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Balzac, Le Pere Goriot (Folio (Gallimard)) [French] [Mass Market Paperback]

Felicien Marceau
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
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Book Description

1 May 1973 Folio (Gallimard) (Book 3226)
This scarce antiquarian book is a facsimile reprint of the original. Due to its age, it may contain imperfections such as marks, notations, marginalia and flawed pages. Because we believe this work is culturally important, we have made it available as part of our commitment for protecting, preserving, and promoting the world's literature in affordable, high quality, modern editions that are true to the original work.
--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Product details

  • Mass Market Paperback
  • Publisher: Editions Flammarion (1 May 1973)
  • Language: French
  • ISBN-10: 2070409341
  • ISBN-13: 978-2070409341
  • Product Dimensions: 17.6 x 10.8 x 2.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 126,932 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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First Sentence
MADAME VAUQUER, nee de Conflans, is an old woman who for the past forty years has run a family boarding house in the rue Neuve-Sainte-Genevieve, between the Latin Quarter and the Faubourg Saint-Marceau. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Back Cover
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3.8 out of 5 stars
3.8 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
This novel is one of Shakespearian proportions, and many parallels can be seen with King Lear. As in that play the tragedy in Pere Goriot revolves around the male character and his two daughters. The other central character is the young Rastignac, who goes on to feature in other novels belonging to Balzac's La Comedie Humaine, a collection in which this novel plays an important part. All of Balzac's novels are page-turners and this is no exception: love, betrayal and death are important themes. I found Pere Goriot to be a deeply involving work, and also a moral one; Balzac invites you to make judgements on the actions of his many characters. This novel is set in the nineteenth century and shows the glittering world of the Parisian nobility, but also the poorer circles of Paris. The interesting thing is that Balzac portrays money here as a corrupting influence, and avarice and love of power results in tragedy. In this way it has many points in common with modern fiction. If in the past you have enjoyed Balzac's and Emile Zola's novels you will love this; and even if you haven't read any works of either of these authors before then you couldn't start in a better place than Pere Goriot. Read it and weep!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A French King Lear 20 Dec 2010
By Luc REYNAERT TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Mass Market Paperback
In these brilliantly written studies of the `human heart', Honoré de Balzac proves to be a master of suspense, creating mysteries and revealing the hidden histories, goals, truths, motives, emotions, desires and strategies behind the differently marked faces in this novel which represent all segments of the `human comedy'.
Through his mouthpiece, Vautrin, he shouts loudly his view on human society and the bold strategies needed to survive in `an ocean of mud'.

Characters, not types
Balzac doesn't work with `types' (G. Lukács) but with `characters': Père Goriot's loving daughters become harpies in the hands of their husbands, who squeeze the juicy orange and throw away the peel in the gutter.

Mankind and society
The author's mouthpiece, the criminal Vautrin, describes `the world as it is: laws and morality powerless against wealth, and success the ultimo ratio mundi. Wealth can buy everything. At the bottom of every great fortune without apparent source, there's always some crime - a crime overlooked because it's been carried out respectably.' `How corrupt are women here, and how despicably vain the men.'

Strategies
At the bottom, there are only two strategies to survive: stupid obedience or revolt.
`The poor drones which do the hard work without getting the slightest reward for their labors, the ones I call the Brotherhood of God's Down-at-Heels. To be sure that's virtue at the height of its stupidity.'
The right strategies are: `the more coldly you calculate, the further you'll go. Strike without pity; and you'll be feared. Look at men and women simply as post-horses, and leave them behind as soon as they're exhausted. And if you have any feeling, hide it like treasure.
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8 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good introduction to the French Dickens 1 May 2004
Format:Paperback
Whilst the I would go along with many of the other reviewer's comments, particularly the similarity to the story of King Lear, I would not hold with this work, amusing as it is, to be comparable to Shakespeare!! However, as an introduction to Balzac's work, it is a good start and shows the Frenchman to be writing in his typically affected style in a tale that perhaps evokes some aspects of Dickens.
Like the Englishman, Balzac had the gift of defining the characters of the people within his novels through their dialogue which if often very amusing, particularly when the reader is aware of something of which the speaker is ignorant.In my opinion, the novel is worth reading for the presence of one such character, his greatest creation, the criminal mastermind Vautrin. I always picture Vautrin as being rather like Long John Silver with his ability to charm his acquaintances when his motives are clearly less than good intentioned and , frequently evil. Cerainly, the best parts of this book are when Vautrin makes an appearance. Luckily, the central character of the book Rastignac is too wise for him. Elsewhere, the story concerns the fate of another character who lives within the Parisian boarding house of Madame Vauquer, the unfortunate M. Goriot who we learn has sacrificed everything for the well being of his daughters.
This is one of the better books by Balzac but readers wishing to explore more of his work should be warned that, unlike the far superior Charles Dickens, there is not alot of variety amongst his many works. (This can probably be due to the fact that his publishers paid him by the line with the consequence that the quality is somewhat diluted.) However, if you are a newcomer to Balzac, this is an excellent introduction that will keep you amused with it's superior storyline and , of course, the gallic wit.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Only the commentary is give, Why! 2 Dec 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
250 different views on Pere Goriot but a complete absence of the novel itself. I want to read the book not the thoughts of other people however distinguished.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.4 out of 5 stars  30 reviews
47 of 49 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Scathing Expose of the Social Circus 19 Aug 2001
By Ian Vance - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Mass Market Paperback
The French author Honore de Balzac (1799-1850) wrote nearly a hundred books over the course of his relatively short life. Most are considered part of his incomplete opus titled La Comedie Humaine (the Human Comedy), with reoccurring characters and overlapping themes. The goal of this oeuvre was to create a panoramic view of French society, staring from the Revolution and continuing to the current (mid nineteenth century) age, exploring the aspects of country, city and military life. Balzac believed that just as the differences of heredity and environment produce various species of animals, so did the varying pressures of society produce differentiations among human beings. In the Human Comedy, Balzac attempted to describe and classify these human "species."
_Pere Goriot_ is arguably the most famous and artistically successful entry of the opus, a masterful study of a father who sacrifices his wealth and health to assure his two daughters into the hotbed of Parisian high-society. Through the eyes of Rastignac, an impoverished youth eager to gain social success, we see Goriot's maniacal obsession to his "babies," constantly succumbing to their lavish demands and paying off their debts, all the while prevented from being seen in public with them or even visiting their houses. Goriot is deemed �unfit� company and a threat to the illusion of success, the latter of which being Balzac�s central theme for this particular novel:
In the whirl of Parisian high-life, it is not so much the individual talent or intelligence or virtue one has that gives him or her a respected standing; instead, the trappings of wealth and the way in which one displays it is the standard and the rule: conspicuous consumerism for the bygone era. And let us gaze upon the technocratic twenty-first-century pyramid of Hollywood and its ilk�-with actresses famous solely for the size of their breasts, and psychos killing just to appear on television, and a whole media subculture slavishly devoted to the whims and waste and trials of the celebrity identity, it is easy to see that the game never ends, the rules never really change; in this cyclical social circus, those with the finest illusion garner the highest raves, the chance at longevity, the narcotic of fame. Proof of that ancient adage: how much times change, how much they stay the same�
This is an amazing book. Highly recommended to the student of life.
39 of 40 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "I Am in Hell, and I Have To Stay There." 20 Jan 2004
By mp - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Honoré de Balzac's 1834 novel, "Le Père Goriot," is a novel of strange and fascinating power. As the doorway into his interconnected cycle, La Comédie Humaine, it presents as much welcome to interested readers as Dante's fateful "abandon all hope..." entrance to Hell in the Divine Comedy. "Le Père Goriot" gives us a fallen world, driven by self-interest, where all ties of genuine human feeling seem to be relegated to a no longer existent past, or to the rarely-glimpsed pastoral countryside. Balzac presents the stories of Eugène de Rastignac - a young law student from the southern provinces, Jean-Joachim Goriot - a former pasta merchant who gave all he had as dowry for his two daughters, and Vautrin - a man who lives and works in shadows. Balzac's novel illustrates the lengths and depths that these three, and everyone around them, go to in order to secure even the most fleeting happiness in the moral wasteland of Paris about 4 years after the fall of Napoleon.
The novel begins with our introduction to Maison Vauquer, a boarding house with a crumbling plaster statue of Cupid in the yard, which is home and prison to the respectably indigent. Goriot has lived in the Maison Vauquer under the increasingly unsympathetic gaze of Madame Vauquer and her boarders for almost 10 years - wasting away, Goriot has become a figure of fun for the house, coming to be known teasingly as "Old Goriot." His tragic affection for his two well-married daughters, Delphine de Nucingen and Anastasie de Restaud, has driven him out of their homes, and into a state wherein his only joys come from seeing them from afar, and mortgaging what remains of his fortune to assist them in financial difficulties. Into the Maison and Goriot's life comes young Rastignac, whose lack of fortune fuels his desire to enter the fashionable world of Parisian high society. Here, Rastignac meets Vautrin, who offers the youth a possible means to do so - means both underhanded and deadly.
One of the novel's great questions is the great Biblical dilemma - what does it profit a man to gain the world if he must lose his soul in the process? The novel's three main characters, but particularly Rastignac, illustrate the dilemma from different vantage points. For Vautrin and Goriot, their choices were made long ago, and Balzac's work with them concerns the results of lives organized around self and others, respectively. The novel's primary concern is with Rastignac, who is continually in the process of weighing his options - in a world in which there is little grey area, will Rastignac opt for a life of good or evil, of self-interest (as with fellow-boarders Mlle. Michonneau and M. Poiret) or service (as with fellow-student Bianchon)?
Balzac sets relationships, particularly those concerned with family, up for consideration in the novel. We see bonds created by birth, as well as by social class and wealth; of course, family and money are rarely inseparable, and certainly are not mutually exclusive for the novel's characters. Rastignac is in Paris studying the law only because of the financial sacrifices being made by his family in the country. Rastignac's kinship with Madame de Beauséant provides him with a taste of the seeming luxury of Paris. Victorine de Taillefer, a motherless young girl at the Maison Vauquer, makes a fruitless yearly application to her hard-hearted father, who has disowned her completely. As Rastignac interacts with and becomes part of Goriot's life and that of his fellow-boarders, we are encouraged to consider the role of the family as it relates to society. If family is Balzac's basic social unit, then how do we regard the family constituted by Goriot and his daughters? The one made up of the "guests" of the boarding house? That of Vautrin's Ten Thousand Society?
I have barely scratched the surface of Balzac's novel. Its engagements - literary, sociological, and moral, are extensive. Balzac's engagements with literary and philosophical models, from Shakespeare to Rousseau, are worth taking notice of, as are his proposed "three attitudes of men toward the world: obedience, struggle, and revolt." For a novel with seemingly clear moral polarities, it is difficult to say who are the heroes and who the villains in "Le Père Goriot." Though the novel is by no means a simple satire, getting swept up in the novel's overt sentimentality may say as much about the reader as it does about the novel's characters and situations. Balzac's anonymous narrator offers continually biased judgments, which can cloud the reader's ability to remain objective. Any way one reads it, "Le Père Goriot" is a terrific novel - and the invitation to enter Balzac's uninviting world is well worth accepting.
22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Parting of the Mist 22 Nov 2000
By James Paris - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
In May 2000 I stood hat in hand at Pere Lachaise cemetery in Paris paying my respects to a giant named Honore de Balzac. His masterpiece, PERE GORIOT, has resonated across over 30 years since that happy moment in 1968 when I first sat down to dine at Mme de Vauquer's boarding house, since I first heard the whispered confidences of Mme de Nucingen and the sighs of the Duchesse de Langeais, and since I first ran into that master criminal Vautrin.
Balzac was at the same time an extraordinarily ambitious man and one who knew the limits of fame and fortune. For years he chased his Polish countess, and no sooner did he win and marry her than he fell ill and died. I would like to think that there was a smirk on his face as he saw the irony: He was himself a character in a Balzac novel, a composite of all his characters -- whether of the court or the hovel, from bankers to ragpickers, high and low.
On the surface, this is a modern day version of Lear: An old man gives everything to his ambitious daughters and dies. The focus of the story, however, is no more on Papa Goriot and his daughters than on all the other characters in the story: the ambitious Rastignac, the plotting Vautrin, the good Dr. Bianchon, the clueless Victorine, the struggling Delphine de Nucingen -- all are caught in a web. (As was Balzac.)
This book changed the way I see the world. It can do no less for you. It is as if, suddenly, the mist that hides the motives of men parts, and we see the world of men as it really is, with all the marionette strings tangled up as each puppet strives to claw its way toward the top.
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Do you know old Goriot from the Maison Vauquer? 4 Aug 2006
By john b - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Mass Market Paperback
I'm going to go ahead and ruin something for you, the potential reader, about Honoré de Balzac. It's nothing to do with plot or character, so you can rest assured that you're safe to get a fresh read from Père Goriot; instead it centers on the author himself. It's something you're going to pick up on as you read through this book.

You see, Honoré de Balzac is your best friend.

This sounds funny, I realize that, but it's the simple truth. You can feel it in the way that the man writes- He doesn't tell the story to you, so much as he explains it. It's like listening to one of those old men you find in a bar; you're so certain that you're going to laugh at him as he recounts his tale, you're so certain that when he tells you that it's a sad one, that you've heard that statement enough before to know it's a falsity...but then as things progress you begin to realize that you can trust him. You can feel the hand of Balzac on your back, guiding you forward. You begin to trust him...and it's all because he's talking to you as though you were an old friend.

Indeed, Père Goriot is a sad tale. Without giving away any more than the back of the book already does, I can say that it encompasses the tale of a man who has sacrificed of himself for his children's sake, as laid out in contrast to the story of a man who asks of his own family that they sacrifice for him. It is the study of both sides of that equation, all tied together through a boardinghouse where every boarder has a story to tell, where every turn and twist is an obstacle for some, an opportunity for others, and an escape for none. All are tied into this Paris that lives and breathes on the page.

Balzac was a character writer. He tells you about the person, all the intimate little details that seem so trivial but that build up the image of the person in your mind. You can see Vautrin, the mysterious all-knowing boarder as he watches young Rastignac, the young law student, struggle inside of himself as he wrestles his way into an unforgiving society. In the process of doing so, you watch sometimes in horror, sometimes in fascination, listening to the man deliver speech upon speech, some of which seem to bear an eerie early foreboding to Dostoevsky's `The Grand Inquisitor' for it's sheer, unflinching look at some point of society. Like that writer, Balzac builds the man, then lets him be himself on the page, summoning only those talents that are necessary in a writer to get out of the way and allow the story to tell itself.

Is this book worth reading? Absolutely. Who should read it? Anyone who enjoys a tale with action, honor, and ethical, internal struggles. There are criminal men, unscrupulous women, love affairs, dedication, a betrayal...there are all the elements of the modern novel, told in an engaging and playful style that you come to trust and respect and that, in the end, leaves you with a mighty hunger for more...

Henry Reed does a great translation as well. His afterword helps to place the novel in the series that it belongs, putting into proper perspective in Balzac's La Comedie humaine, a series of novels and stories built around Paris during a certain time period. Balzac was a very dedicated writer, putting himself to the task sometimes for hours on end (up to 18 by some accounts). His works contain in them many characters that repeat into other works, as in the two that I mentioned above (Rastignac in particular).

Bottom line: I cannot highly enough recommend this book to anyone. It is fantastic and easily enjoyable.

-LP
23 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A well rounded and fulfilling book. 30 Nov 1998
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Mass Market Paperback
This was the first Balzac book I had ever read because I was told it was his best. I found myself reading it at a fairly quick pace enjoying the bulk of it. Unfortunately the plot goes stale from about pages 30 - 60 but from then on in it is superb. Goriot is a wonderfully written ex pasta merchant who's good intentions are constantly met by depression, mostly thanks to his two daughters Delphine (M. de Nucingen) and Anastasie (M. de Restaud.) They are a pair of spoiled little girls who take their father for granted which eventually brings about his demise. Eugene Rastignac is a countryboy trying to climb into Parisienne society but discovers that it is unfulfilling and empty. Vautrin, a recurring psycopath in Balzac's books, makes an appearance but seems to leave rather suddenly.
Overall an excellently written story, although after I read Eugenie Grandet by Balzac I have to admit i preffered that one. None the less, still worth it, better than any of the stuff being printed today.
Warning: Every one of Balzac's characters usually has at least two different names, you musrt be fully aware of both of their names at the beginning or you will find yourself grasping and losing the plot.
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