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Le Père Goriot

(La Comédie Humaine #23)

3.84  ·  Rating details ·  41,192 ratings  ·  1,540 reviews
Père Goriot is the tragic story of a father whose obsessive love for his two daughters leads to his financial and personal ruin. Interwoven with this theme is that of the impoverished young aristocrat, Rastignac, who came to Paris from the provinces to hopefully make his fortune. He befriends Goriot and becomes involved with the daughters. The story is set against the ...more
Mass Market Paperback, 443 pages
Published January 9th 2004 by Le Livre de Poche (first published 1835)
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Average rating 3.84  · 
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Emily May
Feb 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics, 2019
Our heart is a treasury; if you spend all its wealth at once you are ruined. We find it as difficult to forgive a person for displaying his feelings in all its nakedness as we do to forgive a man for being penniless.

Old Goriot is the first book I have read by Balzac and it took me completely by surprise. I must confess that the irony of the series title - La Comédie humaine (The Human Comedy) - was initially lost on me and I had no idea I was about to open one of the most depressing books I
Ahmad Sharabiani
920. Le Père Goriot = Father Goriot = Old Goriot = Old Man Goriot, Honoré de Balzac
Le Père Goriot, Old Goriot or Father Goriot, is an 1835 novel by French novelist and playwright Honoré de Balzac (1799–1850), included in the Scènes de la vie privée section of his novel sequence La Comédie humaine. Set in Paris in 1819, it follows the intertwined lives of three characters: the elderly doting Goriot; a mysterious criminal-in-hiding named Vautrin; and a naive law student named Eugène de Rastignac.
K.D. Absolutely
Mar 13, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to K.D. by: 501 Must Read Books; 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die (2006-2010)
Shelves: 1001-core, 501, classics
No doubts on my part. This novel deserves a 5-star rating. Challenge my rating if you want and I know I can defend it, tooth and nail.

At first, this seems to be just a story of an old man, Pere Goriot and how he ends up in the pupper's grave despite being a rich businessman when he's still strong. His fault is that he loves and cares for his 2 spoiled uncaring ungrateful daughters who get all his riches and in the end don't even care going to his deathbed. However, that plot seems to be just
Riku Sayuj

The Importance of Being Cynical

Rastignac’s education is the theme of the novel — provided at the expense of Père Goriot, who built up a fortune from nothing, married his daughters into wealth and was duly ignored and left to die a lonely death. This clear tragedy tells Rastignac, and perhaps France itself, what it takes to succeed in a Capitalist World: ruthlessness and a complete apathy to moral sentiments.

As Vautrin explains to Rastignac, it is illusory to think that social success can be
I will confess that my obsession with Balzac in my early twenties equalled Père Goriot's unconditional and quite blind love for his daughters!

When I read Père Goriot, quickly followed by Les Illusions Perdues and many other novels in the Comédie Humaine, I lacked the complete cynicism to understand a Rastignac or Vautrin and the mechanisms behind the tragedy of exploitation of those who love with a passion by those who celebrate their own self-indulgence and instant gratification most of all.

Jun 05, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
These relics are historical artifacts to be marveled at for prolonged semi-meditative snatches of time, are essential to readers' educations. I found much of value in this, my first novel by Balzac, mostly in how sad sociological circumstances can be, & how nothing much changes when money is the main ingredient in how a person's fate shall be.

This is a tragedy, perhaps not as Shakespearean as one would like (or ironic--it naturally follows its predestined course the entire time), but it IS
Aug 10, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 19th-c
Years ago my mum was an English literature professor and my dad a linguist at an university. Ever since I could read beyond the alphabet books I was spoon fed 'serious classic literature'. Mum had a particular passion for all things French, and I read things like The Red and the Black and Madame Bovary before Harry Potter was even published. Like most normal children, I did not enjoy anything over 200 pages with dense text about poverty and woman's fashion and instead resorted to large amount ...more
J.L.   Sutton
Jan 09, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Pere Goriot (1835), Honore de Balzac's novel centered on French society after the defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo and subsequent restoration of the Bourbons is impressively/exhaustively detailed. Through an analysis of families, marriage and institutions, Balzac presents fully realized characters from diverse backgrounds. When reading this novel, you do feel immersed in the upheaval of French society. That immersion extends to the characters, so many characters--their motivations, social climbing ...more
Michael Finocchiaro
Another of the great books written by Balzac with one of his favourite characters, the ambitious Rastignac and the mega-villain Vautrin (who would give the Joker a run for his money!) is a page turner. It was also an inspiration to Mario Puzo when he wrote The Godfather. Like Illusions Perdues, it is a bildungsroman where Rastignac rises to power (and later as an old man becomes the protagonist of Le Peau de Chagrin). One of the high points of 19th C French literature, this book is a fascinating ...more
Nov 27, 2008 rated it really liked it
SCHMIDT: Last thing, if Mueller was looking at your finances and your family finances, unrelated to Russia — is that a red line?

HABERMAN: Would that be a breach of what his actual charge is?

TRUMP: I would say yeah. I would say yes. By the way, I would say, I don’t — I don’t — I mean, it’s possible there’s a condo or something, so, you know, I sell a lot of condo units, and somebody from Russia buys a condo, who knows? I don’t make money from Russia. In fact, I put out a letter saying that I don’
many pre-20th century novels have the nasty habit of presenting their author's beliefs as hard, solid fact. y'know what i mean: sentences which flatly state that 'Women believe' such and such or, as per balzac (pg. 51), "Young men's eyes take everything in; their spirits react to..." (<-- to which i'd argue: no! young men's eyes don't take in shit. and if i was gonna write either/or i'd find some elegant means to qualify it). now, wishy-washy apologetic sentences deserve destruction by ...more
May 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I am seventeen.

There are a bunch of us in a nondescript classroom within an office building in the industrial northeast.

It is our final day of Transcendental Meditation class and we are about to receive our “mantra.”

One of the mentors, an old man (probably thirty years or less) leans over and whispers in my ear a short, unfamiliar sound.

We are to fixate on it, repeat it, over and again, for eighteen minutes. We are instructed to rid ourselves of all other thoughts that attempt to creep in and to
Penguin Classics edition, translated by Olivia McCannon; introduction by Graham Robb.
I’ve been very impressed with most of the classic authors I read for the first time over the last year, but I’ve got a few reservations about Balzac. In the first two chapters (out of a total four) I found the prose, too often, stodgy and inelegant. There were numerous sentences that could be divided into two or three with no loss of meaning, and it felt as if there were too many words used where fewer could
Nov 15, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, 2019, european
“Perhaps it is only human nature to inflict suffering on anything that will endure suffering, whether by reason of its genuine humility, or indifference, or sheer helplessness.”
― Honoré de Balzac, Père Goriot


I love Balzac's language, his heart, and his ability to see both the minute and the big picture at once. I find myself reading Balzac for the same reasons I enjoy Hugo or Dickens. I love social novels and love the way these authors paint both the shadows and the highlights of man. Père
Apr 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Balzac is like that lusty, life-loving guy who sits in a bar and regales his audiences with stories. Sure, they're messy and could use editing, but there's no denying the sheer life force behind them. It took me a few pages to get into this book, but then I loved it. By the way, I read the Burton Raffel translation (in the Norton Critical Edition) and found it to be marvelous.
A very accessible novel with too much melodrama. Balzac had clearly expounded in his seminal work the vanity and selfishness of the Parisian community of 19th century. But the veritable theme- Fatherhood- is indeed a subject that touches your innermost self. I'm glad I have read Balzac.
Jan 17, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: rth-lifetime, 2014
"Lord, this world of yours is so badly made!"
- Goriot

Supremely melodramatic, fierce, sweeping, lurid, and a little gay, Goriot is a kickass novel. The most famous of Balzac's encyclopedic Comédie humaine, a series of linked stories and 91 novels that I'm not sure has ever been paralleled, this installment crams into 300 pages about six different stories and a view of Parisian life in the early 1800s that swoops from bird's eye to microscopic detail, excluding nothing. "Paris is an ocean," says
David Lentz
Jun 21, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Balzac was a most enthusiastic participant of high society in Paris in his heyday principally because it yielded so many characters for his human comedy. Despite the artifice of glamor, wealth and nobility, a young attorney named Rastignac learns that it is shallow, materialistic and vain beyond all sense. Aspiring to make a name for himself, Rastignac stays in a bording house where he meets old Goriot, a vermicelli merchant with two daughters prominent in Paris society. Like King Lear, Goriot ...more
ETA: I simply must add something! How to do this without giving a spoiler? Below I have only hinted at what made this book move from three to four stars. Something happens about 2/3 of the way into the story. It has to do with the hidden criminal, also mentioned below. One of the boarders leads to the discovery of that criminal. It is the behavior of the other boarders toward the criminal and the betrayer that made me love the book. The book doesn’t have a rosy ending, so that makes it real, but ...more
Raul Bimenyimana
This is a sad story set in early 19th century Paris. Like many tales from that period, there is something cautionary about it. The story revolves around Rastignac, an ambitious poor law student from Southern France, who aims to ascend the social ladder through liaisons with Parisian upper class women, and Goriot a man impoverished for the sake of his two ungrateful daughters, and to a lesser extent Vautrin, an ex-convict pursued by the police and sharing a boardinghouse with Rastignac and ...more
Roy Lotz
Money is life; money accomplishes everything.

I recently worked as a slush pile reader for a literary magazine, sorting out the best stories from the flurry of submissions. Many of these were quite expertly written—sharp prose, snappy beginnings, intriguing plots, quirky characters, and all of the other boxes ticked. However, the lion’s share lacked something which I came to call “weight.”

The stories never escaped the sense of airy insubstantiality that besets much fiction, that nagging and
Richard Derus
Rating: 4* of five for the Raffel translation

The Publisher Says: Père Goriot is the tragic story of a father whose obsessive love for his two daughters leads to his financial and personal ruin. Interwoven with this theme is that of the impoverished young aristocrat, Rastignac, come to Paris from the provinces to make his fortune, who befriends Goriot and becomes involved with the daughters. The story is set against the background of a whole society driven by social ambition and lust for money.

Cheering for a father of daughters to read this book--or any father. The daughters only write to ask for funds, as they make their way up the social ladder well above where they can even acknowledge their father.
Who but Balzac writes of a proud French General, "simple as a child," or of "professeur," essentially a prep school teacher, at "Collège de France, payé pour tenir a la hauteur de ses auditeurs " (56). He writes of youth, and its "contagion des sentiments."
The wonderful, pathetic ending
Lynne King
A beautiful classic that everyone loves but not for me.

I loved the "Peau de chagrin" - by Balzac - my best essay at university. A true shame in this respect and I must confess it bothers me. All I can say is that tastes change with time...
April 16, 2017
I am still reading but these excerpts that I wish to record will not fit in the progress status box.

“Love in Paris is a thing distinct and apart; for in Paris neither men nor women are the dupes of the commonplaces by which people seek to throw a veil over their motives, or to parade a fine affectation of disinterestedness in their sentiments. ... Love ... is above all things, and by its very nature, a vainglorious, brazen-fronted, ostentatious, thriftless charlatan. ... Love is a
Gary Inbinder
Jun 16, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out," is the title of a popular 1920's song. It is also the main theme of Père Goriot. This is a novel about the disenchantment of old age (Goriot) and youth (Rastignac) and their respective responses to life at its beginning and its end: rebellion and submission. Old Goriot learns too late that he was only "loved" for what he could give in the form of material support. Rastignac gains enlightenment from the same source: Goriot's two selfish daughters and ...more
Adam Dalva
Jul 30, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Excellent - my first Balzac. The Human Comedy is a daunting achievement but this was a great starting point: completely self-contained and impressively plotted. The book particularly sparkles when Vautrin, as swaggering and unpredictable a character as any I've seen in 19th century literature, is on the mental screen. The court scenes are fascinating and the choice of 1819 is interesting - these people are hovering between the Bourbons and Napoleon and the consequences of the social schism ...more
Lee Klein
It's good to study up on the history of the novel -- this one's apparently a founding father. Maybe if I'd read it with nothing to do for a week my experience would've been different, but I was too often distracted to commit to the concerns of early-19th century Paris. As such, my feelings about this one are mixed, like with Stendhal's The Red and the Black last year.

I love the expository jags, the proclamations about the behavior of all young men, all women in Paris. The essayistic asides seem
Jul 17, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is my third Balzac novel, and I've enjoyed every one. Each reads easily with wonderful descriptions, vivid characters, great dialogue and interesting plots. Balzac is hard on every strata of society, but there's still plenty enough good qualities in at least a few characters and enough humor sprinkled here and there to alleviate the grim reality.
May 28, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I expected to like this book more, and I didn't absolutely love it perhaps because this is a precurser to the works of Hugo and Zola whose novels I really love, and somehow less refined -- in short, I was kind of disappointed, and I know this author and love him but haven't read him in a while so this may be something too. Here's what I did love: the translator, Ellen Marriage; portrayals (and utterances) of Vautrin and Eugene; despite a slow start, the author's eternal truths interspersed ...more
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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 fine detail and unfiltered representation of society, Balzac is regarded as one of the

Other books in the series

La Comédie Humaine (1 - 10 of 90 books)
  • La Maison Du Chat-Qui-Pelote
  • The Ball At Sceaux
  • The Purse
  • Vendetta
  • Madame Firmiani
  • A Second Home
  • Domestic Peace
  • The Imaginary Mistress
  • Study of a Woman
  • Albert Savarus
“It is always assumed by the empty-headed, who chatter about themselves for want of something better, that people who do not discuss their affairs openly must have something to hide.” 342 likes
“Women are always true, even in the midst of their greatest falsities, because they are always influenced by some natural feeling.” 294 likes
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