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Hell

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3.73 of 5 stars 3.73  ·  rating details  ·  584 ratings  ·  60 reviews
A young man staying in a Paris boarding house finds a hole in the wall above his bed. Alternately voyeur and seer, he obsessively studies the private moments and secret activities of his neighbors: childbirth, first love, marriage, betrayal, illness and death all present themselves to him through this spy hole. Decades ahead of its time, "Hell" shocked and scandalized the...more
Paperback, 255 pages
Published March 1st 1995 by Turtle Point Press (first published 1908)
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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
186th out of 499 books — 947 voters
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Great Underrated and Obscure Books
15th out of 133 books — 102 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,527)
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Paquita Maria Sanchez
Basically, I read this at exactly the right time, so if you do precisely that except on purpose, you may just love it as much as I accidentally did willynilly, perchance, it just so happened. Simple, right? Filled to the brim as it may be with obvious-isms and what could easily be presented by a lazier, less intuitive writer as sappy woe-is-me-ness, there's something terribly honest about Hell that manages to dance around the "lost in translation" trap without tripping down that chasm of redunda...more
Mark
This is the problem. Not as I see it, no. This IS the problem. The problem is this: an insufferable narrator who assumes he knows everything.

See how annoying that is?

Now imagine you proceed despite this arrogant ass and you find a very good novelette buried among the prolix musings.

Makes it difficult to jive, dunnit?

See, to put it bluntly, this narrator is a peeping tom. (I can't write 'peeping tom' without hearing Michael J. Fox in Back to the Future describing his old man. 'He's a peeping...more
Ali
On this here comment thread, me and Knig-o-lass are discussing the book after having co-read it. This is my first co-read, so my utter ineptitude at putting my literary analyses into words is prominently showing. Read it anyway if you love America.
Michael William West
I've definitely reached a saturation point with the Parisian tale-of-woe genre. This was a particularly flagellatory example, yet I continue as this kind of misery-lit is revealing regarding the social character of the Parisian. The Macguffin is invariably a kind of formal etiquette of self-loathing, and L'enfer neatly sets out as much in the opening pages - our protagonist, let it be sure, is beyond all hope. Not only are his parents dead, it is long enough ago to no longer be a resonant cause...more
Stephen
A great concept: through a crack in the wall a man spies on various lodgers occupying the room adjacent to his in a Parisian hotel.

A very promising beginning: the narrator is vaguely unbalanced and clearly in search of some sort of greater meaning in his life, which he believes his spying may engender (I can relate; pretty much my life story).

Somehow the book gets really bogged down, sadly. Early on it seemed that many different personages would pass through the spied upon room, and thus a broad...more
aya
I thought that this book would be good as a salacious, voyeuristic romp. I was completely wrong. Barbusse uses his main character's voyeurism as a rare look into the heart of what it means to be human--what we are like when no one is looking, and to reveal the ultimate truth: that no matter how close we are to one another, we are ultimately alone. Beautifully written, it takes place in the shadows of evening, the cracks of light that enter a room through a heavy curtain.
Kelly
Wow. Little did I know how much this book would strike me. It was so human and beautifully written.
Danger Kallisti
Feb 12, 2008 Danger Kallisti rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: dissolute Francophile philosophers
The back cover of Hell brashly refers to it as “the most highly focused study of voyeurism ever written”. Though one would argue that any great French novel is at least part fetishism, the true purpose of Hell is not to study the watched, but to study how the watcher uses this data to explore himself. More than anything else, Hell is a book of solipsist philosophy, and one of the best I’ve read (not an easy title to gain from this reader, by the way).

Barbusse beautifully illustrates that the on...more
Emadeddin
description
“Who will dare to tell everything?
who will have the genius to see everything?”

This book is a maze. It's like a very difficult puzzle that nobody can solve. And when you read it, you realize that that maze and that puzzle are just YOU! It's a mirror actually, simply reflects your own image. When you see your image , you'll be really shocked! You'll scream for help maybe! You'll realize the "Hell" you're living in.

“There is no hell, no inferno except the frenzy of living.”

It's in this book you'll...more
Ricardo de Almeida Rocha
Moi, je n’ai qu’un recours : me souvenir et croire.
Entretenir de toutes mes forces dans ma mémoire la tragédie de
cette chambre, à cause de la vaste et difficile consolation dont a
résonné parfois le fond de l’abîme. Je crois qu’en face du coeur humain et de la raison humaine, faits d’impérissables appels, il n’y a que le mirage de ce qu’ils appellent. Je crois qu’autour de nous, il n’y a de toutes parts qu’un mot, ce mot immense qui dégage notre solitude et
dénude notre rayonnement : Rien. Je...more
رغداء قاسم
القصة تدور حول متلصلص .. شخص لا نعرف له اسماً و لا عملاً يسكن في غرفة فندق حينما يكتشف ثقباً في الجدار يطل على الغرفة المجاورة فيقضي ايامه و هو يراقب ما يجري و الوجوه المتغيرة و الاسرار التي تُفتضح امامه و الخيانات و الشذوذ و محاولاً في الوقت ذاته التفسير و الوصول الى معني لحياته عبر كل هذا ..
لكن في النهاية يصل الى العدم (و هو بهذا يسبق جان بول سارتر في فكرة العدم التي ابتدعها في غثيانه المشهور)
ففي خاتمة الرواية ينفي ايمانه بوجود جنة سوى مقبرة الكنيسة و لا جحيماً سوى الخوف من الحياة
وان كل ما ح...more
Stephanie "Jedigal"
Although I agree with other reviewers, this is a sad book, I also found it strangely uplifting. As the narrator says, we are each alone. I am alone. And yet this book is about the common thread of humanity - striving for the future, striving for more, striving for better, striving for unity, striving for God, striving to be more ourselves. There are many stretches that are simple yet eloquent. I don't know who translated the Kindle version I was reading, but it felt well done.

Another positive es...more
Joe Dwyer
Written decades before Sartre and Camus, "Hell" (1908) is far more poignant and fucking human than the works by the aforementioned Existentialists (this is not to suggest that "The Fall" or "Nausea" aren't terrific)

"I believe that confronting the human heart and the human mind, which are composed of imperishable longings, there is only the mirage of what they long for. I believe that around us there is only one word on all sides, one immense word which reveals our solitude and extinguishes our...more
John Freeman
Published in 1908, "The Inferno" or "Hell" as it is also translated, is described as a solipsistic work. Solipsistic means the only thing a person can be certain of is the existence of his own mind. Perhaps the narrator's peering through the hole in the wall is his attempt to "know" beyond one's self.

The inferno is an ambitious novel, touching on profound things. Anyone who has asked, "Who am I?" Or " What is life all about?" will find the book tackles those questions. I am not sure the questio...more
Deee
The most beautiful thing I've ever read. And one of the first books I've ever read. It's a very humanistic work of art, which beautifully portrays life, love, death, human instinct, details, through a hole in a shabby hotel room. It makes one excited to read each chapter after the other making you feel that you are the one who is in that hotel room, waiting each night to peek through that little hole in the wall. loved it!
Mona
ترى ماذا يعني ان تراقب الحياة و الناس من فجوة صغيرة بالجدار ؟
أن هذا البطل يلجأ إلى غرفته في الفندق ليغلق بابها ويعيش ليراقب الآخرين من ثقب الباب، وتنطلق أفكاره بصورة غامضة حول الحب و الحياة و الدين و الموت و الذي يعتبر الهاجس الاكبر ليعيد إكتشاف نفسه و يطل على اعماقه
و اخيرا ادرك ان السعادة هي ان تكون سعيد و تعيس في نفس الوقت
المستقبل غير برئ و معرض للخطأ ايضا
Fuad Takrouri
من صنع كتاب الرغبة الإنسانية،الكتاب المريع والبسيط؟يدفعنا عن الحياة إلى الحياة،وعن حركتنا ووجهتنا،وعن خطيئتنا الأصلية.من ستواتيه الجرأة على أن يقول كل شيء!ومن ستسعفه عبقريته على أن يفهم ويعي كل شيء؟!



كما أعتقد أنه لا توجد حولنا، سوى كلمة واحدة كبيرة وشاسعة،هي التي تطلق العنان لوحدتنا،وتكشف عن نورنا،هذه الكلمة هي:لا شيء،طالما أن كل شيء موجود بداخلنا،
Stephen
A hard-to-put-down novel of voyeurism, obsession and alienation. You can see it like you're watching a movie, only you feel what he feels inside yourself, in silence. Captures something powerful, slippery and elusive about our urban world.
Robert Dodds
'Hell' struck me as a forerunner of the body of fiction and philosophy labelled as 'existentialist'. The protagonist is an isolated individual observing and considering the lives of those he observes. His own life is a void (he is mostly in a hotel room spying on the room next door through a hole in the wall). The book is a bit heavy-going in places, and there's a good deal more talk and philosophy than action. However, I had the pen out quite frequently to mark striking passages and thoughts -...more
Noor Baher
Only a fool could rate this less than five stars!!!

Some of the passages were repetitive and monotonous especially in the middle.
Walaa Saad
Mar 31, 2014 Walaa Saad added it
Shelves: social
ترجمة : فتحي العشري
* يا لشقاء الذين يفكرون فيما لا يملكون
* مهما سعينا وحاولنا الوصول إلى كمال معرفة الحقيقة ومعرفة الحياة فستظل دوما لغزا محيرا للبعض ومستفزا للبعض للوصول إلى ما يقارب من الحقيقة..تلك الحقيقة التي قد تفرق أو تجمع ما بين محبين
*الرواية تتحدث عن شخص يرى العالم من خلال فتحة في جدار بغرفته... يسترق السمع والنظر حتى يقع في الحيرة العظمى ويسقط محموما ... الرواية في مجملها رائعة ولكن الكاتب كان أحيانا يعيد التشبيهات بطريقة تجعلك تحتار أهي شخصية جديدة أم هي الشخصية السابقة.. كانت رواية مح...more
Eng
2.5 / 5
النصف الأول من الرواية هو الجزء الممتع لكن بعد ذلك تفاصيل و سرد و هري كتييير ....
Alshaatha Sultan
بحثاً عن الحقيقة، ووصولاً إلى خلاصة عدمية.. هذا الكتاب رائع!
Razan
إنسان يعشش في ثقب الجدار، يستحق الجنة و الجحيم ، و البسمة الثائره
Jennifer
This book should come with a warning: Depressed readers beware! Please refrain from reading this book; it might just sent your depressed ass over the edge! This book was the epitome of horribly depressing, black and white, new wave French cinema. Blah! Exhibit A: "Space is always between us, and time is installed inside us like a disease...Time is more cruel than space. Space has something dead about it, while time has something murderous. Every silence, you see, every tomb, has its tomb in time...more
Rebecca Graf
There are books to read for pleasure and then there are books that draw you into a world that is deep with emotion. Henri Barbusse’s The Inferno, or Hell, is one such book.

This book is about a man who finds a hole in the wall between his room in a boarding house and another room that sees a variety of tenants. His spying reveals the interactions between lovers, the last moments of a man’s life, theft, deceit, and innocence. He finds himself looking past the appearance people put for the public t...more
Cameron
Not a horror story as such, rather the horror that is that hell (l'infer) of the daily lives that we each experience. Through his hole in the wall the youngish unnamed narrator is driven to despair by his observances of all thing "normal" in our lives: love affairs, childbirth, death &c. I enjoyed the omniscience of the novel's beginning as the reader truly finds himself sandwiched before the characters in the privilege of anonymity. Anything seems possible in such a new stance. As the novel...more
Steven
The girl, a woman already, leaned her face on the back of the sofa, her eyes shining. Her cheeks were plump and rosy, tinted and warmed by her heart. The skin of her neck, taut and satiny, quivered. Half-blown and waiting, a little voluptuous because voluptuousness already emanated from her, she was like a rose inhaling sunlight. And I—I could not tear my eyes from them.


Hell is an overlooked 20th century gem, an account of voyeurism first published in France in 1908. A young man in a Paris board...more
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26978
Henri Barbusse (May 17, 1873, Asnières-sur-Seine—August 30, 1935, Moscow) was a French novelist and a member of the French Communist Party.

The son of a French father and an English mother, Barbusse was born in Asnières-sur-Seine, France in 1873. Although he grew up in a small town, he left for Paris in 1889 at age 16. In 1914, at the age of 41, he enlisted in the French Army and served against Ger...more
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“It was suicide. Others killed themselves with poison or with a revolver. I killed myself with minutes and hours.” 17 likes
“I believe that around us there is only one word on all sides, one immense word which reveals our solitude and extinguishes our radiance: Nothing! I believe that that word does not point to our insignificance or our unhappiness, but on the contrary to our fulfillment and our divinity, since everything is in ourselves.” 16 likes
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