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Old Goriot by Honoré de Balzac
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Old Goriot (1835)

by Honoré de Balzac

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: La Comédie Humaine

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5,022851,311 (3.78)4 / 304
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    Of Human Bondage by W. Somerset Maugham (Sylak)
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English (73)  French (6)  Spanish (2)  Dutch (2)  Tagalog (1)  Danish (1)  All languages (85)
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868/1500 ( )
  Drfreddy94 | Jul 17, 2018 |
[Be aware, should you care, that the following review contains spoilers! – Ed.]

[From Books and You, Doubleday, Doran & Co., 1940, pp. 67-68:]

Taking him all and all, I suppose Balzac is the greatest novelist who ever lived. Like Dickens, he was more at his ease with the extraordinary than with the usual, and he depicted the vile with greater force than the deserving; but he was a creator even more prodigious than Dickens, and his scope was greater. He sought to write the history of society in his own time, and in some measure he succeeded. When you read him you do not feel that you are concerned with a limited group of persons, but with the commonweal at large, in which bigger issues than the fate of individuals are involved. I think he was the first novelist to realize the importance of affairs; his people have shops or go to business, make fortunes or lose them; and though love – as with all novelists – plays a large part in his novels, money is the motive force in the world of his invention. He wrote badly, he was excessive, he had no taste, but he had a passion and a vigour which enabled him to create characters, extravagant and abnormal doubtless, who are violently and magnificently alive. He is often blamed for the melodramatic nature of his stories, but I ask myself how it is possible to expect that these exceptional persons should move in a world of measure and restraint. The storm needs the mountains and the sea for its grandeur. It is hard to choose one among the many deeply interesting novels that Balzac wrote, but since to my mind Father Goriot shows most completely his thrilling and varied power, I think that is the one I would recommend to your attention.

[From Ten Novels and Their Authors, Heinemann, 1954, pp. 99-123:]

Of all the great novelists that have enriched with their works the spiritual treasures of the world, Balzac is to my mind the greatest. He is the only one to whom I would without hesitation ascribe genius. Genius is a word that is very loosely used nowadays. It is ascribed to persons to whom a more sober judgment would be satisfied to allow talent. Genius and talent are very different things. Many people have talent; it is not rare: genius is. Talent is adroit and dexterous; it can be cultivated: genius is innate, and too often strangely allied to grave defects. But what is genius? The Oxford Dictionary tells us that it is a “native intellectual power of an exalted type, such as is attributed to those who are esteemed greater in any department of art, speculation or practice; (an) instinctive and extraordinary capacity for imaginative creation, original thought, invention, or discovery”. Well, instinctive and extraordinary capacity for imaginative creation is precisely what Balzac had. He was not a realist, as Stendhal in part was, and as Flaubert was in Madame Bovary, but a romantic; and he saw life not as it really was, but coloured, often garishly, by the predispositions he shared with his contemporaries.

There are writers who have achieved fame on the strength of one or two books; sometimes because, from the mass they have written, only a fragment has proved of enduring value – such is l’Abbé Prévost’s Manon Lescaut; sometimes because their inspiration, growing out of a special experience, or owing to a peculiarity of temper, only served for a production of little bulk. They say their say once for all and, if they write again, repeat themselves or write what is negligible. Balzac’s fertility was prodigious. Of course he was uneven. In such a volume of work as he produced, it was impossible for him always to be at his best. Literary critics are apt to look askance at fertility. I think they are wrong. Matthew Arnold, indeed, looked upon it as a characteristic of genius. He said of Wordsworth that what struck him with admiration, what established in his own opinion the poet’s superiority, was the great and ample body of powerful work which remained to him, even after all his inferior work had been cleared away. He goes on to say: “If it were a comparison of single pieces, or of three or four pieces, by each poet, I do not say that Wordsworth would stand decisively above Gray, or Burns, or Coleridge or Keats…. It is in his ampler body of powerful work that I find his superiority.” Balzac never wrote a novel with the epic grandeur of War and Peace, one with the sombre, thrilling power of The Brothers Karamazov, nor one with the charm and distinction of Pride and Prejudice: his greatness lies not in a single work, but in the formidable mass of his production.

Balzac’s field was the whole life of his time, and his range was as extensive as the frontiers of his country. His knowledge of men, however come by, was rare, though in some directions less exact than in others; and he described the middle class of society, doctors, lawyers, clerks and journalists, shopkeepers, village priests, more convincingly than either the world of fashion, the world of city workers, or of the tillers of the soil. Like all novelists, he wrote of the wicked more successfully than of the good. His invention was stupendous; his power of creation extraordinary. He was like a force of nature, a tumultuous river overflowing its banks and sweeping everything before it, or a hurricane blustering its wild way across quiet country places and through the streets of populous cities.

As a painter of society, his distinctive gift was not only to envisage men in their relations to one another – all novelists, except the writers of adventure-stories pure and simple, do that – but also, and especially, in their relations to the world they live in. Most novelists take a group of persons, sometimes no more than two or three, and treat them as though they lived under a glass case. This often produces an effect of intensity, but at the same time, unfortunately, one of artificiality. People not only live their own lives, they live also in the lives of others: in their own, they play leading parts; in those of others, parts that are sometimes important, but often trivial. You go to the barber’s to get your hair cut; it means nothing to you, but because of some casual remark of yours it may be a turning-point in the barber’s life. By realizing all that this implies, Balzac was able to give a vivid and exciting impression of the multifariousness of life, its confusions and cross-purposes, and of the remoteness of the causes that result in significant effects. I believe he was the first novelist to dwell on the paramount importance of economics in everybody’s life. He would not have thought it enough to say that money is the root of all evil; he thought the desire for money, the appetite for money, was the mainspring of human action.

One must ever bear in mind that Balzac was a romantic. Romanticism, as we know, was a reaction from classicism, but to-day it is more convenient to contrast it with realism. The realist is a determinist, and he aims in his narratives at a logical verisimilitude. His observation is naturalistic. The romantic finds the life of every day humdrum and platitudinous, and he seeks to escape from the real world to a world of the imagination. He pursues strangeness and adventure; he wishes to surprise, and if he can only do so at the expense of probability he does not care. The characters he invents are intense and extreme. Their appetites are unfettered. They despise self-control, which they look upon as the dull virtue of the bourgeois. They approve with their whole being that saying of Pascal’s: Le cœur a ses raisons que la raison ne connaît point. Their admiration goes to him who is prepared to sacrifice everything and hesitates at nothing to achieve wealth and power. This attitude towards life exactly suited Balzac’s exuberant temper; it is hardly too much to say that if romanticism had not existed, he would have invented it. His observation was minute and precise, but he used it as a basis for the fabrications of his fantastic imagination. The idea that every man has a ruling passion suited his instinct. It is one that has always attracted the writers of fiction, for it enables them to give a dramatic force to the creatures of their invention; these stand out vividly, and the reader, from whom nothing is demanded but to know that they are misers or lechers, harpies or saints, understands them without effort. We of to-day, largely through the works of the novelists who have sought to interest us in the psychology of their characters, no longer believe that men are all of a piece. We know that they are made up of contradictory and seemingly irreconcilable elements; it is just these discordances in them that intrigue us and, because we know them in ourselves, excite our sympathy. Balzac’s greatest characters are formed on the model of those older writers who drew every man in his humour. Their ruling passion has absorbed them to the exclusion of all else. They are propensities personified; but they are presented with such wonderful power, solidity and distinctness that, even though you may not quite believe in them, you can never forget them.

[...]

He was a great note-taker. Wherever he went he had his notebook with him, and when he happened upon something that might be useful to him, hit upon an idea of his own or was taken with someone else’s, he jotted it down. When possible, he visited the scene of his stories, and sometimes drove long distances to see a street or a house that he wished to describe. He chose the names of his characters with care, for he had a notion that the name should correspond with the personality and appearance of the individual who bore it. It is generally conceded that he wrote badly. George Saintsbury thought this was owing to the fact that for ten years he had written, post-haste, a mass of novels just to make a bare living. That does not convince me. Balzac was a vulgar man (but was not his vulgarity an integral part of his genius?) and his prose was vulgar. It was prolix, portentous and too often incorrect. Emile Faguet, a critic, in his time, of importance, has given in his book on Balzac a whole chapter to the faults of taste, style, syntax and language of which the author was guilty; and, indeed, some of them are so gross that it needs no profound knowledge of French to perceive them. Balzac had no feeling for the elegance of his native tongue. It can never have occurred to him that prose may have a comeliness and a grace as delightful in its different way as verse. But for all that, when his exuberant volubility did not run away with him, he could give succinct and pithy expression to the apophthegms and maxims that are scattered about his novels. Neither in their matter nor in their manner would they have dishonoured La Rochefoucauld.

Balzac was not a writer who knew what he wanted to say from the start. He began with a rough draft, which he re-wrote and corrected so drastically that the manuscript which he finally sent to the printers was almost impossible to decipher. The proof was returned to him, and this he treated as if it were but an outline of the projected work. He not only added words, he added sentences, not only sentences but paragraphs, and not only paragraphs but chapters. When his proofs were once more set up, with all the alterations and corrections he had made, and a fair set delivered to him, he went to work on them again and made more changes. Only after this would he consent to publication, and then only on condition that in a future edition he should be allowed to make further revisions. The expense of all this was great, and resulted in constant quarrels with his publishers.

[...]

George Sand rightly said that each of Balzac’s books was in fact a page of one great book, which would be imperfect if he had omitted that page. In 1833 he conceived the idea of combining the whole of his production into one whole under the name of La Comédie Humaine. When it occurred to him, he ran to see his sister: ‘Salute me,’ he cried, ‘because I’m quite plainly (tout simplement) on the way to become a genius.’ He described as follows what he had in mind: ‘The social world of France would be the historian, I should be merely the secretary. In setting forth an inventory of vices and virtues, in assembling the principal facts of the passions, in painting characters, in choosing the principal incidents of the social world, in composing types by combining the traits of several homogeneous characters, perhaps I could manage to write the history forgotten by so many historians, the history of manners and customs,’ It was an ambitious scheme. He did not live to carry it to completion. It is evident that some of the pages in the vast work he left, though perhaps necessary, are less interesting than others. In a production of such bulk, that was inevitable. But in almost all Balzac’s novels there are two or three characters which, because they are obsessed by a simple, primitive passion, stand out with extraordinary force. It was in the depiction of just such characters that his strength lay; when he had to deal with a character of any complexity, he was less happy. In almost all his novels there are scenes of great power, and in several an absorbing story.

If I were asked by someone who had never read Balzac to recommend the novel which best represented him, which gave the reader pretty well all the author had to give, I should without hesitation advise him to read Le Père Goriot. The story it tells is continuously interesting. In some of his novels, Balzac interrupts his narrative to discourse on all sorts of irrelevant matters, or to give you long accounts of people in whom you cannot take the faintest interest; but from these defects Le Père Goriot is free. He lets his characters explain themselves by their words and actions as objectively as it was in his nature to do. The novel is extremely well constructed; and the two threads, the old man’s self-sacrificing love for his ungrateful daughters, and the ambitious Rastignac’s first steps in the crowded, corrupt Paris of his day, are ingeniously interwoven. It illustrates the principles which in La Comédie Humaine Balzac was concerned to bring to light: “Man is neither good nor bad, he is born with instincts and aptitudes; the world (la société), far from corrupting him, as Rousseau pretended, perfects him, makes him better; but self-interest then enormously develops his evil propensities.”

[...]

I believe Balzac to have been the first novelist to use a boarding-house as the setting for a story. It has been used many times since, for it is a convenient way of enabling the author to present together a variety of characters in sundry predicaments, but I don’t know that it has ever been used with such happy effect as in Le Père Goriot. We meet in this novel perhaps the most thrilling character that Balzac ever created – Vautrin. The type has been reproduced a thousand times, but never with such striking and picturesque force, nor with such convincing realism. Vautrin has a good brain, will-power and immense vitality. These were traits that appealed to Balzac, and, ruthless criminal though he was, he fascinated his author. It is worth the reader’s while to notice how skilfully, without giving away a secret he wanted to keep till the end of the book, he has managed to suggest that there is something sinister about the man. He is jovial, generous and good-natured; he has great physical strength, he is clever and self-possessed; you cannot but admire him, and sympathise with him, and yet he is strangely frightening. He obsesses you, as he did Rastignac, the ambitious, well-born young man who comes to Paris to make his way in the world; but you feel in the convict’s company the same uneasiness as Rastignac felt. Vautrin is a great creation.

His relations with Eugène de Rastignac are admirably presented. Vautrin sees into the young man’s heart and proceeds subtly to sap his moral sense: true, Eugène revolts when he learns to his horror that Vautrin has had a man killed to enable him to marry an heiress; but the seeds are sown.

Le Père Goriot ends with the old man’s death. Rastignac goes to his funeral and afterwards, remaining alone in the cemetery, surveys Paris lying below him along the two banks of the Seine. His eyes dwell on that part of the city in which reside the denizens of the great world he wishes to enter. “À nous deux maintenant,” he cries. It may interest the reader who has not felt inclined to read all the novels in which Rastignac plays a part, more or less conspicuous, to know what came of Vautrin’s influence. Madame de Nucingen, old Goriot’s daughter and the wife of the rich banker, the Baron de Nucingen, having fallen in love with him, took and expensively furnished for him, an apartment, and provided him with money to live like a gentleman. Since her husband kept her short of cash, Balzac has not made clear how she managed to do this: perhaps he thought that when a woman in love needs money to support a lover she will somehow manage to get it. The Baron seems to have taken a tolerant view of the situation, and in 1826 made use of Rastignac in a financial transaction in which a number of the young man’s friends were ruined, but from which he, as his share of the swag, received from Nucingen four hundred thousand francs. On part of this he dowered his two sisters, so that they could make good marriages, and was left with twenty thousand francs a year: ‘The price of keeping a stable’, he told his friend Bianchon. Being thus no longer dependent on Madame de Nucingen, and realising that a liaison that lasts too long has all the drawbacks of marriage, without its advantages, he made up his mind to throw her over and become the lover of the Marquise d’Espard, not because he was in love with her, but because she was rich, a great lady and influential. “Perhaps some day I’ll marry her,” he added. “She’ll put me in a position in which at length I shall be able to pay my debts.” This was in 1828. It is uncertain whether Madame d’Espard succumbed to his blandishments, but if she did, the affair did not last long, and he continued to be the lover of Madame de Nucingen. In 1831 he thought of marrying an Alsatian girl, but drew back on discovering that her fortune was not so great as he had been led to believe. In 1832, through the influence of Henry de Marsay, a former lover of Madame de Nucingen, who, Louis Philippe being then King of France, was a Minister, Rastignac was made Under-Secretary of State. He was able, while holding this office, largely to increase his fortune. His relations with Madame de Nucingen apparently continued till 1835, when, perhaps by mutual agreement, they were broken off; and three years later he married her daughter Augusta. Since she was the only child of a very rich man, Rastignac did well for himself. In 1839 he was created a Count and again entered the Ministry. In 1845 he was made a peer of France and had an income of three hundred thousand francs a year (£12,000), which for the time was great wealth.

Balzac had a marked predilection for Rastignac. He endowed him with noble birth, good looks, charm, wit; and made him immensely attractive to women. Is it fanciful to suggest that he saw in Rastignac the man he would have given all but his fame to be? Balzac worshipped success. Perhaps Rastignac was a rascal, but he succeeded. True, his fortune was founded on the ruin of others, but they were fools to let themselves be taken in by him, and Balzac had little sympathy with fools. Lucien de Rubempré, another of Balzac’s adventurers, failed because he was weak; but Rastignac, because he had courage, determination and strength, succeeded. From the day when, at Père-Lachaise, he had flung his challenge in the face of Paris, he had let nothing stand in his way. He had resolved to conquer Paris; he conquered it. Balzac could not bring himself, I fancy, to regard Rastignac’s moral delinquencies with censure. And after all, he was a good sort: though ruthless and unscrupulous where his interests were concerned, he was to the end ever willing to do a service to the old friends of his poverty-stricken youth. From the beginning, his aim had been to live in splendour, to have a fine house with a host of servants, carriages and horses, a string of mistresses and a rich wife. He had achieved his aim: I don’t suppose it ever occurred to Balzac that it was a vulgar one.
1 vote WSMaugham | Jul 17, 2018 |
Balzac is like that lusty, life-loving guy who sits in a bar and regales his audiences with stories. Sure, they're messy and could use editing, but there's no denying the sheer life force behind them. It took me a few pages to get into this book, but then I loved it. By the way, I read the Burton Raffel translation (in the Norton Critical Edition) and found it to be marvelous. ( )
2 vote MichaelBarsa | Dec 17, 2017 |
I knew that I wanted to read Balzac, but where to start?

I knew that his great work, La Comedie Humaine, was a vast collection of loosely linked novels that he wrote to portray each and every level of French society. I knew that with more than forty books this wasn’t a series I was going to read in its entirety; and so, because I had copies of several books, I gave each one of them careful consideration before I decided which looked the most interesting.

My choice was ‘Le Père Goriot’, a book from the middle of Balzac’s writing career, and a book which is said by many to be his greatest work.

My decision may have been influenced by the fact that the story is set in a boarding house – I have always loved boarding house novels – and the story begins with wonderfully precisie description of the Maison Vaquer, a poor but respectable establishment, and its inhabitants.

Only once the scene is properly set, can the story can begin.

At first I was very aware of the narrator. He was articulate, he was engaging, but I was a little concerned that he was interrupting the story he has to tell to reinforce points. They were good points, but I wanted them to come from the story and the characters. In time they did, and in time the narrator faded into the background; he was doing is job so well that I forgot he was there.

The newest resident of the boarding house was Eugene de Rastignac who had recently arrived from the country, carrying all of the hopes of his family, to study law. His plan had been to throw himself into work and study, but it wasn’t long before he saw that he needed to make connections and be well placed in society if he was to succeed; and it was his great good luck to was blessed with a cousin who was well placed to introduce him to some of ‘the right people’.

He was amiable, he had a natural charm, and he was well liked at the Maison Vaquer.

Father Goriot was less well liked. When he had first arrived at the boarding house he had taken one of the best rooms, he had furnished it with lovely things, and his landlady had set her cap at him. When he didn’t respond, when those lovely things began to disappear and Father Goriot moved to one of her cheapest rooms, she treated him with disdain. Still he didn’t respond, and the other boarders considered him to be a rather foolish – maybe rather simple – old man.

Eugene didn’t pay much attention to the situation, until the day he saw something that piqued his interest

His cousin had introduced Rastignac to the beautiful Comtesse de Restaud, and he was smitten. He visited her home, and, while he was waiting for her to appear, he looked out of the window and saw her with Goriot at the back of the house. His visit went well until he mentioned that he knew the old man. As soon as the words were out of his mouth his visit was summarily ended; the next time he visited the Comtesse was ‘not at home’, and it was conveyed to him that she would never be ‘at home’ to him again.

He couldn’t understand what had happened, and he turned to his cousin for advice. She explained a little; she told him that Goriot was the Comtesse’s father …

Goriot had been a wealthy tradesman, and very blissfully happy with his beloved wife and their two lovely two daughters. When his wife died, he gave all of the love he had to his daughters; and he used almost all of his fortune to provide them with sizable dowries, so that they might marry rich and powerful men.

They did just that, and he hoped that he might live with one or the other of them, and that the three of them would always be close. His hopes were dashed, because those rich and powerful men had no time for a humble tradesman. They would not welcome him into their homes, they would not even acknowledge him in public, and their wives followed suit.

That was why Goriot moved into the Maison Vaquer, living off the little capital that he had kept for himself. His capital quickly diminished, because even though his daughters wanted him to keep his distance, they came to him whenever that had a bill to pay that their husband would not like, or that they would rather he did not know about.

They took his love for granted, he could refuse them nothing, and so he was only one step away from destitution.

When his cousin suggested that Eugene should woo Madame Delphine de Nucingen, Goriot’s other daughter, he saw many possibilities. It would it serve as revenge against her sister- the two sisters were bitterly competitive – it could be his stepping stone into society – and it could give him a chance to help the old man he had come to like very much.

He followed her suggestion.

Father Goriot was delighted that his young friend was moving in the same circles as his daughters, that he was able to bring him news of them. He was delighted with the smallest crumb; he thought nothing of himself, all of his care and concern was for them.

Eugene could do nothing more for the old man. His daughters continued to take his love for granted, and it seemed that love had made them utterly selfish.

His coming of age, his rise through society was set against Goriot’s fall.

The story would end with his funeral; with only Eugene, the house boy who had always liked the old man who was kind to him, and two empty carriages sent by his sons-in-law in attendance.

It took a little while for the story to get its hooks into me, but once it did I was caught, completely and utterly, to the very last page.

The characters were complex and intriguing; and I couldn’t help responding to them. Nothing was black and white, but I saw so many shades of grey. I could understand why it was said that Goriot was a foolish old man – and I have to say that he was a fool for the best of reasons, that the world would be a better place if there were more fools like him.

The story sets the world of the rich and powerful against the world of work and poverty very effectively. It was distinctive, it was uncontrived, and it illuminated similarities and differences. There was corruption and wrongdoing in both worlds, but the underlying causes were different. Some were keeping up appearances and expected much, while others were concerned with survival and advancement …

It was told though a wonderful combination of descriptive passages and dialogues that made the characters, the era they lived in and the city that was home to them live and breathe.

The boarding house and the salons were so well evoked that I might have been there.

The old man’s downfall broke my heart, but the young man’s progress gave me hope for the future. ( )
  BeyondEdenRock | Dec 17, 2017 |
The plot of Old Goriot weaves together opposite ends of the Parisian social scale – the ballrooms and salons of the aristocracy, and a shabby but apparently respectable boarding house in a poor quarter of town. It is in this dreary and worn and wonderfully described old house that a variety of unlikely personalities are thrown together, including the two main characters Old Goriot and Eugene Rastingac. Along with the other residents these provide the excellent mix of humour, tragedy, comic mundanity, intrigue, and wealth of insights onto human psychology that make Balzac's novels so entertaining. We also see the vacuous world of materialism, greed, pleasure seeking, fashion, and social climbing, into which some of these characters variously dip their toes or plunge.
As in many of Balzac's works, the story is driven in part by a character with a specific obsessive personality trait - in this case Old Father Goriot who is fixed on providing for his selfish daughters. Monsieur Rastignac however is an altogether more interesting and torn character in that he represents some of the better aspects of human nature, while having enough self interest that he can be led into shady schemes by those who are more cynical and less honourable than he. The fight between his sense of what is right, and the desire for personal advancement play out in this complicated character throughout the novel. Old Goriot is none the less a troubled being, though in his case this is due to his psychological complex over being a good father to his two heartless daughters. While I won't give the story away, there are several heart-wrenching scenes, and an ending that fits the story.
Taken all together, this is the best of Balzac's full length novels that I have read so far, and definitely more interesting and complete than either Eugene Grandet or the Village Rector for example. ( )
  P_S_Patrick | Jun 4, 2017 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Balzac, Honoré deAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Maurois, AndréPrefacemain authorsome editionsconfirmed
Binni, LanfrancoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Brumbaugh, Robert S.secondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bulder, NicoIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Castex, Pierre-GeorgesIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Citron, PierreEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Cucchi, MaurizioTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
De Marchi, CesareTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Goudsmit, SamuelTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hans van PinxterenTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hill, JamesCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Jensen, BriktAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Krailsheimer, A.J.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lopez Cardozo, J.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mariage, EllenTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
McCannon, OliviaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Norum, TryggveTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Novák, ĽudovítTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Robb, GrahamIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Roldanus jr., W.J.A.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wais, KurtAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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To the great and illustrious Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire as a tribute of admiration for his labors and his genius.
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Madame Vauquer (nee De Conflans) is an elderly person who for the past forty years has kept a lodging house in the Rue Neuve-Sainte-Genevieve, in the district that lies between the Latin Quarter and the Faubourg Saint-Marcel.
Madame Vauquer, née de Conflans, est une vieille femme qui, depuis quarante ans, tient à Paris une pension bourgeoise établie rue Neuve-Sainte-Geneviève, entre le quartier latin et le faubourg Saint-Marceau.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0140440178, Paperback)

A witty and reflective study of the bourgeoisie after the French Revolution, and the two great human obsessions - love and money - Honore de Balzac's "Old Goriot" is part of the immortal "La Comedie humaine", translated from the French with an introduction by Marion Ayton Crawford in "Penguin Classics". Eugene wants to get on in the world. So he has come to Paris, where the streets teem with chancers, criminals and social climbers - and everyone is out for what they can get. When he finds a place to stay at a shabby boarding house, he sees a potential plan to make a fortune: the two beautiful, aristocratic women who mysteriously come at night to visit the lonely old lodger Goriot. Could they bring him the status and acceptance he craves? In the city nothing is as it seems though. Soon Eugene gets out of his depth in a world of greed and obsession that he could never have imagined - one that can only end in terrible tragedy. Marion Ayton Crawford's sparkling translation is accompanied by an introduction exploring Balzac's ability to create distinctive characters from all levels of societyas the new, ambitious middle classes replaced France's old imperial ways. Honore De Balzac (1799-1850) failed at being a lawyer, publisher, printer, businessman, critic and politician before, at the age of thirty, turning his hand to writing. His life's work, "La Comedie humaine", is a series of ninety novels and short stories which offer a magnificent panorama of nineteenth-century life after the French Revolution. Balzac was an influence on innumerable writers who followed him, including Marcel Proust, Emile Zola, Charles Dickens, and Edgar Allan Poe. If you enjoyed "Old Goriot", you might like Balzac's "Cousin Bette", also available in "Penguin Classics".

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:06:15 -0400)

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A retired man living in a poor boarding house in Paris meets a mysterious neighbor and an ambitious young man, while doting on his two ungrateful married daughters.

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Penguin Australia

An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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Recorded Books

An edition of this book was published by Recorded Books.

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