Pronounability: who's he again?
The novel's central character is Étienne Lantier, previously seen in L'Assommoir (1877), a young migrant worker who arrives at the foreboding coal mining town of Montsou in the bleak area of the far north of France to earn a living as a miner. Sacked from his previous job on the railways for assaulting a superior, Étienne was originally to have been the central character in Zola's "murder on the trains" thriller La Bête humaine (1890) before the overwhelmingly positive reaction to Germinal persuaded him otherwise: he befriends the veteran miner Maheu, who finds him somewhere to stay and gets him a job pushing the carts down the pit.
Someone really should sort out those pronouns. Or preferably rewrite the whole damn thing.