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The Princesse de Clèves

3.42 of 5 stars 3.42  ·  rating details  ·  3,975 ratings  ·  194 reviews
This new translation of The Princesse de Clèves also includes two shorter works also attributed to Mme de Lafayette, The Princesse de Montpensier and The Comtesse de Tende.
Paperback, Oxford World's Classics, 288 pages
Published November 11th 1999 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published 1678)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Jesse
The first half is rough going--every sentence seems to namedrop at least two members of the French aristocracy, and it is impossible to keep track of who is being mentioned for the first time, and who has already been referred to six lines back. But there comes a point where the narrative suddenly clears and it becomes obvious how this rather tortured excursion through the labyrinthine French royal court not only serves to set the stage, but emphasizes the countless dangers and social traps the...more
Anastasia
Madame de la Fayette è perfida, perfida!

Vi siete letti (volevo dire "lette", ma poi ho pensato all'eventualità di maschietti appassionati ai romanzi rosa, non si sa mai) tutti i romanzi della Austen e delle Bronte, e non sapete più dove andare a pescare cibo per la vostra fame di classici rosa? Non cercate tanto una lettura sensazionale, ma più una lettura degna dei nomi qua sopra? Optate per Madame de la Fayette, considerate anche lei, che poverina, ai giorni nostri non se la caga più nessuno....more
Madeline
I read this book in French, and as a result of this missed a lot of the smaller details of this book because despite taking French for seven years now I still can't really read it. But I got the main idea, and what I understood I really liked. The book's actually pretty exciting - there's lots of court intrigue, tournaments, plot digressions involving the misplacement of a Very Important Letter (on that note, isn't it amazing how many older books like this have plot points that revolve around Ve...more
MJ Nicholls
A little too far back into French literary history for me. This is one of the earliest French “novels,” inasmuch as it tells historical events with inaccuracies. These inaccuracies form the “fiction” part of what is ostensibly an historical account of events at court over a century earlier. Madame de LaFayette might not even be the author/chronicler of this tale! What intrigue! What potential for interpretation! The prose is what one might call “prehensile” and the story what one might call “shi...more
Marie-aimée
Superbe roman d'amour : un débat intérieur sur la conduite morale de la princesse de Clèves procède à un véritable examen de conscience. Madame de La Fayette garde des éléments de la tradition romanesque courtoise et précieuse. Mais c'est la "conclusion" du roman que je préfère : la princesse de Clèves aspire à une idéalisation de l'amour qui ne peut s'arrêter d'exister qu'à son paroxysme.
Yann
A la cour d'Henri II, une jeune noble est rongée par des scrupules que lui inspirent l'empire d'une passion pour le beau Nemours, dont elle sait quelle est aimée, alors qu'elle est mariée à M de Cleves qui l'aime tout autant, tandis qu'elle n'éprouve pour lui que du respect. L'honneur guide toutes les conduites en ces temps, et prévenue des suites ennuyantes qui pourraient s'abattre sur elle si elle cédait aux appels de son cœur, elle combat cet amour en dissimulant ses sentiments et en fuyant l...more
Dorothea
N.B.: I have never studied French literature and in fact was completely unaware of this work's existence until a week and a half ago. So, although I am going to praise the work of Terence Cave in translating, introducing, and annotating La princesse de Clèves, please don't believe a word I say!

I'm going to come back and put in a paragraph here about how there was one sentence in Daniel Pennac's The Rights of the Reader that made me want to read this book right away. But I want to quote that sent...more
Wealhtheow
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Justin Evans
The nice thing about reading early specimens of what later become modes or genres is watching the problems that people will keep dealing with come up and be solved with elegant simplicity. So here, Lafayette wants to distance her stories from the romance tradition, without getting rid of all the fun stuff about the romance tradition (e.g., the idea of chivalric love and the turmoil it causes). She does it very easily, by turning to history. Her characters are for the most part historical figures...more
Bob
Aside from its significance in literary history (the first example of the modern psychological novel), this book provides some useful background reading for Proust. The constellation of royal and noble families in which the Baron de Charlus, in particular, is always elucidating his position, is shown here at its apex of dominance.
The plot itself includes a few devices that were probably already hackneyed in 1678 (overhearing a crucial conversation while hiding in some bower), but includes quite...more
Núria
Dec 27, 2008 Núria rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: idealistas que han fracasado en sus ideales
¿Una novela histórica escrita el siglo XVII ambientada en la corte francesa del siglo XVI? Créedme, ante esta premisa yo era más escéptica que nadie. El elogio de "la primera novela moderna" es un elogio que pesa como una losa. La empecé más por curiosidad intelectual que por un verdadero interés personal. Y me ha sorprendido. Me ha sorprendido gratamente. Me ha sorprendido lo mucho que me ha llegado a gustar. Lo bien que me lo he pasado. Se puede leer como una novela histórica que retrata el am...more
Gina
In style and subject matter, this book reminded me of a Jane Austen novel, with all the social scandal, hidden feelings, arranged marriages, and more. Only instead of the wacky hijinks and misunderstandings surrounding poor English girls with little dowry, it's the wacky hijinks and misunderstandings surrounding the French court during Henri II's reign.

I did rather enjoy the book, despite its sad ending, lengthy bits of dialogue between lengthy bits of description and back stories, and the first...more
Joselito Honestly and Brilliantly
Paris, France sometime in the 17th century. There's the king, the queen and the rest of the nobility, one of whom is the very young, stunningly beautiful Mme de Cleves who is married to M. de Cleves (who loves her but whom she has no passion for). Then there's the playboy Duc de Nemours, described as "nature's masterpiece" and "the most handsome and the most nobly built man in the world."

"Infidelity" could qualify as a modern title for this book. Or maybe "Gossips." The main plot and the sub-plo...more
Nicole Hale
I've had this book sitting on my shelf since a college Humanities course, and it tickled my fancy for a heavier holiday read. Once I began reading the introduction and some of the analytic essays, I discovered that this book is an acclaimed French classic, considered one of the forerunners of the novel genre. I really need to brush up on my French literature.

The story is about Mademoiselle de Chartres, a newcomer to the French court. She quickly becomes the Princess de Cleves when she marries Mo...more
Stela

Il y a quelque chose de très touchant, presque romantique (et non, ce n’est pas une contradiction en termes) dans cet idéal humain à qui songeaient les classiques avec leur « honnête homme » qui parvenait toujours à maîtriser ses passions à l’aide de sa raison. Il dérive, ce quelque chose, de l’opposition entre l’apparente sérénité qu’ils convoitaient en proclamant la suprématie de la raison, et la violence des passions qu’ils s’efforçaient d’apprivoiser et de cacher, opposition qui a donné nais...more
Lisa
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Amandine
Pour une raison que je ne m’explique pas, j’avais jusqu’à présent un blocage avec ce roman et pas la moindre envie de le lire. Les circonstances m’ont finalement poussée à dépasser ce refus que je ne m’explique pas plus une fois ma lecture terminée. Je n’en garderai pas un souvenir inoubliable, mais elle fut néanmoins agréable.

J’ai d’abord eu du mal à distinguer parmi tous les personnages qui était qui et comment ils étaient liés entre eux, mais une fois cette généalogie établie dans mon esprit...more
Pierre Corneille
One of the iconic lines of this novel-"les passions peuvent me conduire, mais elles ne sauraient m'aveugler" (roughly: my sensibility might control my actions, but I can't claim to be ignorant of that fact)--describes, to me, the essence of this novel: the struggle between emotional (and physical) liberation in a society that prescribes "duty" as the highest probably the only serviceable virtue. It's the classic distinction that French authors of the 17th century made between "amour-passion" and...more
Alice

Mlle Alice, pouvez-vous nous raconter votre rencontre avec La Princesse de Clèves?


"Une rencontre de plus que je dois au magnifique coffret Christian Lacroix pour le Livre de Poche."

Dites-nous en un peu plus sur son histoire...


"Mademoiselle de Chartres arrive à la Cour de France avec toute sa beauté et sa bonne éducation. Elle tourne bien des têtes mais garde toute la sienne et décide d'épouser raisonnablement Monsieur de Clèves. Mais c'est alors qu'elle va tomber amoureuse d'un autre alors que...more
Elizabeth (Alaska)
I think I said in another thread that I was not a particular fan of romance novels but that there must be one or two worth reading. The Princesse de Clèves I found to be one of them.

This is a true historical novel in that, though first published in 1678, describes the French court of about 100 years earlier. It starts out in a rather confusing way to describe many of the people - kings, queens, etc. - and their relationships and alliances. Frankly, I couldn't quite keep it straight, but fortunat...more
Baylee
Leggi la recensione su Lovely Dreams!

La principessa di Clèves è la storia di una giovane donna che sacrifica il suo cuore sull'altare della paura di soffrire.

Sposata ad un uomo che la ama, la principessa di Clèves si innamora del duca di Nemours, non meno degno del marito del suo amore. La sua tranquillità e la sua pace scompaiono quindi nel timore di tradire il marito, un'azione tanto lontana dal suo carattere e dalla sua educazione.

Deciderà quindi di agire contro le convenzioni amorose e mond...more
Tiffany
What makes this book so worthy is the extreme beauty of the language. This is the French of Moliere--truly the height of its dexterity, when the rest of the world was leagues behind France in terms of literature.

Mme de Lafayette is not well known to English speakers because her language loses much in translation. The story is, of course, a woman's story: internal, lacking sweep and magnitude; instead of battle of wits or battle with swords, this Princess passes the pages calculating the results...more
Wealhtheow
I can easily see why someone would enjoy this--court politics! beautiful clothes! rakish love interest! verbal fencing!--but I found it hard reading. Everyone seems to have a nickname, a full name, several titles, etc, and they're referred to each indiscriminately. Plus, I have a hard time with any novel that assumes that just thinking about another person is The Worst Adultery Ever, so the ending (view spoiler)...more
Heather
I really liked this and was moved by it. I wonder if anyone with the strength and resolve of Madame de Cleves has ever really existed. Books like this are moving to me because they touch on topics which are eternal and have always affected people as they do now, such a love, jealousy, affairs, etc. I was especially affected by her desire not to see Nemours love for her fade by becoming his wife..., Makes you wonder about love and whether it is just a temporary passion that should best be called...more
Marie
Surprisingly quick read for a pre-revelation French novel in translation!

This is essentially a historical romance. I find it funny that I just read a 1930s romance set in about the time period this romance was written. The story takes place at the French Court in Elizabethan times -- England's Elizabeth plays a small role as the hero of the story briefly is favored as a spouse for her. All the characters save our principals are real historical figures, and there are some amusing, biased summatio...more
Ian Wood
This is the complete review as it appears at my blog dedicated to reading, writing (no 'rithmatic!), movies, & TV. Blog reviews often contain links which are not reproduced here, nor will updates or modifications to the blog review be replicated here. Graphic and children's novels reviewed on the blog will generally have some images from the book's interior, which are not reproduced here.

Note that I don't really do stars. To me a novel is either worth reading or it isn't. I can't rate a nove...more
Annemariem
This is one of the first European novels ever written. It describes life at the French court and is historically correct, even though the main character - The Princess of Cleves - is fictional. The book was probably written by Madame Lafayette, an insider at court.

This title turned up on the '1001 books you must read before you die'-list by Peter Ackroyd. I'm steadily reading my way through the list even though I have no intention of dying just yet, so started on this one. Boy, was I in for a s...more
Steven
La Princesse de Clèves was ahead of its time with its highly realistic plot, introspective language exploring the characters' inner thoughts and emotions, and few but important subplots concerning the lives of other nobles.
Alicia Kachmar
Feb 02, 2008 Alicia Kachmar rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Everyone
This is quite possibly the saddest, yet most true, "love story" every written. While the book is steeped in 16th century history (and written in the 17th century), some of the tragic realities of love, the inevitable fading of passion, and the complexity of relationships are just as relevant today. I somewhat agree with the profound argument for unrequited love being the most preferable and pure kind.
Jesse
When someone tries to get me involved in gossip about the love life of a friend or family member, I think back upon the Princess of Cleves and remind myself that I don't really (and can't really) know anything about anyone's relationships but my own (and even then just barely). There is something really bewitching and elusive going on with this novel. It sort of floats a little above the ground.
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Christened Marie-Madeleine Pioche de La Vergne, she was born in Paris to a family of minor but wealthy nobility. At 16, de la Vergne became the maid of honor to Queen Anne of Austria and began also to acquire a literary education from Gilles Ménage, who gave her lessons in Italian and Latin. Ménage would lead her to join the fashionable salons of Madame de Rambouillet and Madeleine de Scudéry. Her...more
More about Madame de La Fayette...
La Princesse de Clèves et autres romans La Princesse de Montpensier The Princesse de Clèves: The Princesse de Montpensier, the Comtesse de Tende La Princesse de Montpensier / La Comtesse de Tende La Princesse de Cleves, Vol 1 of 2

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“If you judge by appearances in this place,' said Mme de Chartres, 'you will often be deceived, because what appears to be the case hardly ever is.” 5 likes
“There are those to whom we dare give no sign of the love that we feel for them, except in things that do not touch them directly; and, though one dares not show them that they are loved, one would at least like them to see that one does not wish to be loved by anyone else. One would hope them to know that there is no beauty, whatever her rank in society, whom one would not look upon with indifference, and that there is no crown that one would wish to purchase at the price of not seeing them again.” 2 likes
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