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Memoirs from Beyond the Grave, 1768-1800

3.98  ·  Rating details ·  793 ratings  ·  63 reviews
Written over the course of four decades, François-René de Chateaubriand’s epic autobiography has drawn the admiration of Baudelaire, Flaubert, Proust, Roland Barthes, Paul Auster, and W. G. Sebald. In this unabridged section of the Memoirs, spanning the years 1768 to 1800, Chateaubriand looks back on the already bygone world of his youth. He recounts the history of his ari ...more
Paperback, 584 pages
Published November 7th 2017 by New York Review of Books (first published 1850)
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Justin Evans
Mar 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: essays
Fascinating stuff; it's easy to see the influence Chateaubriand has had on later French writing; it's also just damn enjoyable to spend time in his company. I read this too quickly, but I'm very excited to re-read with pencil in hand, because the bon mots come thick and fast. His description of listening to shovelsful of dirt being dropped on a coffin might be the most affecting thing I've read this year. It would be wonderful to have the rest of the Memoirs translated in a modern edition, but I ...more
Gabrielle Dubois
Jun 08, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 19th-century
I read this book in French (because I'm french!). But I comment it in English, beacause I'd like you, English readers who would like to discover French state of mind from the late 18th and early 19th century and also the great History he really lived. It's not really fun, but it's Chateaubriand! So it's clever, pretentious (he could be!), historically very interesting and so many things more!
Chateaubriand's style is not that of Racine, it is that of the Prophet. (Napoleon)
Fazackerly Toast
simply loved this. One of those books that you internalise and stays with you. His childhood! His forbidding father pacing the room from the fire to the end plunged in darkness, in silence! Those encounters with Napoleon. That occasion when the Napoleonic army crosses the river into Russia and he hears music, like in Antony and Cleopatra, the god of war whom he loved now leaving him. Heaven.
Typical the work of a large 'ego' looking for justification; more than any other this book has strong romantic traits. Chateaubriand is a liberal in his principles (freedom is central), but clearly conservative in politics (his option for monarchy); perhaps that explains his isolation as a historical person. The most beautiful pages treat about Napoleon, the passages on his own public actions are less readable. This still is a remarkable historical document! (2.5 stars)
Bud Smith
Dec 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The first half was INCREDIBLE.
Second half was really good too, focuses on Napoleon a lot, almost a mini biography of Napoleon Bonaparte.
Francois Chateaubriand was a cool guy. I like him. We would have been friends. We have a similar haircut.
Sep 10, 2015 marked it as wish-list  ·  review of another edition

"I want to be Chateaubriand, or nothing"
- Victor Hugo

To hunt down...
Jun 21, 2018 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Whoops, turns out I don’t know French. But someday I might. I’m keeping this little book around for that day.
Stephen Durrant
Aug 27, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
For an understanding of the romantic temperament that shaped so much mid-19th century European literature, art and music, Chateaubriand's "Memoirs from beyond the Tomb" is a good place to start. The title itself envisions a writer, now nothing more than dust, speaking from beyond the grave--a reminder to us, I suppose, of where we will soon enough be (in case we need a reminder!). A common enough perspective, I suppose, but the living author who has become a dead author, in this case Chateaubria ...more
Jun 02, 2020 added it
Has anyone read Penguin edition, Memoirs from Beyond the Tomb, which includes selections from across C's complete memoirs. I'm trying to decide where to start, and if NYRB edition has "must-read" passages omitted in Penguin ed.? (sure, I could get both, but book budget is constrained these days, alas ....) ...more
Jun 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Chateaubriand's Memoirs are nothing short of sublime. Oh, what a life. Who would say that the fatherly figure of French Romanticism had also been, besides an acclaimed writer, a child full of hopes and expectations; a charismatic soldier with a very vivid military career on the wrong side of history; a cool-headed politician loyal to the crown; a forcefully exiled traveler (and probably a food enthusiast as well, isn't there a steak dish bearing his name?), all of this during what was arguably o ...more
Feb 16, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very smart man with a sharp quill. Probably one of my first literary love. I fancied the man who'd written such things, lived such a life. Damn he's got some ego, but mostly well deserved.
His memoirs are an amazing glimpse in the life and politics of some of the richest and most turbulent decades of french history.
Jan 28, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Literally "Memoirs from Beyond the Grave" is an autobiography in 42 volumes. The version I read had volumes 9-12, covering life and travels from April to September 1822, revised in December 1846.
Tim Parks
Dec 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the all time great autobiographical memoirs. Up there with Samuel Pepys. This is just the first volume in an excellent new translations. One of my most enjoyable reads in years.
David Brady
Oct 27, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4.5 stars.

I’m so sad I’ve finished this book. It’s one I definitely know I’ll go back to. Chateaubriand’s vulnerable, fluid prose is incredible. He was a writer, soldier, diplomat, emigre... a passionate observer of a time past. He was witness to the beginnings of the French Revolution and the violence and anarchy that defined the crumbling of a society. He endured heartbreaking loss of family and friends. The book is definitely filled with arcana (like the long lists of names of his contempora
Feb 25, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The man certainly knows how to tell a story - the premise being living through the birth of America, the French Revolution, Napoleon's rise and fall, and finally the last gasps of the monarchy in France. His presents himself as one weathering countless ideology & political storms, staying true to his own beliefs. It's a little funny to hear him talk so much about a love of liberty contra Napoleon just after he denounced the Terror (which spilt the blood of his family in the name of liberty). As ...more
John Williams
Mar 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Like a great dinner conversation via a time machine. Chateaubriand's life straddled a very changing world, in his native France as well as the New World. I especially enjoyed his descriptions of growing up in St. Malo, having recently visited there myself (due to my love of "All the Light We Cannot See"). His passages describing America just after the Revolutionary War, in particular his accounts of visiting with Native Americans, were also very entertaining and unique. A great read for history ...more
Apr 10, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Extremely overrated: memoirs of an old guy who repaints himself larger than life and nicely removes anything conspicious. Maybe it says something about the french soul if this is termed a masterpiece?
Jun 06, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I felt like I belonged in the Tombe after reading this ponderous book.
Aug 20, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: french
over rated. poor little rich kid grows up , flees france to save his head from the revolution. very self absorbed ponce.
Aug 13, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Apocryphally, when Zou Enlai was asked in 1973 about the effects of the French Revolution, he replied: "Too early to say."

I wanted to read an account of the French Revolution and its aftermath. Chateaubriand, the French writer and romantic, lived through the times and left a compendious memoir, and presumably is an interesting source.

Unfortunately, his whole memoirs run into 1000+ pages and seem hard to find in an English translation. I had to get this Penguin edition of 'selections', as it is t
David Montgomery
I was expecting to find this book interesting as a historical source, but was surprised to love it as literature. Even in translation two centuries later, Chateaubriand has a felicity with language that oozes through the page — belying his early disclaimer that he is not one for wit. These memoirs are full of well-turned phrases and surprisingly self-aware observations from Chateaubriand's full life, which included a childhood growing up in a castle with a distant father, an irresolute young adu ...more
Mahdi H
Aug 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This memoir feels less like any other and more like a narrative of a character from ‘ Peace and War’ novel by L Tolstoy. It recounts the life story of Francis Chateaubriand during the French Revolution and Napoleon’s reign in France.
From his aristocratic childhood in Saint Malo, to his explorer adventures in US and Canada, his return as a soldier to the camps of Germany, his exile to England, opposition to Bonaparte and finally embassador life.

Beautifully written, thought provoking, and intere
Morzejko Leporello
It is seldom that a major historical figure is also a great writer. Chateaubriand was both and not only he describes the turbulent events of the French Revolution and the following era, but was one shaping many of those events. Let us not forget, however, that first of all Chateaubriand was great romantic writer and the "Memories" is much more than a history book or an autobiography. Especially beautiful are the chapters describing his childhood and youth and his travels to America. We see here ...more
Alan Braswell
Jun 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The memoir of Francois-Rene de Chateaubriand is one that makes events that one reads in history come alive as one who sees first hand. Living in Saint-Melo. Then living in his father's castle in Combourg. One of his schoolmates later tries to assassinate Napoleon, there is a story that should be written. Later Francois meets Maria Antoinette and King Louis XVI at Versailles.
Witnessing the first eruptions of the French Revolution. As he flees to England. Then on to America where he meets George
Robert Muir
Mar 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Here is the account by a man who lived through some of the most turbulent , yet fascinating times in France's history. He met George Washington, Louis the XVI, MME. de Stael, Napoleon, Louis XVIII....etc.
I'm giving it 5 stars for the writing and a style which clearly influenced Marcel Proust. I don't think I'm really qualified to judge the work further because I'm not a historian of the period. Also, it is not exactly a complete autobiography in the normal sense. But he was there and he lived it
Sep 08, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Unfortunately I really struggled to get through this. I enjoyed the account of the first part of his life but got really bogged down when Napoleon enters the scene. Chateaubriand writes in a curiously oblique and contradictory style, and it’s difficult to know how he feels about any of the events he describes. In fact he tells you very little about what he actually did - I learned more from just looking at Wikipedia. Overall I found this tedious and a disappointment.
Glaubert Fustave
Jan 05, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
He spends his time lying, but he writes well.
Jun 04, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wow what a life! Three and a half stars.
Sep 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
love reading about places two centuries ago especially in my own back yard--
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François-René, vicomte de Chateaubriand was a French writer, politician and diplomat. He is considered the founder of Romanticism in French literature.

He has also been mistakenly given the forename François-Auguste in an 1811 edition, but signed all his worked as just Chateaubriand or M. le vicomte de Chateaubriand.

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