a few months Etienne is revolutionizing the village. In autumn the Company arranges idle time, imposes a fine on coal miners for bad fastenings and gives a scanty salary. Immortal sent to retire. Jeanlen falls under the collapse and becomes lame. Catherine leaves for Chavall. In December, the coal miners’ strike begins. Director Enbo, his wife, nephew – Paul Negregh, the Gregoires and Denenen have breakfast, looking frightened at the road. A delegation of miners comes to them and sets out their demands.
The strike lasts for several weeks and covers an increasing number of mines. People start to starve. At the meeting of coal miners from Lille comes Plushar and takes everyone to the International. By January, the village covered the famine. Etienne converges with Muketta and takes her food for the Mahe family. Jeanlen with other children begins to steal shopkeepers. He arranges a lair in an abandoned mine.
In the Vandam forest, coal miners gather for gathering. The next day at the mine of Jean-Bart strikers from Mons, cut the cables, after which they begin uninterrupted running around the district and smash all the mines that come to their way.
Mr. Enbo learns that his wife is cheating on him with NegreL. The rebels besiege his mansion and almost kill Cecil Gregoire. The shopkeeper Megra crawls to his shop on the roof and turns his neck. Women tear off his masculine dignity, plant him on a stick and ride with him through the streets.
By February, the strike has covered more and more areas. Dead mines are guarded by gendarmes. Mae is fired. Etienne hides in an abandoned mine at Ghenle.
Alzira colds, picking up coal crumbs, and dies. Abbot Runvier encourages miners to return to the bosom of the church. The company employs new workers from Belgium. Chaval fights with Etienne, the latter wins. At night, Etienne sees Jeanelen killing the sentry. He forces the boy to help him hide the corpse of a soldier in an abandoned mine. Chavall beats Katrin and drives her out of the house.
In the morning on the Vorei mine, strikers throw stones at soldiers. The soldiers open fire. Mae, Muketta, and several other miners, including children, were killed.
The company is trying to come to terms with the workers, and miners are gradually returning to the mine of the Voire. Etienne, the former comrades are almost stoned. Suvarin weakens the supports in the mine.
Etienne draws near to Catherine and descends with her underground. The frame of the mine collapses. Part of the miners together with Etienne, Catherine and Chavall remain below. The Voices of Shahat settles. After it, the above-ground structures are destroyed. The mine begins rescue work. During them, Zechariah dies.
The Gregoirs bring alms to Mahe. In the house they meet an old man of the Immortal – an invalid who has been moved by the mind. He kills Cecile Gregoire, left with him for a few minutes.
Under the debris Etienne kills Shaval. Together with Catherine they are waiting for help. By the end of the second week, Etienne and Catherine make love, after which the girl dies. Etienne is being saved.
In a month and a half, the widow of Mae goes to work at the mine Jean-Bart. Etienne goes to Paris to Plushard.
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