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PRINCESSE DE CLÈVES (LA) [Mass Market Paperback]

MARIE-MADELEINE LA FAYETTE
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

July 4 2000 Folio Classique N.P. (Book 3381)
La Princesse de Clèves met en scène, à la cour du roi Henri II, un trio tragique : le duc de Nemours est épris de la princesse de Clèves, qui l'aime en retour, mais est adorée de son époux... Par refus de s'abandonner à une passion coupable, la princesse commet l'irréparable: elle avoue tout au prince. Et cet aveu central dont dépend l'issue du drame a fait couler beaucoup d'encre, ainsi que le résume la romancière Marie Darrieussecq: « Les premiers lecteurs de Mme de Lafayette, au XVIIe siècle, le jugèrent invraisemblable : quelle épouse pense devoir informer son mari de ses tentations adultères ? Au XVIIIe siècle, cet aveu, on l'a trouvé charmant. Au XIXe, immoral. Au XXe, idiot : mais qu'elle l'épouse donc, son bellâtre de cour! Et au début du XXe, on dit qu'il ne faut plus lire ce livre, mais c'est encore une autre histoire. »
--This text refers to an alternate Mass Market Paperback edition.

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Madame de Clèves, jeune beauté parfaite en tout point, fait des débuts remarqués à la cour de la reine dauphine, belle-fille d'Henri II. Pour ce modèle de vertu, l'image de Diane de Poitiers plane tout au long du roman comme le contre-exemple absolu. Mais sous des dehors innocents, la Princesse de Clèves, par sa faculté à analyser et à maîtriser ses sentiments, fait preuve d'une personnalité étonnante et rarement exposée avec tant de justesse auparavant. Car, si l'amour courtois trouve ici d'indéniables échos, cet ouvrage paru en 1678, souvent considéré comme le premier roman de la littérature française, est indéniablement un pas énorme vers le roman tel qu'on le connaît aujourd'hui. La galerie de portraits dressée par Madame de Lafayette peut s'avérer un peu rébarbative pour le lecteur moderne, de même que sa langue est un peu austère. Néanmoins, l'analyse psychologique est d'une vraisemblance résolument novatrice et rachète l'invraisemblance de certaines scènes. En outre, l'exploit de faire naître tout un roman d'une intrigue aussi ténue, pratiquement sans action, fait de La Princesse de Clèves un ouvrage d'autant plus pathétique que les personnages laissent peu d'emprise aux événements extérieurs et se condamnent eux-mêmes. --Sana Tang-Léopold Wauters

From the Back Cover

Un essai - Étude approfondie d'un grand texte classique ou contemporain par. un spécialiste de l'oeuvre : approche critique originale des multiples facettes dû texte dans, une présentation claire et rigoureuse.

Un dossier - Bibliographie, chronologie, variantes, témoignages, extraits de presse. Éclaircissements historiques et contextuels, commentaires critiques récents.

Un ouvrage efficace, élégant. Une nouvelle manière de lire. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


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5.0 out of 5 stars A Landmark Work July 12 2002
Format:Mass Market Paperback
"La Princesse de Cleves" is among the most scrupulously accurate historical fictions in literature. It is also arguably the first historical novel ever written and one of the earliest novels in any language.
But is a classic in Mark Twain's sense of the word, the sort of book everyone wants to have read but nobody actually wants to read?
I agree with another reviewer that this isn't beach blanket fare. Readers of early English literature will find it more palatable than Samuel Richardson's "Pamela" and better plotted than anything by Defoe. Although Mme. de Lafayette is not the first important female writer in French - Christine de Pizan comes to mind - this highly original work outdoes Aphra Behn, Fanny Burney, or any other English woman before Jane Austen.
If those comparisons bring a sparkle to your eye then prepare for a treat. The central figure is a sixteen-year-old girl fresh from a sheltered childhood in the countryside when her mother decides to deal for a prestigious son-in-law. Except for the fictional protagonist every figure in this late Renaissance setting is historically accurate. The jousts, the love affairs, the betrayals, and the shocking death of one pivotal figure all happened. De Lafayette presents the French royal court at its most glamorous, then peels away the facade to reveal ambitions that corrupt or destroy everyone who remains in their spell.
Women's fictions from this era were expected to be love stories. This one succeeds at that well enough to woo modern readers while it levels a scathing attack on the French aristocracy in the tradition of Moliere.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Un classique parmi les classiques ! Nov. 25 2012
By Pierre Gauthier TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Cette oeuvre, écrite vers la fin du 17e siècle, projette les façons de faire de la cour de Louis XIV un siècle et demi plus tôt, à la toute fin du règne d'Henri II. On peut s'interroger sur la validité historique de cette transposition. Catherine de Médicis avait-elle vraiment un amant ?

L'essentiel de ce roman porte toutefois sur l'évolution des sentiments amoureux du personnage principal à qui il doit son titre. Cette prise de conscience du soi peut être vue comme le reflet des débuts de la modernité. Elle traduit toutefois un repli correspondant à la coupure entre la noblesse du 17e siècle et les réalités politiques et économiques, particulièrement prononcée peut-être chez la gente féminine. Ainsi, la mort tragique d'Henri II et la montée du protestantisme ne sont que des détails mentionnés en passant !

Soulignons la qualité de langue irréprochable employée à travers l'oeuvre. L'emploi du passé simple et du subjonctif y est monnaie courante.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.4 out of 5 stars  11 reviews
30 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Landmark Work July 12 2002
By "ann_o_nymus" - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Mass Market Paperback
"La Princesse de Cleves" is among the most scrupulously accurate historical fictions in literature. It is also arguably the first historical novel ever written and one of the earliest novels in any language.
But is a classic in Mark Twain's sense of the word, the sort of book everyone wants to have read but nobody actually wants to read?
I agree with another reviewer that this isn't beach blanket fare. Readers of early English literature will find it more palatable than Samuel Richardson's "Pamela" and better plotted than anything by Defoe. Although Mme. de Lafayette is not the first important female writer in French - Christine de Pizan comes to mind - this highly original work outdoes Aphra Behn, Fanny Burney, or any other English woman before Jane Austen.
If those comparisons bring a sparkle to your eye then prepare for a treat. The central figure is a sixteen-year-old girl fresh from a sheltered childhood in the countryside when her mother decides to deal for a prestigious son-in-law. Except for the fictional protagonist every figure in this late Renaissance setting is historically accurate. The jousts, the love affairs, the betrayals, and the shocking death of one pivotal figure all happened. De Lafayette presents the French royal court at its most glamorous, then peels away the facade to reveal ambitions that corrupt or destroy everyone who remains in their spell.
Women's fictions from this era were expected to be love stories. This one succeeds at that well enough to woo modern readers while it levels a scathing attack on the French aristocracy in the tradition of Moliere.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "She foresaw terrible rocks ahead for the young woman" May 31 2009
By frumiousb - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Mass Market Paperback
The Princess de Cleves is one of those books that smart people cite and which one should eventually read. Why so important? It is generally regarded as being one of the first European modern novels and a classic of its period (published anonymously in 1678). It is also quite an important milestone in the history of women's writing. More recently, its popularity resurged in France as a result of French President Sarkozy making nasty remarks about its relevance in early 2009.

What else is good to know before you pick up the book? It's a historical novel, set 100 years before the writer's lifetime. Historians who read this confidently write that Madame de Lafayette (or Marie-Madeleine Pioche de La Vergne) was extremely faithful to the time period of the book. I don't know enough about the court of Henri II to be able to do anything except report those claims.

It is also possibly good to know what the book is about. The Princess de Cleves is a kind of a romance-- contrasting the duties of formal marriage with the pressures of romantic love. Its main character is a lovely young woman who is untouched emotionally by any man and who is tragically awoken by the Duc de Nemours only after her marriage to the Prince de Cleves.

How is it for the modern reader to read?

(Note: this review refers to the Penguin Classics edition which was translated by Nancy Mitford and revised by Leonard Tancock.)

Well, I'd recommend that you take the time to find out for yourself. So that's one point. It is easy enough to see the influences that this book has had when you read it and for that alone is worth the time to read. The plot is one that will also have relevance today and should readily draw readers into the story. The value given to romantic love is naturally very different than it is today, so it may even appear bleak or shocking to the modern reader. All that is naturally good.

I felt frustrated because I felt I was far enough away from the time that I was missing some of the book's conversation. Much seemed to turn on courtly manners-- point and counterpoint. I'm not educated enough in the etiquette of the time to really appreciate it and so sections of the book went on over my head. I could have done with an edition that explained some of that-- or at least more than this Penguin Classics edition achieved.

(One funny thing about this edition was listening to Leonard Tancock in his foreword struggle to explain how he had to revise basically everything about the translation without coming right out and criticizing Mitford.)
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Worth it! Aug. 1 2011
By Babieca - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I really enjoyed this book! It does get off to a slow start with the role call of everyone at court, but there's a glossary of names in the back to help with any confusion. The notes are helpful too.
The court intrigue reminds of Dumas, and the interior monologues remind me of Austen, but of course those came later and look back at texts like this one. Once you get settled into the world of the court, the plot takes off, and though the twists are simple, the pathos of the characters as they react to each revelation is what makes it work so well. I knew the plot summary when I picked up the book, and there are still some major zingers that surprised and delighted me!
Like I've said, getting started takes some patience and attentiveness, but The Princesse de Clèves is totally worth that small initial investment. I recommend it highly!
9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Courtly love Feb. 2 2010
By Tresillian - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is what France has been reading. President Sarkozy took some flack for saying he disagreed with Mme Cleves action. What is at the core here is not a torrid love affair, a la Mme Bovary, nor is it a tale of revenge. It's really about ethics and the "mores" of the time. The heroine's temptations, her confession to her husband and resulting tragedy bring us into the seventeenth century. Should she have confessed when there was no sin? Did she do even more harm in her admission? It's a great discussion book and we know how the french love to "discuss".
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I love French litterature Nov. 28 2012
By vonvonmoto - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
an Excellent French classic book. The language is brilliant for those who can appreciate. Oldish of course, but pure and brilliant
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