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A Harlot High and Low: (Splendeurs Et Miseres Des Courtisanes) (Classics) Kindle Edition
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About the Author
- ASIN : B00358VHZG
- Publisher : Penguin; New Impression edition (September 26, 1985)
- Publication date : September 26, 1985
- Language : English
- File size : 3819 KB
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Screen Reader : Supported
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Not Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Print length : 550 pages
- Lending : Not Enabled
- Best Sellers Rank: #543,534 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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That said, I read this book on Kindle and found the text full of annoying typographical errors. Does anyone proofread the text after it's prepped for Kindle? Someone should.
Second, if you don't like classic books - stick to potboilers on the best seller list. Balzac is a genius, not meant for all tastes. If you love French history - he paints a scene that pulls you in and it feels like you are there. He understands human nature, and society. He values great art. This book along with the Penguin translation of, "Cousin Bette", are fabulous books. I first saw a BBC series based on, "Cousin Bette", on Masterpiece Theatre back in the 70's and was enthralled. It motivated me to try reading Balzac. Balzac and Dostoevsky are two of my favorite authors.
If the translation is bad - books by these authors are disjointed and almost unreadable.
Fortunately, it redeems itself in the final act, which follows the activities of Jacques Collin, one of the great characters of literature, describing his genius turnaround of fortune. Initially disappointing, yet somehow satisfying in the end, it still left me wanting more. Bravo!
Honestly, I ask you: who really cares about any of this nonsense??!
I look forward to the day when human being no longer carry on with the sort of "virtuoso performance" Mr Balzac does. And if they do, they're not given in return for it the thing he's obviously craved, which is public attention.
Top reviews from other countries
Lucien has returned to Paris and is making his way to a respectable position; he has Esther a high class whore as his lover and he is trying to arrange a good marriage which will give him money and make him into a marquis. Carlos is working behind the scenes to make sure that Lucien can make it in society but when Esther is recognised and tries to kill herself Carlos saves her and re-invents her. With Esther trying to seduce a banker out of his money to pay for Lucien to buy land you just know something is going to go wrong.
With police agents getting entangled in the plot and machinations galore this novel defies definiton, as it seems to swing between melodrama, thriller and farce. Of course Balzac as usual digresses to some extent which makes this novel longer than it need be, and I know a lot of people aren't all that enamoured by it, however I did find it quite enjoyable. If you have never read Balzac before I would seriously recommend you to stay away from this novel to start with, and instead try something like Old Goriot (Penguin Red Classics) .
Balzac's literary object was to describe the Human Comedy of scenes from French Parisian and provincial life. In this volume his subject is the criminal underworld and he uses the master criminal Jacques Collins, who has first appeared in Balzac's Old Goriot as the central character. Collin is as cunning and deceitful a person as you will ever come across. Here Collin uses Lucien de Rubempres - previously the handsome poet hero of Balzac's Lost Illusions, together with Esther Gobeseck - the original harlot with a heart of gold - as tools for his evil plans. Unfortunately this mix is a disaster in plot terms and it is totally unclear as to whether the narrative is following Collin, Lucien or Esther and since each of their stories has a different arc the whole is a complete failure.
There are passages and paragraphs in the narrative which presage Proust in their nobility, but these are few and far between and fairly soon Balzac loses himself in the most fantastically complex plot wherein the poet Lucien is to marry an heiress provided he can prove he is a man of financial substance. The means of providing that proof becomes the sale of Esther by Collin to the fabulously wealthy Baron Nucingen. But this scheme unravels because Esther truly loves Lucien and decides that rather than submit to being Nucingen's mistress she will commit suicide. This brings the force of the law down on both Collin and Lucien and in the final scenes Collin comes into his own in attempting to escape from the clutches of the law.
There's nothing wrong with Balzac's idea but his execution is hopeless. Collin is a pale shadow of a character until the final few chapters and so the narrative is dominated by the love story between Lucien and Esther. Unfortunately the power of their love makes the willingness of this couple to submit to Collin's plans for them totally implausible since they cannot both be completely in love and have worldly ambitions. This implausibility is made worse by the fact that Lucien is known to the reader through Balzac's Lost Illusions and, although in that book he was also a weak character and prepared to do bad things, he would never knowingly allow a woman such as Esther to prostitute herself for his financial gain. This implausibility knocks the bottom out of Balzac's world.
Balzac's cast is enormous and there are so many characters in this book that I began to lose the plot altogether. In addition many if not all of the characters have more than one name (Collin has five or six) so that the reader is frequently left bewildered as to who is who and what they're motives are. When the police start to close in instead of one master policeman there are two named Coretin and Contenson and the judge is called Camuset - it's very hard to follow.
Finally Baron Nucingen is a Polish Jew and Balzac has written the part in cod dialogue that is extremely hard work - at least in translation.
I'd like to say that there is a good book trying to get out from these pages but in truth I think the entire narrative is misguided, poorly plotted, with dubious characterization and with only the occasional piece of purple prose to redeem it. My conclusion is that this is one to avoid.