Le père Goriot

ISBN: 2070409341
ISBN 13: 9782070409341
By: Honoré de Balzac

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About this book

« J'ai trouvé une idée merveilleuse. Je serai un homme de génie », s'exclame Balzac au moment où il écrit Le Père Goriot. Il venait d'imaginer La Comédie humaine, ce cycle romanesque dans lequel les mêmes personnages réapparaissent d'un roman à l'autre. Il venait de créer un monde, le monde balzacien.Les plus beaux romans, dit André Maurois, sont des romans d'apprentissage. Les illusions de la jeunesse s'y heurtent au monde féroce et pourtant plein de délices. L'amour devient coquetterie, la vertu s'achète, l'argent ruine tout. Seule la passion balzacienne, ici l'amour paternel, résiste, dévorante et implacable. Le Père Goriot est la clef de voûte d'une œuvre géniale.

Reader's Thoughts

Edward

Balzac, Honore de, PERE GORIOT (1834) I had no expectations of this l9th century French effort by the prolific Balzac, but it's a fine novel, as timely now as when it was written. The question it raises is one of how a parent shows his love for his children. In Goriot's case, as with many parents today, it was to try to give the children every advantage in life he could. In his case, the resource most at his disposal was money and what it could provide. Goriot is a plain man, lacking social connections in the Paris where he finds himself in his old age. But he has made a lot of money in the grain trade, and so his way of helping his two daughters, Anastasia and Delphine, is by giving them money, and of course, they both attract men to whom money is important. They marry these men, and both become victims of loveless marriages. One is married to a gambler who squanders the money, and the other to a man who gets control of his wife's money and gives her a pittance of an allowance. They are both socially ambitious, and the mainteance of appearances – clothing, balls, parties - is everything to them. Their widowed father moves to Paris to be near them but discovers that his sons-in-law find him embarrassing and refuse to let him in their houses. Of course, the daughters stay in contact with him, visiting him in his shabby rooming house, but it's as much to continue getting money from him as out of any daughterly love. They're not evil women, just weak and foolish, and are always making resolutions that they should be kinder to their old father. Goriot knows he's made mistakes rasiing them, commenting that "I sinned through love, I spoiled them," and asks the question, "Why could they not always be little girls?" when they were innocent and sweet. In spite of their indifference and even cruelty to him, if he cuts them off, he knows he will have no contact with them at all, and what dos he gain from that? As he says, "My real life is in my two girls." In the end he dies penniless and abandoned by his daughters who both find excuses for ignoring his death and his funeral. With him, though, is Eugene Rastignac, a young man from the provinces who lives in Goriot's rooming house. He is determined to make his way up in Parisian society, even though it is described as an "ocean of mud," referring as much to its corruption as to its physical aspects. He decides quickly that three things are important - youth, wealth, and social rank, and one has to act fast to attain these. He borrows money from his mother and sisters, all struggling too make ends meet in the provinces, buys some fancy clothes, and he is on his way, soon meeting and beginning an affair with the married Delphine. Now he has a double connection with Goriot, both through the rooming house and through his daughter. The rooming house, interestingly provides a way for Balzac to expand his examination of this l830’s post-Napoleonic society to all levels. It is made up of people who are barely hanging on. Money is crucially important to these people, too, but in their lower social strata, it is for the necessities of life – heat, food, shelter. It includes a criminal mastermind who instantly and cynically sees through Rastignac and makes him, with all of his pretensions, very uncomfortable. Eugene becomes fond of Goriot and at the end of the book faces a moral crisis - does he turn his back on decadence and stand up for decency, knowing it means hardship and an abandonment of a life of luxury? Or does he give in to the soft life? He goes off to dinner with his mistress in a beautifully understated ending. And Goriot? He gets a pauper's burial at Pere Lachaise cemetery

Nick

The legend of Balzac- the 3-day writing marathons fueled by gallons of coffee, the monks robe, the ridiculously grandiose ambition, the secret passage leading to a back alley used to flee from his creditors- is a most delightful one, and so I was hoping to like this, his most famous book, rather better than I did. Oscar Wilde claimed that Balzac invented the 19th century, which is probably true, but Flaubert's comment rings truer: "What a man he would have been if only he'd known how to write". He's undeniably a pleasant and engaging companion, if more than a little pompous and bombastic, and the book is a quite pleasant and enjoyable read, and most of the scenes were quite vivid and strikingly well observed, but the plot seemed rather thin, none of the characters really seemed to come alive, and the general tone was so melodramatic and so full of unnecessary asides consisting of nothing more than long strings of cliched truisms as to make it at times almost unreadable. Helas!

Elisa

Vedeva il mondo come un oceano di fango nel quale un uomo sprofondava fino al collo se solo v'immergeva il piede.«Vi si commettono solo delitti meschini», si disse. «Vautrin è superiore».Egli aveva visto le tre grandi manifestazioni della società: l'Obbedienza, la Lotta e la Rivolta; la Famiglia, il Mondo e Vautrin. E non osava decidersi. Parigi, diciannovesimo secolo. Lo scenario della storia è diviso fra due teatri, quello misero e cadente della pensione di Madame Vauquer e quello dorato e tintinnante dei salotti dell'aristocrazia. Vi sono personaggi che occupano solo uno dei due palchi, altri che passano dall'uno all'altro attraverso un piccolo corridoio buio. Le pedine in movimento sul nostro tabellone sono Eugène de Rastignac, studente di Giurisprudenza arrivista e assetato dei buoni profumi della società; Monsieur Goriot, soprannominato dalle malelingue "papà" per la sua totale dedizione alle due figlie; Madame de Restaud e Madame de Nuncingen, figlie di Goriot, affezionate alle sete pregiate e agli amanti, ricche di "ragionamenti" ma povere di cuore. Eugène tenta continuamente di spiccare il salto dal lerciume della sua stanza in affitto al salotto di qualche ricca famiglia, aiutato dalla prestigiosa parentela di Madame de Beausant. Mentre lo studente e le figlie di Goriot posano il piede sul pavimento sporco della pensione solo per ottenerne uno slancio che possa portarli più in alto nella scala sociale, Goriot si muove tra i due spazi solo per uscirne impoverito. Dopo aver passato una vita all'insegna del lavoro, che l'ha portato a mettere da parte una considerevole ricchezza, il buon uomo si è votato alla felicità delle sue uniche figlie, donando loro a più riprese tutti i suoi averi per ottenere in cambio "solo una carezza". Il cuore dell'uomo l'ha portato a immolarsi sull'altare della ricchezza filiale, come prova il suo processo di graduale decomposizione: si trasferisce in stanze via via più economiche, i capelli gli si imbiancano per l'abbandono del parrucchiere, i suoi vestiti si impoveriscono, la sua proprietà si riduce a un mucchio di posate. Contro questa vita ridotta ai minimi termini si staglia la frivolezza delle figlie, che corrono dal padre solo nei momenti in cui hanno bisogno di batter cassa per intonacare i loro visi in vista di un evento in società. Cuore e freddo calcolo si avviluppano violentemente sulla scena, e l'unico sconfitto appare sempre e solo il povero Goriot. I personaggi statici dimostrano come l'uomo sia il medesimo in ogni frangia della società: una gazza avida di denaro e vanità. La vita stessa non è che una lotta continua. Il testo è letteralmente invaso di termini mutuati dal linguaggio bellico. Assedio, inganno, strategia: questi sono i valori che mantengono in vita la Parigi che rantola nella corruzione.Madame Vauquer è come un mobile che completa la meschinità della sua pensione, e non ha certo più cuore di un cassettone malandato. I pensionanti sono uno più meschino dell'altro, sempre pronti a colpirsi alle spalle per ottenerne un vantaggio personale. La questione non cambia se diamo un'occhiata alla buona società: ne è un esempio il crudele accorrere degli invitati alla festa della ricca signora che è appena stata colpita al cuore dal suo amante, per gioire della sua sfortuna e della sua caduta. L'oro che luccica sui corpi e sulle mani non rende diverso lo spettacolo da un'impiccagione in piazza, a cui il popolo più ignorante assiste come al passare di un carrozzone del circo. E' una meschinità umana che supera le barriere sociali: la decadenza altrui rende la nostra figura felice della propria stabilità. In mezzo a questa giungla umana in cui le parole d'ordine sono "lotta" e "inganno", spicca la figura dell'audace Vautrin. Inizialmente odioso nei comportamenti, con lo scorrere della narrazione diventa paradossalmente puro nella sua crudeltà. "Vautrin è superiore", come dice Rastignac. Il suo pregio sta nel riconoscere la natura dell'uomo, e nel trarne vantaggio senza ipocrisia. A differenza delle altre sagome del racconto, che preparano come ragni la loro tela di inganni e fingono di amare in modo teatrale, Vautrin non finge. E' avido e non se ne vergogna, prepara la strada al suo successo cercando di raggiungere anche quello altrui per ottenerne dei vantaggi. E' forse il suo comportamento peggiore di quello di chi finge di amare per ottenere il passpartout per la buona società? "Forse l'opera opposta, la pittura delle tortuosità nelle quali un uomo di mondo, un ambizioso, fa rotolare la coscienza cercando di rasentare il male per arrivare allo scopo salvando le apparenze, non sarebbe né meno bella né meno drammatica". Signore e signori, ecco a voi la Commedia Umana.

Liza

** spoiler alert ** Money, money, money! Makes the world go round? I don't know, that's what they say. It sure does in Old Goriot, which I found convincing. Also so compelling that I missed my stop while reading it on the T, and accidentally rode the train to the end of the line. The main lesson I learned was that no matter how much you love someone, you shouldn't give them all your money or all your love, and especially not both, or you'll be left with nothing. Then again, maybe nothing is the best thing to have, so I guess the lesson is ambiguous. I liked how there is so much STUFF in Old Goriot. Why don't people write like that now? Wait, I heard there was a reason.

brian

many pre-20th century novels have the nasty habit of presenting their author's beliefs as hard, solid fact. y'know what i mean: sentences which flatly state that 'Women believe' such and such or, as per balzac (pg. 51), "Young men's eyes take everything in; their spirits react to..." (<-- to which i'd argue: no! young men's eyes don't take in shit. and if i was gonna write either/or i'd find some elegant means to qualify it). now, wishy-washy apologetic sentences deserve destruction by sharpie and a knuckle-punch to their author's neck, of course, but those simple, declarative sentences which aim to embody an entire gender or race or people or pathology are almost equally as frustrating. i suppose the confused haze which 20th century modernism and pomo dropped on everything blew all that 'belief = fact' stuff outta the water. once einstein laid it down that the part of the world we see and experience is not only a sliver but vastly different from actual physical reality, when picasso duchamp & warhol redefined art and our relation to the visual world, when freud reconfigured all we did and thought and believed as part of a long and complex causal chain, with marx's (amongst other's) reinterpretation of history, and so on and on... there was little room left for those epic all-encompassing statements. so there's a never-to-be-returned-to place occupied by the great brains of the past few centuries that is now taken up by novelists and creators either skirting the issue altogether or working to make sense of the confusion.so pere goriot. a kind of cross b/t king lear and the giving tree: a kind-hearted old coot gives and gives and gives to some seriously awful daughters until he's flat broke and the aforementioned awfuls are just too busy to make a deathbed drop-by. a well told tale, genuinely felt, if, at times, the machinery was a bit visible, a few too many glimpses of the man behind the curtain... but overall my first balzac was a positive experience. wanna check out cousin bette and colonel chabert. worth noting that within pere goriot there's a great spin-off crime novel waiting to be written. vautrin*, the most entertaining character in the book, is revealed as the notorious criminal nicknamed 'The Death-Dodger' who's part of a gang called The Ten Thousand -- b/c they have ten thousand partner thieves or b/c they'll only heist jobs bigger than ten thousand francs? i get fantomas fever just thinking about a vast network of thieves stalking the streets of paris. sign me up, frère, i'm in. * here goes some of vautrin's dialogue: "You see, I have an idea. My idea is to go off and live like a patriarch in the middle of some big estate, a hundred thousand acres for example, in the United States, in the South. I want to become a planter out there, own slaves, earn a cool few million from the sale of my cattle, tobacco, and timber, living like a king, doing whatever I want, leading the sort of life you can't imagine here, where people hide away in burrows made of plaster. I am a great poet. My poetry is not something I write down, it is composed of action and emotions. At this moment I possess fifty thousand francs, which would hardly buy me forty niggers. I need two hundred thousand, because I want two hundred niggers to satisfy my taste for the patriarchal life. Niggers, do you see? They are children, but fully grown, and you can do what you like with them without some Public Prosecutor coming along to ask you questions."

Bethan

Some King Lear comparisons have to be inevitable: about a rather stupid, annoying but devoted father to two spoilt and rapacious daughters who bleed him dry. Eugene de Rastignac, a young and handsome student's choices are followed, too. He is often found in a position of having to make choices between his ambitions and his sense of honour; his existence seems to be an uneasy combination of the two. The want for money is a big theme, and the hotbed of social ambition that Paris was. Balzac's rich and almost bejewelled realistic descriptions can be wonderful, especially his descriptions of the boarding house, the impecunious Maison Vauquer at the beginning. I found the ending good in a cathartic way: full of complex pathos, emotion, and some of the somewhat horrifying reality of people. 3.5/5.

Jim Coughenour

"It's a great shame that so many readers owe their first (and often last) contact with French literature to the opening pages of Le Père Goriot," writes Graham Robb in his resplendent biography of Balzac. Balzac begins his book with a pages-long description of the Pension Vaquer, an impoverished boarding house where key characters will come together. I'd have to disagree; Balzac's minute description of this seedy setting, which is also a description of its landlady, Madame Vaquer, is as over-the-top hilarious as anything in Dickens. The drawing room "gives off a smell for which our language has no special word; it can only be described as a boarding house smell. It smells stuffy, mouldy, rancid; it is chilly, clammy to breathe, permeates one's clothing; it leaves the stale taste of a room where people have been eating; it stinks of backstairs, scullery, workhouse. It could only be described if some process were invented for measuring the quantity of disgusting elementary particles contributed by each resident, young or old, from his own catarrhal and sui generis exhalations. Even so, despite these dull horrors, compared to the dining-room next door the drawing room seems as elegant and sweet smelling as a boudoir." — And we're off…A long time ago I tried to read Père Goriot in French, and failed. I picked it up recently with bland expectations and found myself chuckling all the way through. Here's where we first meet two of the key characters from his Human Comedy – the young Rastignac and the Mephistophelean arch-criminal Vautrin – but the entire ensemble is pure pleasure: grande dames deserted by their feckless lovers, mean old biddies and faithless daughters and conniving capitalists, all commingling in ambition. No one is virtuous, but some are more clever than others.As Stephen Vizinczey observed 30 years ago,* "the greatest 19th-century English and American novelists are Gogol, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Stendhal and Balzac in English." I'm a fan of this translation by A.J. Krailsheimer; it's never fusty and frequently funny. And if you've never read Balzac, this is a great place to begin.______________________* Speaking of forgotten classics, I just rated Vizinczey's collection Truth and Lies in Literature, which any lover of literature will love.

Tyler

A distinctive element of this novel stems from its compactness. Most of the action takes place at a boarding house or a couple of other locations in Paris. The setup highlights the interaction between people, and the author’s astute observations about human nature set the story off. Balzac’s prose is superb, and his command of detail gives readers a palpable feel for the lives of people so far removed in time (1819) from us.Goriot is a father who, among the fellow boarders, finds that rarest of gems – the perfect son-in-law. Problem is, his daughter’s already married -- to a perfect cad. Maybe the old man can do something to change that, and the action revolves around this effort. The protagonist is the young boarder, a dark-haired law student with foppish designs for whom Goriot’s daughter opens a new world.

Lydia Presley

Original review posted hereThis book floored me. I mean, jaw on the floor, gaping as I read, type of floored me. Who knew Balzac could be so approachable? I picked up this book fully expecting to struggle through it, much like my earlier trials with Middlemarch, and instead I found myself thoroughly intrigued by this drama. And Balzac himself, as narrator of the story of Father Goriot, calls it a drama, although he hastens to explain that it isn’t quite the same as those other dramas of the time.The word drama has been somewhat discredited of late; it has been overworked and twisted to strange uses in these days of dolorous literature; but it must do service again here, not because this story is dramatic in the restricted sense of the word, but because some tears may perhaps be shed intra et extra muros before it is over. – Father Goriot by BalzacThe story is focused around two characters – Father Goriot and a young, law student named Eugene Rastignac. They are acquainted by being one of several boarders in a respectable, if a bit shabby, boarding house in Paris, France. Goriot is the father of two married daughters, and Rastignac is, at the expense of his parents and two sisters, attempting to marry into society and wealth – but in a respectful way!This drama has everything – murder and intrigue through the character of Vautrin, the Trick of Death. It has humor – there is an entire scene which made me think of our modern day Snoop Dog “shizzle” moments – Balzac talks about how the diorama has recently been unveiled, and as a result, in passing, humorous conversation, the morpheme “orama” is added to the end of random words – such as Goriot-orama. There is an entire scene at the dinner table in which words are bantered about, and even referenced later in the book that had me laughing out loud in sheer delight. It has tragedy – the outcome of Father Goriot and his daughters relationship is one that, as Balzac foretells, worthy of tears. It showcases both the good and bad sides of the human character, and provides an interesting commentary on situations and feelings that are relevant still today.Some day you will find out that there is far more happiness in another’s happiness than in your own – BalzacThe human heart may find here and there a resting-place short of the highest height of affection, but we seldom stop in the steep, downward slope of hatred - BalzacI wish I could go further into the quotes and how many things I highlighted on my Kindle – but then this entire review would be just repeated quote after quote, since there are quite a few of them. I have to encourage you to pick up this book and read it – I hope you will find it as fascinating as I did. Such an incredible story of the tragedy of life.

Ahmad

920. Le Père Goriot, Honoré de Balzacبابا گوریو - اونوره دو بالزاک (ققنوس، ...) ادبیات فرانسهاین کتاب را «م.ا. به آذین»، و «ادوارد ژوزف» و «مهدی سحابی» ترجمه کرده اندا. شربیانی

Mon

Years ago my mum was an English literature professor and my dad a linguist at an university. Ever since I could read beyond the alphabet books I was spoon fed 'serious classic literature'. Mum had a particular passion for all things French, and I read things like The Red and the Black and Madame Bovary before Harry Potter was even published. Like most normal children, I did not enjoy anything over 200 pages with dense text about poverty and woman's fashion and instead resorted to large amount of 'serious classic science fiction' and Gothic literature instead. As a result, I've always carried this fear and 'Urgh, not another painting on the cover Penguin classic again' attitude towards well, 'serious things'. So the other day I came across Pere Goriot and thought, hey, now that I'm over 20, I should maybe grow up and read 'serious' things again. I vaguely recall skimming through my dad's copy when I was 8, but quickly gave up when the afternoon cartoon came on TV. First of all, this is nothing like those old hardcover dust mite infested books my mum used to keep (and still keeps, I suspect). Rather, this is like an episode of Home and Away - a lot of things happen, a lot of drama, internal monologues, speeches, great dialogues and MORE DRAMA. I remember thinking 'Wow, this is great. People used to have such interesting lives.' I was genuinely surprised by how melodramatic yet entertaining the novel was. It has duels, romance, ambitious young man, conspiracy and woman's fashion (now I can actually appreciate it). The characters are fun and even the minor ones are well considered. The last 50 pages are literally mind blowing - the voices were yelling inside my head, everything was a bit delirious and OMG I CAN'T BELIEVE THIS IS HAPPENING IN A FRENCH 19TH CENTURY NOVEL!!!Now, I must call dad and let him know how much I love Balzac and that one day I may even attempt Proust. One day.

محمد حسين ضاحي

كان الممثل الفرنسى جيرار دوبارديو: هو الذى قام بطولة الفيلم الذى يحكى قصة حياة الروائى الفرنسى بلزاك:وكان هذا الفيلم أول معرفتى ببلزاك منذ عشر سنوات أو يزيد. وأحببت شخصيته أو إتقان الممثل لدوره، وإبداعه فيه.ثم قرأت هذه الرواية وقد قيل أنها قمة العمل الواقعى.والواقعية فى الأدب هى محاولة تصوير الحياة تصويراً واقعياً دون إغراق في المثاليات، أو جنوح صوب الخيال. وقد أصبحت الواقعية وفي فرنسا القرن التاسع عشر حركة أدبية، تعارض الحركة الرومانسية. وحاول بعض الروائيين من أمثال فلوبير في روايته «مدام بوفاري» تصوير ما هو وضيع وتافه، بقدر ما حاول تصوير ما هو نبيل ورفيع. وكان فلوبير يصر على إقصاء انفعالات الكاتب عن العمل الأدبي. ويعتبر أونوريه دي بلزاك- مع فلوبير، مؤسس الواقعية في الأدب الأوروبي. وإنتاجه الغزير من الروايات والقصص يسمى في مجموعه الكوميديا الإنسانية، وكان بمثابة بانوراما للمجتمع الفرنسي في فترة عودة الملكية (1815-1830) وملكية يوليو (1830-1848). ورسم أونوريه دو بلزاك صورة واسعة للمجتمع فى وقته مثل المقاطعات والشباب الطموح.أعجبتنى القصة، رغم أنى وجدت فيها نوعا من التشاؤم أو النظرة السوداوية للحياة، وهو ما ألمح إليه المؤلف فى تفسير وجهة نظر بعض الشخصيات ووصفهم بأنهم من أتباع الفلسفة الكلبية أو الشكوكية. ومع ذلك إنى أعتبر أنها بها مسحة رومانسية ربما تتمثل فى مشاعر الأب نحو الابنتين والتضحية التى يقدمها مقابل العقوق الذى لا مبرر له حتى لو كان أساء تربيتهما بتدليلهما زيادة عن اللزوم، وهى تميل للتشاؤم فى رأيى لأنها لم تنتهى بعقاب البنتين على سوئهما بما يكفى، ولأن البطل لم يصل لنهاية إذ ترك الأمر مفتوحا للقارئ أن يخمن.

Unbridled

I can only bow to this lucid, forceful, brilliant little novel. Balzac delights with aphorisms and insights into human behavior. He advances a rewarding story with entertaining and fleshy characters. He is everything that a great writer can be - more than a psychologist, more than a philosopher, more than any social scientist can aspire to be - he is everything and better with an exacting eye trained upon the vanity and corruption of men and women alike. This particular book is still relevant to modern lives even though it is from a time so far past that we reflect upon the details as though we're dreaming what never was. The style of writing might strike off-key notes to modern ears - but it is truly a drama and with it we must suspend the disbelief that we willingly do when our physical bodies sit in a theatre. The rewards are worth it - Balzac's intelligence vibrates off the page. Excerpts:"All women obliged to study their husbands' character in order that they themselves may do as they like quickly learn just how far they may go without endangering a trust they prize, and they never cross their husbands in the little things of life." 'The world is vile and malicious,' said the Viscountess at last. 'As soon as misfortune overtakes you there is always a friend ready to come and announce it, and probe your heart with a dagger while bidding you admire the hilt. Sarcasm and mockery already! Ah! but I shall defend myself!.' She raised her head like the great lady she was, and lightning flashed from her proud eyes."He had the luck of all men who have only average ability: his mediocrity was his salvation.""She was waiting impatiently for a glance from him, and thought no one saw how impatient she was. For a man who can see into a woman's heart such a moment is delicious. Who has not taken pleasure in withholding his approval and tantalizingly hiding his delight, in causing disquiet for the sake of extorting a confession of affection, and enjoying the fears he will presently dissipate with a smile?""Women are always true even when their actions appear equivocal, because they are yielding to some natural impulse.""You have to die to know what your children are."

Justin Bendana

Perhaps it is a good time as ever to read such a book as Old Goriot. Well, I am 20 years old, young, ambitious, a novice, and most of all innocent to the ways of how society works. Of course, I will feel much inclined to like the character of young Eugene Rastignac. Like Eugene, I wanted to be accepted into the upper echelon of society by entering into the legal profession as my parents and i have always dreamed of, but I wanted most of all to be accepted in so called 'modern society' through the trials and tribulations of such a venture as love. However much like to the demise of Eugene's love interest with Madame de Nucigen, I too have had fallen in love with somebody with much of a character of the same caliber. (view spoiler)[At the end of the novel as Eugene watched the one sincere character in the novel 'Old Goriot' in his last resting place. Balzac writes "he looked at the grave, and in that place the last tear of his youth was shed. It was a tear that had its source in the sacred emotions of an innocent heart, one of those tears whose radiance springs from the ground where they fall and reaches the gates of Heaven. He folded his arms, staring at the clouded sky", I had shed that same tear as all of us one time in our young adult life had shed. So there I was and I "eyed that humming hive with a look that foretold its despoliation, as if he already felt on his lips the sweetness of its honey, and said with superb defiance,'It's war between us now!' " As I cast away my own youthful outlook into the world into the empty voids of my past thoughts, I too have declared my own war against modern society in all its baseness, callousness, vanity, and insincerity. A las! my dear friends I have "by way of throwing down the gauntlet to Society", I will begin life anew being cautious for the things that I hold dear to me such as honesty, sincerity, and love, from most of all those who had lost it and wish nothing more to plunder it. (hide spoiler)]["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>

Riku Sayuj

The Importance of Being CynicalRastignac’s education is the theme of the novel — provided at the expense of Père Goriot, who built up a fortune from nothing, married his daughters into wealth and was duly ignored and left to die a lonely death. This clear tragedy tells Rastignac, and perhaps France itself, what it takes to succeed in a Capitalist World: ruthlessness and a complete apathy to moral sentiments. As Vautrin explains to Rastignac, it is illusory to think that social success can be achieved through study, talent, and effort — you can never get anywhere worthwhile by slaving your life away earning an honest living out of your education and skills. All you need is cynicism. Père Goriot was a great teacher. Nothing else could have convinced Rastignac. P.S. This short review is inspired by Thomas Piketty’s analysis of the novel in Capital in the Twenty-First Century, to help explain the structure of wealth in Europe in the era under study: “… the structure of the income and wealth hierarchies in nineteenth-century France was such that the standard of living the wealthiest French people could attain greatly exceeded that to which one could aspire on the basis of income from labor alone. Under such conditions, why work? And why behave morally at all? Since social inequality was in itself immoral and unjustified, why not be thoroughly immoral and appropriate capital by whatever means are available?” This clarified the unease the reviewer had felt towards Balzac’s message. Was it that Rastignac should be pitied? Or was he a hope that even a complete cynic once had hope and could have taken a different turn? Or was it that if only the Goriots could be treated better the Rastignacs might find more motivation to stick it out in honorable professions? Or was it that all pretensions to live a up-and-comer middle-class life is buying into the capitalist illusion? Piketty’s small piece on the novel helped this reviewer finally place the novel.

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