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Pierre et Jean (Oxford World's Classics) [Paperback]

Guy de Maupassant , Robert Lethbridge , Julie Mead
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Book Description

27 Aug 2009 Oxford World's Classics
'Monsieur de Maupassant has never before been so clever.' Henry James

Henry James's admiration for 'this masterly little novel' has been echoed throughout the twentieth century by readers of Pierre et Jean. It marked a turning-point in the development of French fiction, situated as it is between traditional social realism and the psychological novel. It is recognized as a classic study of filial jealousy, triggered by one of the two brothers of its title finding himself the sole inheritor of the fortune of his mother's former lover.

Pierre et Jean is set in Le Havre in the 1880s and is notable for its evocation of the Normandy coastline captured by the Impressionists. But Maupassant's achievement is to have woven from this simple plot in a maritime context a brilliantly crafted exploration of the complexities at the heart of family life.

ABOUT THE SERIES: For over 100 years Oxford World's Classics has made available the widest range of literature from around the globe. Each affordable volume reflects Oxford's commitment to scholarship, providing the most accurate text plus a wealth of other valuable features, including expert introductions by leading authorities, helpful notes to clarify the text, up-to-date bibliographies for further study, and much more.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: OUP Oxford; 1 edition (27 Aug 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 019955403X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199554034
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 1.2 x 19.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 684,871 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

About the Author

Henri Rene Albert Guy de Maupassant (1850-1893) was a popular 19th-century French writer. He is one of the fathers of the modern short story.

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Customer Reviews

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4.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars an understated masterpiece 31 Dec 2001
Format:Paperback
a masterpiece from a master stylist -- this book has it all. beautiful prose and psychological tension combine in a rip-roaring tale that will have you thundering through the pages in a vicarious roller-coaster ride to the shattering finale. never has jealousy been explored so exactingly. although bel-ami remains my favourite de maupassant novel (pierre et jean is essentially an extended short story) this small book is immensely satisfying, to be enjoyed like a fine, french wine.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Much to enjoy in this very French novella 10 May 2010
By A Common Reader TOP 50 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback
I'd read quite a few of de Maupassant's short stories of course, but not one of his novels, so Pierre et Jean seemed a good place to start, particularly as it is set in an area of France I visit frequently, the Normandy Coast from Dieppe to Caen.

Pierre and Jean are two brothers, five years apart in age, but both living at home and about to start their careers. The family return home one evening to hear that their lawyer had called and wants to see them on a matter of urgency. The next day they find out that the younger brother Jean, has become the sole beneficiary of a will left by an old friend of the family from their days in Paris, and can now look forward to an income of 20,000 francs a year.

In the general rejoicing that this event provokes, the family seem to forget about the plight of the older brother Pierre. He is newly qualified as a doctor, so maybe they feel that he will become prosperous anyway. Pierre tries to be as big-hearted about his brother's inheritance as he can, but he struggles when his mother returns home with the news that she has rented the very apartment for Jean that Pierre was trying to raise the deposit on for himself. This is the first of several humiliations for Pierre, and he begins to be beset by dark thoughts about the reasons for his brother's incredible good fortune.

Before long, the poison of resentment and blame begin to work their way through the family and the rejoicing of at least one member of the family turns to sorrow and humiliation. Pierre is eaten up by terrible thoughts and ultimately has to depart on his travels to find his own resolution.

It goes without saying that this is a well-crafted story.
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4.0 out of 5 stars More de Maupassant 20 Sep 2013
By Pauline
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I didn't bother reading the half of the book that related to the analysis by the experts. I figured I would rather make my own decisions about what it meant etc. I thought it entertaining but short and would have like to find out what really happened to Pierre in the next part of his life!
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5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent short novel 12 Sep 2013
By Origen
Format:Paperback
This was my first Maupassant novel and it inspired me to buy and begin another. As the other reviewers mention, the story is really well crafted and perfectly told. The author is a master of the polished phrase and his language conveys the scenery as well as the personalities of the Normandy he takes as his canvas. There's a dreamy quality to the author's perspective - he floats between subtle psychological portraits and details in the storyline and tangential observations about the wider reality and perspectives he aims to develop. This for me is the greatest strength of Pierre et Jean - and, so far, also of My Life, the novel I've just started. It's a straightforward read and won't take long to get through. Highly recommended.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 5.0 out of 5 stars  5 reviews
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sibling Rivalry 4 Nov 2002
By R. J. Marsella - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This short novel just blew me away with intense and detailed characterzations and a plot that builds tension based on the interaction between the members of a family that is nearly rocked by a seemingly positive development. The two grown brothers are established as near opposites in almost every detail and when one inherits money from an old family acquaintance the reason behind their differences becomes the driving force of the story and it's revelation nearly rips the family apart.
A short novel that will stay with you for some time after reading it.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Pierre et Jean 9 April 2014
By Steven Davis - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition
What can you do when you suspect that the person you love most in the world has been living a lie that threatens to destroy your family's happiness? This is the agonizing dilemma that faces Pierre in Guy de Maupassant's short novel Pierre et Jean.

Pierre and Jean Roland are brothers. Pierre has just finished medical school, and his younger brother Jean has completed his training as a lawyer. They have joined their parents in Le Havre, a seaport on the coast of Normandy, for a few weeks of relaxation before embarking on their careers. Their father, a simple man but with a lifetime love of the sea and ships, has retired there with his wife after many years as a jeweler in Paris. The two brothers are close, as is the whole family, but there is a stark contrast in their appearance and temperament. Pierre is dark, slender, ambitious, moody, and quick-witted. Jean is blond, tall, somewhat stout, easygoing, and indolent.

One day, when the family returns from an outing in their boat, they receive a visit from an attorney with the news that an old family friend from Paris has recently died and left his entire fortune to Jean. Pierre joins his parents in rejoicing in Jean's good fortune, but jealousy begins to gnaw at him, and he can't help wondering why only Jean was favored. Then a chance comment by a barmaid makes him suspect the shocking truth that was so obvious to an outsider: the deceased friend was Jean's father. Their mother is an adulteress! And the whole world will know it if Jean accepts the legacy.

Pierre's mental agony and the events which follow take place against the backdrop of a wonderfully evocative picture of the Norman coast where the author grew up. Ships blowing their horns in a dense fog while reaching blindly for a safe port... beach-goers retreating before the oncoming tide... these are vivid scenes that also symbolize Pierre's situation.

Pierre et Jean is an intense and compact psychological drama, quite different from the social realism of Maupassant's earlier novels. It reminds me more of the works of Scandinavian authors Ibsen, Strindberg and Soderberg than it does of Maupassant's mentors, Flaubert and Zola. And what makes this novel all the more poignant is that all the members of the Roland family are likable characters who love one another, yet they are about to be torn apart by an act of good will. Highly recommended.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Literature isn't always requisite reading but this novel is a must for serious readers 18 Feb 2014
By adam bronson - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
As I am prone to saying over and over again, it is not important what the story is about. What is important is what it says about us, how we as a species exist, interract and think. This French masterpeice (yes this is a translation) has transcended languages and cultures to exist globally as one of the finest examples of superior writing and thinking.

You buy it if you love Milan Kundera, Hesse or Solzhenitsyn, because those too are literary icons whose work wasn't first in English. But whose work must be read. Once you've finished this you can if you have not already move onto Albert Camus (The Outsider, The Plague) and Voltaire (Candide).

One of the must-reads that truly must be read.
3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars doubtful paternity 18 July 2004
By I ain't no porn writer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This is a short novel, easy to follow, and enjoyable to read.

Here's what it's about basically. There's these two brothers, right?--as the title indicates. One of them gets a really nice inheritance from a family friend. The other brother gets NOTHING. He's jealous of his brother for his good fortune, and gets suspicious about WHY his brother got the inheritance. He finds out that it's because their mother had an affair with the family friend and his brother was born illegitimately from the affair. He confronts his mother about it and she admits it. That's why his brother got the inheritance, because he was the family friend's true son, it was a shameful secret that the mother kept from her husband (their father). That's all there is to it. It's not a complex book and the story's pretty simple, but the underlying psychology is really interesting and the book is very well-written--very tight and engaging. Maupassant's best novel, I would say.
David Rehak
author of "Love and Madness.
1 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A STUDY OF FAMILY RELATIONS 13 Mar 2003
By myshiak - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
WHAT CAN BE EXPECTED TO HAPPEN IN A FAMILY WHEN ONE OF ITS MEMBERS INHERITS A LARGE SUM OF MONEY? EVERYBODY IS HAPPIER AND BETTER OFF, RIGHT? WRONG! AS WE SEE FROM THIS STORY, THE WHOLE FABRIC OF THE FAMILY CAN BECOME TORN. YET, BY EMPLOYING SOME SUBTLE TACTICS, MEMBERS OF THE FAMILY CAN FIND A WAY TO STAY TOGETHER. AT A BIG PRICE THOUGH, BECAUSE ONE OF THE MEMBERS OF THE FAMILY HAS TO HOLD HIMSELF ALOOF IN ORDER TO PRESERVE FAMILY BOUNDS. A VERY DELICATE STUDY OF THE SUBJECT!
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