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A Harlot High and Low
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A Harlot High and Low (La Comédie Humaine)

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4.11 of 5 stars 4.11  ·  rating details  ·  1,106 ratings  ·  50 reviews
Finance, fashionable society, and the intrigues of the underworld and the police system form the heart of this powerful novel, which introduces the satanic genius Vautrin, one of the greatest villains in world literature.
Paperback, 554 pages
Published December 30th 1970 by Penguin Classics (first published 1847)
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Lost Illusions by Honoré de BalzacPère Goriot by Honoré de BalzacCousin Bette by Honoré de BalzacEugénie Grandet by Honoré de BalzacA Harlot High and Low by Honoré de Balzac
All about Balzac.
5th out of 72 books — 15 voters
The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-ExupéryLes Misérables by Victor HugoThe Stranger by Albert CamusThe Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre DumasMadame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
Best French Literature
226th out of 543 books — 976 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,679)
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Henry Martin
Why should anyone care about Esther, a prostitute from a young age, a harlot with powers over men? Why should anyone care about a spoiled feeble individual such as Lucien, the poet whose ambitions are to secure a noble title and live in luxury for the rest of his life? The same Lucien who, by the way, in Lost Illusions ruined his sister and her husband, the only man that cared for him. Why?

Because of Balzac.

Yes, it is all Balzac's fault.

This unbelievable author has taken over most of my readi
...more
Jonfaith
So Balzac's father added the "de". It was invented not inherited. Such utility is brought to bear in the two novels Lost Illusions and A Harlot High and Low. Both chronicle the verve of self-creation, first in Lost Illusions in a literary/journalistic context and later in this novel with simple grift. The entire novel is serial cons against the Church, society, the bourgeois and finally the Courts. I obviously didn't swallow this novel whole. This approach necessitated ongoing rereading to reori ...more
Anachronist
Balzac explores the artistic life of Paris in 1821-22, and furthermore the nature of the artistic life generally. He does it in a great way. He starts a simple story of a weak young man helped by an older, more experienced and cunning tutor and then it explodes into a multi-novel epic. The narrative is powerful enough to carry readers past any of the flaws – I wasn’t bored for one single second. The deception, corruption, and trickery, at every level of society are brilliantly displayed, often a ...more
Julia Boechat Machado
Será que Oscar Wilde realmente disse: “One of the greatest tragedies of my life is the death of Lucien de Rubempré... It haunts me in my moments of pleasure. I remember it when I laugh”? É apropriado.
Jeremy
Quick note on translation: Frustrated and disappointed, I've put aside the old Heppenstall translation published under the title A Harlot High and Low in favor of the older, more faithfully-titled Scenes from a Courtesan's Life from the always remarkable Ellen Marriage aka James Waring, a far more readable edition that's in the public domain. After fighting through an obnoxious, circular, and simply unhelpful introduction by Heppenstall, I braved the first several dozen pages of his Balzac, rend ...more
MG
Years ago, I was reading one Balzac after another, after another. Someone sold a set of six or seven novels at a used book store for something like a dollar each in Santa Monica, California circa 1997. 10 bucks and a stack of Balzac.
James
A selection from the "Scenes of Parisian Life" novels of Balzac includes elements of finance, intrigue, the Parisian underworld and the police. As the title suggests the Harlot in the story experiences the vicissitudes of life with her days of wealth and luxury numbered and ultimately offset by misery. But she is merely a pawn in the hands of criminal masterminds at whose apex is Vautrin, the Satanic genius at the heart of the story. He is one of the greatest of Balzac's many memorable character ...more
Stephen Brody
Balzac has a quality which lately has been largely lost: he's a marvellous story teller, and as a story this example is one his his best and most exciting and you have to stay alert to every detail. All levels of early nineteenth century Parisian life are explored and most of it is as sordid as it's colourful; the characters are ruthlessly impelled by the same motives with which we are all too familiar, sex, the acquisition of money and the jostling for social eminence, and all that is welded to ...more
Elizabeth (Alaska)
A Harlot High and Low, sometimes called Scenes From a Courtesans Life, is the sequel to Lost Illusions which should be read first. It is also a tetralogy comprised of:

Esther Happy: How a courtesan Can Love
What Love Costs an Old Man
The End of Evil Ways
Vautrin's last Avatar

Should you come across these as separate works, be sure to read them in the above order.

Some readers prefer Harlot/Courtesan over Lost Illusions, but I did not. This volume is so plot-driven that, for me, most of the characters
...more
Nick Tramdack
Be sure to read the sequel to Lost Illusions also.

Line notes keyed to the Penguin translation with the cover above.

29: "She would not have been a liberal, a courtesan is always a monarchist."
39: "[Vautrin] seemed to know his way about households of this kind, he knew where everything was. He had made himself at home. This gift of being everywhere at home belongs only to kings, light women and thieves." [so cool for Vautrin, who is a little bit of all three]
42: Esther: "And then only those li
...more
Steve Walker
A Harlot High and Low is a slightly larger novel than I am used to from Balzac, and about three quarters of the way through I thought that all of the major plot points had resolved, and wondered why I still had 100+ pages to go? Well, there was a pay-off that I had not seen coming and it was well worth persevering to the end of the book – that’s all I’m going to say on that score.

Set in 19th century Paris, the novel reunites us with some characters that featured in earlier novels from the Balzac
...more
Tony
Balzac, Honoe de. A HARLOT HIGH AND LOW. (1839-1847). *.
This novel is, I think, not typical of Balzac’s works. It is an extremely difficult read, and forces the reader to assimilate a large cast of characters in a very short time. Unlike his other books, Balzac does not spend a lot of time developing his characters’ background or giving us early clues as to which of them will continue to play an important role in this book. Of the more than 500 pages in this Penguin Classics edition, I was only
...more
Dagny
Scenes from a Courtesan's Life (Splendeurs et Miseres des Courtisanes), also translated as A Harlot High and Low, is a sequel to the Lost Illusions (Illusions Perdues) trilogy and will be a more enjoyable reading experience if they are read first for the character background and prior adventures.

The Lost Illusions trilogy was set in Angouleme and Paris. Scenes from a Courtesan's Life returns to Paris for the further history of Lucien Chardon de Rubempre. This novel is rich in characters from oth
...more
Paddy Docherty
Jun 01, 2008 Paddy Docherty rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: everyone
A wonderful read! Gripping and unusual, and very funny in places - especially where Esther is running rings around Nucingen. Easily the dominant figure is Vautrin, of course, and I enjoyed reading more about him having read other Balzacs such as "Old Goriot". He's a sympathetic figure, and I wanted his schemes to work out, even though they were outrageous...

The principal theme in this book is money and what it can and can't buy - power, love, respect, etc. There is much selling out for financia
...more
Peter Ellwood
What a pleasure, after a gap of many years, to come back to Balzac. Part of the grander Comédie Humaine cycle of novels it takes forward the lives of our old friends Vautrin and Lucien de Rubempré. I won't make any detailed comments about the plot as it would contain some serious spoilers for those who like to encounter their plots fresh. But one doesn't really need to disclose the details: Balzac's capacity to come up with twists and turns is undiminished, his prose is as rich as chocolate sauc ...more
Beatrice
Nel complesso sono felice di averlo letto, aveva dei passi straordinari, delle riflessioni meravigliose sul carattere e sulla psicologia dei personaggi, scene da togliere il respiro. Purtroppo mancava della continuità e dell'unità del suo predecessore, 'Illusioni Perdute', che considero un capolavoro assoluto. Questo libro invece è a tratti caotico e discontinuo.

La prima parte, 'Come amano le cortigiane', è dedicata alla figura di Esther, prostituta che vuole 'redimersi' per amore. E' un po' un
...more
Marija
At first glance, the English translation of the title might seem somewhat of a misnomer. Essentially, this work is a collection of four separate volumes that are essentially loosely joined together through one central theme and figure, i.e. the infamous Jacques Collin and his string of aliases from the priest Carlos Herrera, to Vautrin. Though one might think the “harlot” referenced in the English translation refers to the story’s professional courtesan, Esther Gobseck, this is not a true conclu ...more
Aleksandra
Dwa, a właściwie trzy, mam problemy z tą powieścią, z punktu widzenia czytelniczki coś tam wiedzącej o literaturze epoki, ale ani romanistki, ani specjalistki od XIX wieku, ani znawczyni Balzaka, stąd te uwagi będą mało profesjonalne i kompletnie osobiste.
Po pierwsze: postacie i ton. Znaczy się, przemieszanie błyskotliwych obserwacji psychologicznych i społecznych z charakterami i postaciami rodem z popkultury, z nadludzkimi królami zbrodni i agentury na czele; przemieszanie fabuły z obyczajami
...more
antonio brito
ESPLENDORES E MISERIAS DAS CORTESAS
HONORE DE BALZAC
Balzac não saberia dizer o que é uma “anta”, vocábulo brasileiro que serve tanto para pessoa estúpida ou ignorante, como para um animal. Porém foi este belo achado de tradução que Ilana Heineberg encontrou para adaptar o “buse” do Francês, que tanto pode indicar um tipo de ave como uma “persone ignorante et stupide”. Buscar este paralelismo na tradução, uma interpretação do texto para o leitor atual, é o que se pede na tradução hoje. Esta traduç
...more
Marti
Although not exactly a sequel to Lost Illusions, it continues the thread of that story (however it also continues stories begun in other volumes of the Human Comedie). It is perhaps for that reason, that I found the first 200 pages to be a bit confusing. It also has one of the most complicated plot lines of almost any novel I have ever read. However, I like these types of books because you get a sense of Paris low life in the early 19th Century (Post Napoleon). You really have to suspend your di ...more
Mary  Goodnight
Ce n'est pas forcément la conclusion flamboyante qu'on attendait à la Comédie humaine et à ses deux chefs d'oeuvre, Le Père Goriot et Illusions perdues. Mais Splendeurs et misères des courtisanes n'en demeure pas moins un grand Balzac, tableau incisif des moeurs de la France de 1830. Ce sont trois romans en un seul : une histoire d'amour impossible entre une "fille" et Lucien, jouet de l'ambition de Vautrin dans son ultime réincarnation ; une farce peuplée de personnages pittoresques (Europe, As ...more
Megan Chance
The continuation of the story of Lucien de Rubempre from "Lost Illusions," wherein Lucien falls under the influence of the villain Jacques Collin (aka many other names), from "Pere Goirot," which I have not yet read and probably should have before I read "Lost Illusions.". Lucien manages to remain a slow learner in this book, but Balzac's ability to make you like and cheer for villains and weak-willed semi-villains is amazing. I wanted Collin to win from the moment he appeared in "Lost Illusions ...more
Alison
Lots of detail of French judicial system circa 1830, also descriptions of Paris streets and buildings at that time. Wish I could read French to understand the slang - not done justice by this translator - Heppenstall.
Narendra Jussien
Histoire d'une courtisane : Esther Gobseck. Trois romans dans ce roman : Esther et Lucien (de Rubempr��), Esther et Nucingen, Lucien et Vautrin (alias Carlos Herrera, Jacques Collin, Trompe-la-mort). Le lien entre ces trois destins est Vautrin qui offre la r��demption �� Esther pour la donner �� Lucien, qui d��prave Esther pour d��pouiller Nucingen et qui fait tout pour sauver Lucien de la prison. Une peinture sans complaisance du 19e si��cle. La quatri��me partie (��crite bien apr��s les autres ...more
Teodora
This book made me question the sincerity of everyone and lose all faith in genuine romantic love. Balzac at his best! <3
Patrick Fay
I have enjoyed a lot of Balzac but, to me, this one is head and shoulders above the rest. It picks up after the end of Lost Illusions and shows a horribly cynical, frighteningly believable, warts-and-all image of 19th century Paris from high society to the underworld exposing the interconnections between these seemingly widely separated spheres. The story becomes ever more compelling and hard to predict straight up to the end.
Gabi Ghimis
Osacr Wilde loved this, so I read it. A long time ago. Great book, with complex characters and a fantastic patience for reconstructing the french society and its social intricacies. Lucien, Esther and Vautrin make this worth reading.

Be patient with Balzac's penchant for details and understand that this book, although in it of itself of formidable girth, is part of a larger collection. It takes some time to get used to the times and the heavily footnoted character histories, but when you do it is
...more
Mary
Who doesn't like a novel about a fallen woman? What fallen women are more glorious than those who tumbled through the Belle Epoque? Nobody does it better than Balzac and that includes Zola. I read this after reading Lost Illusions. I didn't have to; it stands alone. But one of the glories of Balzac is to meet characters from other novels once again at new points of ascent or descent in society, in love, in business, in life. Start here, go to Lost Illusions, then toddle off to Pere Girot, it doe ...more
Mary Harju
Mar 04, 2008 Mary Harju rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: those who've read lost illusions
This is the sequel to Lost Illusions, a novel so intriguing that one must have more. The first two thirds were wonderful. Balzac introduces the reader to Esther, the female counterpart to Lucien de Rebempre, whose art is that of the courtesan. Lucien is also back and better than ever, and he develops a fatal passion for this beautiful woman of the demi-monde. The last third moves more slowly and involves a denumont revealing to us the fate of the anti-hero Dodgedeath, one of Balzac's most gritty ...more
Adriana
Jul 28, 2013 Adriana rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Quem leu Ilusões Perdidas
Shelves: francesa, romance
Pobre Lucien! Se viu enredado pelo que Mefisto_Vautrin_Herrera_Jacques tinha o oferecer, deu uma volta enorme para terminar exatamente onde havia estado ao final de Ilusões Perdidas! Fechando a trilogia de Jacques Collin, começada por Goriot e Ilusões, Esplendores mantêm a qualidade do primeiro e fica aquem do segundo, mas aqui temos a certeza de que se as mulheres de Balzac são estupendas, o seu melhor personagem é mesmo o maquiavélico Collin.
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What's up with this translation?? 2 6 Mar 15, 2014 07:32PM  
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228089
Honoré de Balzac was a nineteenth-century French novelist and playwright. His magnum opus was a sequence of almost 100 novels and plays collectively entitled La Comédie humaine, which presents a panorama of French life in the years after the fall of Napoléon Bonaparte in 1815.

Due to his keen observation of detail and unfiltered representation of society, Balzac is regarded as one of the founders o
...more
More about Honoré de Balzac...
Père Goriot Eugénie Grandet Cousin Bette (Poor Relations) Lost Illusions (La Comédie Humaine) The Wild Ass's Skin

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