Item description for Le Pere Goriot by Honore de Balzac...
This fine example of the French realist novel contrasts the social progress of an impoverished but ambitious aristocrat with the tale of a father, whose obsessive love for his daughters leads to his personal and financial ruin.
Outline Review Nobody writes about money like Balzac, and his classic chronicle of a young man from the provinces clawing his way to success in 19th century Paris, even as an older man is victimized by the same milieu, shrewdly captures the financial dimension of so much that goes on between people. The boarding house in which the two protagonists live is a microcosm of their world, and Goriot's treatment by his daughters would make Lear blanch.
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The son of a civil servant, Honore de Balzac was born in 1799 in Tours, France. After attending boarding school in Vendome, he gravitated to Paris where he worked as a legal clerk and a hack writer, using various pseudonyms, often in collaboration with other writers. Balzac turned exclusively to fiction at the age of thirty and went on to write a large number of novels and short stories set amid turbulent nineteenth-century France. He entitled his collective works The Human Comedy. Along with Victor Hugo and Dumas pere and fils, Balzac was one of the pillars of French romantic literature. He died in 1850, shortly after his marriage to the Polish countess Evelina Hanska, his lover of eighteen years.
Honore De Balzac was born in 1799 and died in 1850.
Reviews - What do customers think about Le Pere Goriot?
Keeping it Real Aug 18, 2006
Balzac. Maybe it's the harsh sound of his name. Like Nietzsche or Exxon, it congers up big, tough, impenetrable. Truth is, he's none of those things. Nor is he a hopeless romantic. If Pere Goriot is an example, Balzac is simply an observer. You might not like what he sees, but it is difficult to deny its accuracy. Take the central character Pere Goriot. You can say that Balzac uses him to prove that no good deed shall go unpunished. Oft referred to as Balzac's King Lear, Goriot's troubles begin when he parcels out his fortune to his social climbing daughters; like Lear's girls, Goriot's bitches dump the old man when his money runs out. Sound familiar? Indeed, there's a lot of Shakespeare in Balzac. In King Lear, we hear "The art of necessities is strange, that can make vile things precious". Those words fit perfectly Goriot's fast learning young friend Eugene. As we see Eugene evolving from adamantine idealist to player, you can also imagine him mouthing from Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale: "I am a feather for each wind that blows". So, is Balzac a cynic that sees no intrinsic good in humankind, or is saying we are merely products of our environment? Is Balzac a pessimistic Nietzsche who dismisses morality as the herd instinct in the individual? Or, is he an optimistic Helen Keller observing that tolerance is the highest result of education? You decide. But, please, please, please keep it real. For Balzac's sake, keep it real.
Do you know old Goriot from the Maison Vauquer? Aug 4, 2006
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.
Inspiring Apr 29, 2006
My French was in its infantile stages when I read this book, but opening a dictionary once, twice, or many times per page was a small price to pay for the stimulation I got from reading this book. The pure artistry of the writing not only inspired me to keep reading, but to have French as a double major. When you read this book, you are there.
real good book Aug 3, 2005
When Balzac ins't wooing me with his beautiful descriptions, his dialogue reads like a play. Some scenes are genuinely funny, and the characters are memorable. The ending is too drawn out, but very much worth the read. Short and sweet. I loved it. Quote it in your English class to earn kudos from the professor. They love Balzac.
So Much Fun! May 6, 2005
Poor, poor Pere Goriot! This story is the tragic tale of a pathetic, old, doting father and his martyrdom. Goriot spoils his awful, frivilous, vain, and ungrateful daughters throughout this book while they ignore and manipulate him. The daughters are so terrible you can't help laughing a little at Goriot's pitiful way of fawning over them and putting them above even his most basic needs.
They demand all the best in life while allowing their father to live in poverty and need. They ask him for luxuries when he barely has enough to survive on. His concept of paternal duty is nothing less than inspirational, and even though he is pitiful, we can't help loving him and admiring him despite his irritating messanic complex.
Balzac is just such a fun, rich, witty writer and his characters are so engrossing. He's so adept at pointing out the self-absorption and frivolity of so many figures from his time, and making you feel bad for their victims. I think any modern reader would enjoy him as much as they would-really more-than most contemporary writers. I think there should be a revival of the popularity of books like these because they're just so much more intriguing than so many present day stories.