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The Wrong Side of Paris (La Comédie Humaine)

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3.66 of 5 stars 3.66  ·  rating details  ·  221 ratings  ·  29 reviews
The Wrong Side of Paris, the final novel in Balzac’s The Human Comedy, is the compelling story of Godefroid, an abject failure at thirty, who seeks refuge from materialism by moving into a monastery-like lodging house in the shadows of Notre-Dame. Presided over by Madame de La Chanterie, a noblewoman with a tragic past, the house is inhabited by a remarkable band of men—al...more
Paperback, 272 pages
Published April 12th 2005 by Modern Library (first published 1848)
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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.
51st out of 71 books — 14 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
418th out of 499 books — 950 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 473)
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Jim
Dec 08, 2010 Jim rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: balzac
Balzac is an author whose individual works can run the gamut from ill-conceived and hastily constructed to sublimely powerful novels such as Pere Goriot, Lost Illusions, A Harlot High and Low, Cousin Bette, and Cousin Pons. And I would also have to add The Wrong Side of Paris, which required a re-reading to appreciate its power. Yet, even Balzac's inferior works have their place: This is because the Comédie Humaine is like a vast continuum illuminated by greater lights and lesser lights. A vast...more
Sylvester
A bit different from the usual Balzac fare. I loved the idea - a man joins a secret charitable society and gets caught up in the lives of a family that has fallen on hard times. Not a thing wrong with this book, only I wish there had been more of it! Not just the one family - more, more, more! Balzac ends it quite abruptly,something he occasionally does, and I only forgive him because his writing is so wonderful, his descriptions of character, interiors, the Parisian city-scape - all so skillful...more
Sarah Archer-beck
I really wanted to like this book more. I have wanted to read Balzac for a while and so jumped on this book when I found it on sale at the book store. There were some great descriptions and interesting commentaries, but the story was not that engaging and then truncated once things started to get interesting. I am a religious person, but I found the religion a little heavy-handed, especially in the first part of the book.
Tom
I gather Modern Library has been trying to ride coattails of NYRB by reissuing their own selection of "forgotten masterpiece(s)" by famous authors. If this selection is any indication of their editorial process, they should fold the tent and slink out if town under cover of darkness. I love Balzac -- Cousin Bette and Pere Goriot are among my all-time favorite works -- but this novel was a real disappointment. It starts out with some promise, with a mysterious charitable organization that seems p...more
میلاد کامیابیان
فتوحات هژبر: فاتحه‌ی تؤامان بر فرانسه و فارسی
سخنی درباره‌ی ترجمه‌ی فارسیِ «مادام دولاشانتری»

میلاد کامیابیان

برگردان هژبر سنجرخانی از «مادام دولاشانتریِ» انوره دو بالزاک –شک ندارم– نه‌تنها بدترین ترجمه‌ی فارسیِ قرن اخیر، که درب‌و‌داغان‌ترین ترجمه‌ی اثری از بالزاک به زبانی دیگر است. برای اثبات این مدعا لازم نیست به زبان مبدأ، که فرانسه باشد، آشنا باشیم، درست به همان سیاق که مترجم لازم ندیده به زبان مقصد، فارسی، آشنا باشد؛ نیز بدیهی است که هیچ لازم نیست تمام آثار ترجمه‌شده به فارسی را، یا تمام آثار...more
Stephen C.
WOW. Probably the best book I've read on the essence of charitable giving and the why and the how and the who that recieves the "charity". Probably a great model for today for anyone who has the resouirces to execute such a comples and somewhat "risky" approach to giving. It certainly makes you understand the critical nature of what is given and who it is given too. Worth all the time it takes to understand.
Lee
This new translation retains Balzac's power to bore. Still, an interesting tale of a dissipated Parisian finding redemption through a secret Catholic charity. Best is the description of the protagonist as a proto-hipster. Worth quoting at length:

His sense of his own impotence told him that he could aspire neither to the most blandly respectable of subordinate posts nor to the most mediocre and untaxing sort of Destiny; and he had enough will to be continually aggrieved by this, and enough wit t
...more
Deborah Zwayer
Make you question your own ideas of materialism & charity and who will really be there for you in the end.
Nick
This, Balzac's last book before he died, is uncharacteristically merciful. Yes, there is a Paris so crowded that one can practically smell it; yes, there is the stumbling hero; yes, there are powerfully individual rooming houses (no novelist ever cared more about where people lived); yes, there are the plot twists that anticipate the detective novel. But it is startling to encounter Balzac describing a small group of selfless philanthropists guided by "The Imitation of Christ"--this from the man...more
Workingartist
Apr 24, 2008 Workingartist rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Classic Literature, the French Revolution, Historical Novels, European History
This is the last book in Balzac's "Comédie Humaine" series. Although it is not as "flashy" as some of the other works in the series, it still displays Balzac's incredible ability to describe his characters both physically and emotionally, and the world they inhabit. His descriptions are like quick pencil sketches; with a few short, well chosen strokes a distinct and indelible image is created.

This book centers around a disillusioned young man who has run out of his approved options. Though he ha...more
Rick
THE SEAMY SIDE OF HISTORY is certainly not Balzac’s greatest production, but it still captures the attention and is written with Balzacian charm.

Godefroid, a young man who has squandered both his opportunities and his fortune, goes to live in the sparse household of Mme. de la Charterie and is charmed by both her and his fellow lodgers. Although he does not know it at first, all the members of the household once held positions of power but have come together to live frugally and dedicate themsel...more
Kipahni
This is my first intro into the literary talent of Balzac (my only exposure prior to now is a reference in the "music man" musical song pick-a-little:
Maud:Professor, her kind of woman doesn't belong on any committee. Of course, I shouldn't tell you this but she advocates dirty books.

Harold:
Dirty books?!

Alma:
Chaucer

Ethel:
Rabelais

Eulalie:
Balzac!

Anyway back to the book. I knew I would enjoy this author when I read the lines"These words, so simple in themselves, were made great by the speaker's...more
Jeremy L
As a creative individual, one of my favorite quotes come from this book. "The right to be rude is the salary that artists exact for telling the truth."

I really enjoyed the book. I originally didn't think I would get sucked in but eventually I couldn't put it down. I found the book at a used book store for a couple of bucks. Its not a perfect book but the writing is great. Its mostly a social commentary on the nature of charity. Its set in France after the revolution. After hitting rock bottom t...more
Christine
Even though it's written in prose, it reads very much like poetry. It's truly of the "slice of life" fiction genre. The two episodes (Madame de la Chanterie and The Initiate) really read as snapshots of Godefroid's life. While reading it, it seemed to me that the story being told had no real importance and was just a telling of a regular man's life.
I liked the translation of this particular edition, though I wasn't readily able to understand the currency and some of the allusions. (The notes at...more
Narendra Jussien
Godefroid jeune dandy parisien d��sesp��r�� et ruin�� d��cide de se reprendre en main. Il d��couvre une soci��t�� secr��te (les Fr��res de Consolation) richissime qui a d��cid�� de faire oeuvre de charit�� dans Paris. Apr��s avoir compris l'histoire de ses membres, il d��cide de faire partie de cette soci��t�� et remplit rapidement une premi��re mission ��difiante. Ce roman en deux parties pr��sente une soci��t�� souterraine de Paris. On se retrouve presqu'en Province �� Paris. Les histoires des...more
Dave S
Really enjoyed it. I have only read a few of the books in the Human Comedy series but have enjoyed them all.
Jason
Balzac can't help himself, despite a didactic premise about a society of selfless people doing anonymous works of charity he can't help but let his characters, intrigues, and places shine through. This is a recent translation of the rarely translated last book in the Human Comedy. While it's certainly nowhere near the top of that set of works it is well worth reading -- and a sad reminder that there must be dozens of other Balzac novels that are just as good that haven't been translated in over...more
Larry
Hmmmm...after being enchanted by Balzac's Lost Illusions, I found this one disappointing. A young man in early 19th century Paris becomes part of a secret society of wealthy religious people who live modestly and use their great wealth to help the poor. Could have been an interesting story, but the detailed portrayals of social, cultural and economic life in Paris that made Balzac's Lost Illusions so fascinating were missing in this one.
Daryl
Penetrating look into Paris of the early 1800s. Balzac proves to be a keen observer of human nature and societal structure and writes in a very entertaining manner. I waffled between three and four stars only because of the ending, which appeared a hurried attempt to wrap up the story in a fairy-tale finale.
Don't think that I'll be reading more of Balzac, as I suspect that his novels are all cut from the same cloth.
Sarah Lamont
Poetic portrayal of the tension between idealisms. Piqued my interest in learning more about French history, as this would help with understanding more of the impact of certain plot points.
Dagny
L'Envers de l'Histoire Contemporine has been translated variously into English as The Brotherhood of Consolation, The Seamy Side of History and The Wrong Side of Paris. It is one of Balzac's secret society stories, but this time it is a benevolent secret society. I found it fascinating, intriguing, and full of mystery.
Meredith
I don't know if it was me or if it was Balzac, but I could not get into this book. I thought I would like it because I've read other books by Balzac that I really enjoyed. Unfortunately, that was not the case with this one. Maybe I will give it a second chance sometime...maybe.
Hazel
Nov 10, 2007 Hazel rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone with a death wish
I have a policy of finishing a book that I have started, something a friend taught me. I plowed through this one, and liked the images of post Revolutionary France. But it was dry and cerebral, kind of like reading the dictionary.
Sean Pagaduan
This is the last book he published, right? Apparently there are at least 80(!) novels in this Human Comedy series, and I'm guessing that other installments are better than this one, which was still good anyway.
Pa
Very freakish story, a little hard to read. More on this later since I'm feeling a little tired and sleepyyyyyyy,,,,
Dennis Eucogco
I guess I'm just a sucker for stories of Christian piety and virtue.
Esteban Gordon
Oh Honoré, is there no end to your sweet, sweet goodness?
Ted Leon
Beautiful literature. Has such fond memories for me.
Gretchen
My all-time favorite author. This was one of his last books to be translated I believe. Beautiful story.
Jason Cummins
Jason Cummins marked it as to-read
Sep 30, 2014
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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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