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3.8 out of 5 stars41
3.8 out of 5 stars
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on 31 October 2009
I'll admit to being a relative beginner to the French language, however I live in France now and I find that this book is not for the beginner. I speak fairly well but as I'm a little behind in vocabulary a well meaning friend bought this for me. I've struggled on with it but it is a joyless task, it is like trailing through literary mud. I'm above degree level in English, therefore it's annoying that even the English translations often make no sense, I get far more from the French text by using my own translation 'skills' and a dictionary. I can't read another word of this nonsense, there is something amiss with this book, look around before you buy.
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on 31 August 2006
This isn't a book for beginners. My French is post O level and taken more years ago than I intend to disclose. I started re-learning it by teaching myself 10 months ago. I can now read most of these stories using the parallel text to check my understanding and to argue with the translations - yes I'm that confident now. For some stories I needed more help than others... 'Apprendre à vie' and 'David' gave me no trouble at all but 'Tous Feux Éteints' was a struggle. I enjoy the fact that some stories are easy and others are difficult because I'm trying now to get used to different styles and pick up vocabulary so this collection of stories has really appealed to me. I love the parallel texts because I don't need a dictionary and I can use the translation for reassurance and as I say to argue with. I really recommend these short stories - I have several parallel texts and am always looking out for more. But this isn't for beginners - you do need a reasonable reading age in French - I think mine is about 12 or 13! So most of the time I know what's going on but complex structures and vocabulary do still confuse me. If you want to increase vocabulary and immerse yourself in the culture then these short stories are ideal. I love to read them on the train because I don't have to juggle with a dictionary and the prices are very good. Yes, I recommend this collection. Ahhh some extra words - there are no exercises with this selection and no vocabulary list - some parallel texts do have those. But this does have a very good introduction. As the editor hints at the denouements on some of the stories I would advise reading it *after* you've read the stories! There are twelve in all and of varying lengths... `David' is very long but some of the stories are just a few pages. I repeat - this isn't for beginners... you need to have studied to the equivalent of GCSE or O level to be able to cope with these. But they really are an enjoyable and varied collection. Actually, they're worth reading in English but the translation lacks that je ne sais quoi! ;->
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on 10 September 2004
The stories are very varied, interesting, rich and, in some cases, moving. But unless the reader is at an advanced level they are quite difficult to read and are "heavy going". So the book's description that it is suitable for students of French at all levels is misleading. For me it will be a long time before I can easily read it and that is if I don't sell it beforehand.
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on 21 October 2006
Not having learnt french since school (GCSE/GCE) I found the stories easy enough to get the general story line but complex enough to challenge and revise my knowledge of the language - and extend it. The parallel text is just fantastic you don't lose interest constantly having to look words up in a dictionary. Would strongly recomend this book for intermediates.
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on 17 June 2010
Penguin Parallel Texts are a distinctive and somewhat complicated institution. 20 to 30 years ago I read the then available ones in French, Spanish, Italian and German. If you are looking for collections of interesting literature, then look elsewhere! You should also read the reviews of those books in languages you don't know, to get the full picture. The one on the original 1965 Italian volume is particularly scathing, and rightly so - the literature selected is as dull as dishwater. What it says is applicable to the whole series - among the original selection criteria was the requirement that the stories not have been previously translated. Well, one good reason for their not having been previously translated might possibly be that they just weren't worth it! I was sure I hadn't read the Spanish volume, which arrived in the post today. Sure enough, the first story was Borges's Emma Zunz. Yes, I had long ago read, and forgotten about, the book. Frankly, out of all the volumes I've read, the only two stories that stimulated me to read the authors further were the Beach by Robbe-Grillet and Isabel's Soliloquy by Marquez.

But there is an important upside: all of these books contain language that is kept within close limits for learners of about A-level standard, and some serious consolidation is possible using them. And my reason for buying the three Italian volumes now is simply that over the last 10 years I've concentrated on Latin and Spanish and neglected Italian badly, so, before going on to harder stuff, I thought I'd revise my Italian. So I recommend these books, on the whole, even though I only give them three stars, but try not to let them put you off literature!

*Added: Perhaps I spoke a little too soon about the language being kept within close limits. I've just read the Gadda story in the Italian book - note to Penguin: Italian interspersed with Latin is not the most useful material for someone wanting to learn Italian!
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on 7 May 2003
The parallel text is fantastic for all those who want to practise tranlation of "unseens", for a-level or degree level. I've certainly found this book invaluabe for both these purposes! However, this book is also great if you just want to read some short modern French language works, and is accessible to all levels from lower-intermediate and up. My particular favourite is "David", which is so beautifully and bizarrely French. If you just want to practise unseens (and take photocopies, or scrawl on your text), the spacing and size of text is not ideal, the font is a little small and double line spacing would make life a lot easier. Other than that, a really good book for most levels and good value for money too (which is very important for impoverished students like myself!).
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on 9 June 2009
I have a reasonable command of French but I was stumped with these obscure stories. After I'd read them in English they were difficult to understand!! I needed a more straightforward story line. I think these are very advanced.
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on 19 November 2010
Although the idea behind this book is brilliant, I would like to see stories included which are more interesting. These are a bit too 'arty' for me so I don't feel captivated enough by the story to read more often.
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on 9 March 2013
To be fair, the book content is pretty well chosen if you are trying to improve your French (or English), which would have to be the reason for buying it in the first place. However: be warned that Kindle has tagged it internally as an ENGLISH book, so you wont be able to use automatic lookup from your French-English dictionary, despite setting this to be the default dictionary. And you can't easily flip backwards and forwards between the corresponding texts, as you could with a paper-and-print book. Which I will probably buy.

Browsing various reader blogs, this is a common complaint with foreign language study editions, so c'mon Mr Kindle, give us an update that lets us change the 'language' tag.
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on 7 January 2013
Unless you are a fluent in French and have an extensive vocabulary, this can be a bit hard going constantly skipping from the French text to the English. The stories are well written and probably worth a second read when some of the more obscure words have sunk in, comprehension improves and reading speed increases..
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