Publication Date: December 7, 2004
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Père Goriot can rightly be regarded as one of the greatest of Balzac’s novels,” writes Henry Reed of this masterful study of a father who sacrifices everything for his daughters. This novel marked the true beginning of Balzac’s towering project La Comédie Humaine, his series of novels and short stories depicting the whole pell-mell of civilization.” In Père Goriot, the great novelist probes the bourgeois tragedy” of money and power from two different directions. While Goriot is willingly reduced to poverty to support his ambitious daughters, an impoverished young man of integrity becomes money hungry. Attracted to one of Goriot’s daughters, Rastignac succumbs to the fever of social climbing. The resulting tale is a commentary on wealth and human desire that still rings true in the twenty-first century.
Translated and with an Afterword by Henry Reed
and with an Introduction by Peter Brooks
Honoré de Balzac (17991850) worked for three years in a lawyer’s office, preparing to practice law, but in 1819, he devoted himself to writing. His early stories were hackwork published under various pseudonyms. In 1829, he published La Dernier Chouan, the first story to bear his name and his first success. Over the next twenty years, Balzac’s literary output was prodigious: three or four novels a year, sometimes more. All became part of La Comédie Humaine, a panorama of the whole of French society, some of the most important works of this series being Eugénie Grandet (1833) and Père Goriot (1834). He also wrote plays and the popular Droll Stories (1833).
Henry Reed (1914-86) was a noted poet, translator, and writer of radio plays. In addition to Père Goriot, his translations include Eugénie Grandet by Honoré de Balzac. His poems were published in two volumes, A Map of Verona and Lessons of the War.
Peter Brooks is the author of a number of books, including Reading for the Plot, The Melodramatic Imagination, and Henry James Goes to Paris. He was a longtime professor of comparative literature and French at Yale University and University Professor at the University of Virginia.
“The greatest novelist who ever lived.”—W. Somerset Maugham
“A man of genius.”—Victor Hugo