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Père Goriot

(La Comédie Humaine #23)

3.86  ·  Rating details ·  53,685 ratings  ·  2,446 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 back ...more
Paperback, 384 pages
Published December 17th 1997 by W. W. Norton & Company (first published March 1835)
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Alicia Definitely Pere Goriot. It's known as the crossroads of all Balzac's books.…moreDefinitely Pere Goriot. It's known as the crossroads of all Balzac's books.(less)

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Average rating 3.86  · 
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 ·  53,685 ratings  ·  2,446 reviews

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Emily May
Feb 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019, classics
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
(Book 920 from 1001 Books) - Le Père Goriot = Father Goriot = Old Goriot = Old Man Goriot, Honoré de Balzac

Old Goriot or Father Goriot, is an 1835 novel by French novelist and playwright Honoré de Balzac (1799–1850), included in the Scenes of privacy section of his novel sequence The Human Comedy.

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.

Paul Bryant
Jul 14, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels, french-lit
By page 130 I ran out of patience with this thing so I channeled my inner irritable 14 year old and composed the following review:

This Ballsack is a great writer I am told but one problem is that he wrote 4,578 novels, so which one should I read. I saw that Old Goriot has mostly 4 and 5 star reviews, so it looked like a good choice, but I was so so wrong. For the first 70 pages Ballsack describes buildings and characters, as if nobody knows what anything looks like or has ever met a student or a
Oct 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Nothing is Black and White in the world of Balzac.

Hence his towering stature in the French Literary Pantheon, as evinced in the commemorative statue by the admittedly idolatrous Auguste Rodin. Balzac was a genius. Slightly mad, but very gifted.

You know, I guess each one of us is often pained and shamed by our own very spontaneous - and alas, often very public - displays of our own fallible humanity.

And Balzac’s poor characters ooze their humanity from their very pores, for better or for worse.

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’
K.D. Absolutely
Mar 13, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 sec
Jun 25, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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
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 life 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 full
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 ach
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
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
Matthew Ted
60th book of 2021. Artist for this review is French painter Pierre-Auguste Renoir.
He saw society as an ocean of mire into which one had only to dip a toe to be buried in it up to the neck.

My first Balzac, and I am left impressed. Starting it, I wondered if this would be those fairly short novels that feel 100 pages longer, but that fear quickly disappeared. It does begin with a lengthy (in true 19thC fashion) description of a boarding-house and its inhabitants, which makes for slow progress
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
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 sharpie a ...more
Nov 28, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: french
My edition of this emotional dagger is called Old Man Goriot - a fine translation by Olivia McCannon. However, Penguin itself has previously published the book under Old Goriot. Both of these titles miss the key word apparent in the original title: Père Goriot. Lord knows and it must be stressed that “Père” is needed here, as it captures the bleak image of parenthood that seems to bring me to my knees when I encounter it in literature. This is a notion I explore often, when I get a chance to loo ...more
Nov 15, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019, european, fiction
“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 Gor
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 com
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
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 p
Apr 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
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. ...more
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. ...more
' There are no principles, only events; there are no laws, only circumstances (...)'

' You're at life's crossroads, young man; now you must make your choice. You have already chosen: you went to call on your cousin Madame de Beauséant and had a taste of luxury there. You called on Madame de Restaud, old man Goriot's daughter, and breathed in the scent of a Parisian woman. On that day you came back here with one word written on your forehead, and I read it, clear as day : Succeed! Succeed wha
Katie Lumsden
An interesting read, but it fell a little flat for me.
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 radia ...more
Anne (On semi-hiatus)
This is my first Balzac novel. It has a fabulous story and great characters and settings. It has far more humor than I expected, particularly with one character, Vautrin. My experience of this story felt more like watching a play or an opera because the emotions and situations were so over-the-top and extreme. The beginning starts out rather calmly and benignly as Balzac introduces us to the inhabitants of a decrepit boarding house. I thought all of the action was going to be placed inside that ...more
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 B
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 l ...more
Balzac describes a thoroughly corrupt society in the face of daring financial speculation; a society whose morality will only mess with money ... and is currently topical. Balzac's novel "Father Goriot" is undoubtedly one of the great masterpieces of realism literature ... and as well it belongs in every well-sorted library. ...more
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. In a Preface to another work, Balzac acknowledges some readers treat his book as "une calomnie envers les enfants," but his model was a man who cried for water for twenty hours while his two daughters were at a dance and a play (406).
Goriot was burning with "passion paternelle," his li
Pere Goriot is the story of a father who ruins himself to indulge his too thankless, heartless daughters. Eugene Rastignac is a young man of aristocratic blood and abject poverty, who comes to Paris to study law and takes up residence in the same boarding house with Goriot. The “father” that is added to Goriot’s name is a taunt from his fellow boarders, who know little of his actual situation, while it should, in fact, be a testament to the only relationship in life that has meaning for him.

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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 found

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La Comédie Humaine (1 - 10 of 89 books)
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