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Penguin Classics Mademoiselle De Maupin Paperback – Jan 1 1981


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 1 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classic (Jan. 1 1981)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140443983
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140443981
  • Product Dimensions: 17.8 x 2.5 x 12.7 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 200 g
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

Product Description

About the Author

Theophile Gautier (1811-72), French painter, poet, novelist, and critic, was a leading exponent of Art for Art's Sake, preparing the way for the Parnassians and Symbolists in their reaction against Romanticism. Helen Constantine was Head of Languages at Bartholomew School, Eynsham, until she became a full-time translator. She is currently translating Dangerous Liaisons by Laclos, also for Penguin. She has recently published a volume of translated stories, Paris Tales, for OUP, and is co-editor of the magazine Modern Poetry in Translation. She is married to the poet, David Constantine. Patricia Duncker is the author of short stories, essays and several novels, including Hallucinating Foucault and Seven Tales of Sex and Death (2003). She is also Professor of Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By "sfoster29" on May 25 2004
Format: Hardcover
I am sixty years old, and although Gautier became one of my favorite writers when I was around eighteen years old, I never got around to reading his masterpiece until now. The long preface of this novel is more famous than the novel itself, but let us talk about the novel. It is not clear just when the action takes place, somewhere between 1650 and 1835, but it doesn't really take place in a particular period, nor does it take place in the real world. It is a sort of fantasy in spite of not having any supernatural elements. It is based in part on Shakespeare's As You Like It, with Rosalind and Orlando being replaced by Maupin and D'Albert. It is somewhat confusing, as the author switches viewpoints from chapter to chapter without warning. Sometimes it is Maupin speaking, sometimes D'Albert, sometimes the author. Gautier worshipped the beauty of the physical and artistic worlds, which is the whole point of the novel. He tends to identify beauty with female beauty, but there are also swans and roses and nightingales and the moon and so much else. It is the most romantic novel ever written. Some readers may be annoyed by Gautier's penchant for description. In one passage, he takes two whole pages just to describe an old tapestry which has nothing to do with the plot. One needs some footnotes if one is not perfectly familiar with all of the learned references that are scattered throughout the novel. In one passage, Gautier mentions a seraglio and a handkerchief being dropped. This refers to the habit of the Turkish sultan of going to his seraglio or harem and dropping a handkerchief in front of the bed partner he has chosen for the night. But Gautier assumes that the reader knows about this and doesn't explain it.Read more ›
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 8 reviews
47 of 47 people found the following review helpful
a beautiful masterpiece May 25 2004
By "sfoster29" - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I am sixty years old, and although Gautier became one of my favorite writers when I was around eighteen years old, I never got around to reading his masterpiece until now. The long preface of this novel is more famous than the novel itself, but let us talk about the novel. It is not clear just when the action takes place, somewhere between 1650 and 1835, but it doesn't really take place in a particular period, nor does it take place in the real world. It is a sort of fantasy in spite of not having any supernatural elements. It is based in part on Shakespeare's As You Like It, with Rosalind and Orlando being replaced by Maupin and D'Albert. It is somewhat confusing, as the author switches viewpoints from chapter to chapter without warning. Sometimes it is Maupin speaking, sometimes D'Albert, sometimes the author. Gautier worshipped the beauty of the physical and artistic worlds, which is the whole point of the novel. He tends to identify beauty with female beauty, but there are also swans and roses and nightingales and the moon and so much else. It is the most romantic novel ever written. Some readers may be annoyed by Gautier's penchant for description. In one passage, he takes two whole pages just to describe an old tapestry which has nothing to do with the plot. One needs some footnotes if one is not perfectly familiar with all of the learned references that are scattered throughout the novel. In one passage, Gautier mentions a seraglio and a handkerchief being dropped. This refers to the habit of the Turkish sultan of going to his seraglio or harem and dropping a handkerchief in front of the bed partner he has chosen for the night. But Gautier assumes that the reader knows about this and doesn't explain it. There is a lot of what might be called pseudo-homosexuality in the novel, men and women falling in love with women who are disguised as men, only to find out in the end their true sexual identity. The anguish of D'Albert upon thinking that he is in love with a man reads awfully silly to modern audiences that find nothing wrong with this. But it turns out that everybody in the novel is really heterosexual. There is a sex scene at the end, but this novel is far from being pornographic. It used to have a reputation of being a Dirty French Novel, but faded from popularity in the United States after real pornography made people realize how tame Gautier is in comparison. He seems to have been more interested in art than life. He can think of nothing better to compare a beautiful woman to than a statue or painting of a woman. There is not the slightest vulgarity or lapse of taste anywhere in the novel. Some passages are breathtaking. It is a shame that this novel failed to catch fire when Joanna Richardson translated it for Penguin Classics in the early 1980s. It had previously been in Random House's Modern Library series with a dust jacket showing two pairs of shoes, one male and one female, left outside a hotel room door to be cleaned. Gautier's humor is dry and charming. I love this book, but don't expect to find hordes buying it. It is for the few.
18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
A bisexual trouser role tour de force Aug. 8 2004
By bacchae - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
One of the great, tho surprisingly little known, classics of french lit. I don't believe it's ever been filmed and it would make such a wonderfully modern comedy of manners and sexual politics. Written in the 19th century and surprisingly nouveau. It is possibly my own personal favorite novel, I have several editions and have read it many times. A woman masquerades as a man, in the grand, Shakespearean classic tradition and finds herself drawn to both men and women as they to her. Much homosexual panic and confusion ensues, esp. for the man who finds this intriguing young 'boy' so fascinating. His lover, an older woman, is equally attracted to the disguised girl. Where will it all end? The french invented the menage afterall. Intricately written with lots of social satire and commentary. An interesting footnote: this is the book that Mary is reading in "The Children's Hr." that 'inspires' her imagination which leads to her ratting out her teachers as lesbians.
23 of 26 people found the following review helpful
One of the best books of the aesthetic movement April 3 2000
By Sarah Skowronski - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This book is an unequivocal celebration of Beauty--not the sentimental, middle-class idea of beauty, but the all-encompassing beauty to which the Aesthetic writers were enslaved. The prologue sets forth Gautier's cult of pure aesthetics, and the book is a fulfillment of every sublime principle delineated in the prologue.
The plot is relatively simple: Magdalene is a woman who is discontented with the traditional role of a woman, so she dresses as a man and ventures forth as "Theodore." An aesthete, D'albert, falls in love with her despite her male persona, and Magdalene in turn falls in love with his mistress Rosette. But it is much more complex than that. It is a meditation on the nature of the muse, on the subject-object relations in art, on the implications of gender politics, on the eternal Aesthetic in both life and art.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Pure literary magic June 7 2014
By Glenn Russell - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Mademoiselle de Maupin is a symphony of adjectives, in which the thematic material alternately suggests the most exquisite pleasures of the senses. It is an ineffably beautiful tableau, heady, intoxicating, Dionysiac, conceived in ecstasy. It is, indeed a "golden book" as close an approximation to painting in the realm of pure aesthetics as anything in words may be. It is a celebration of beauty and its mood is always that of delight. So rare is this the accomplishment of the novelist and so far away is it from the usual mingling of love with tragedy, sorrow, and disillusion, that were it nothing else, the novel should solicit our affection and the novelist deserve our gratitude. Such are the words of American literary critic Burton Rascoe characterizing this sumptuous, grand novel back in 1920.

More specifically, the novel's main character and first person narrator Chevalier d'Albert is a supreme lover in the tradition of 19th century romanticism, loving his dreamy idealizations of women, rotating visions and intense yearnings for goddesses, wood nymphs, angels and female beauties in all shades and variations; loving the idea of being in love (ah, to be so dramatic and such a romantic you are swept away by loving love itself!); and, last but by no means least, in the first chapters of the novel, playing the part of a lover drunk on the beauty of a young woman, Rosette by name. All these passionate feelings and moods mix and mingle to create a festival of sensual splendor.

I have underlined a passage or two or three or more on each and every page. The language and images and metaphors take my breath away. If there ever was a novel where we should open ourselves to literary magic, Mademoiselle de Maupin is that novel. Reading Gautier's masterpiece, I'm reminded of the words and wisdom of Arthur Schopenhauer, philosopher of art par excellence: "Treat a work of art like a prince. Let it speak to you first."

And , please, please, please, let this prince of a novel speak to you. Here is Gautier's lush, poetic prose, this sample from the narrator's pre-Rosette days, "I am waiting for heaven to open up and an angel to bring me a revelation, or for a revolution to break out and offer me a throne; for one of Raphael's virgins to step down from her canvas and embrace me; for non-existent relatives to die and leave me enough to allow my imagination to drift away on a river of gold, for a hippogriff to capture me and carry me off to an unknown country."

The novel is also chock-full of whimsy, hilarity and baroque comedy. For example: here is d'Albert on painterly beauty after spending hours in front of a mirror musing on how his face falls short of his ideal, "You see so many beautiful faces in pictures! Why is none of them mine? So many lovely heads disappearing in the dust and smoke of time at the back of old galleries. Would it not be better if they jumped out of their frames and came to grace my shoulders? Would the reputation of Raphael suffer so very much if one of those angels thronging his ultramarine canvases were to let me borrow his features for thirty years" Yes, indeed, we do have a narrator-dreamer who can out-Narcissus Narcissus.

So far this is a tale of garden-fresh love and intense sensual pleasures between a man and a woman. But there comes a point, surprise, surprise - things change - intensity and freshness, no matter how intense and how fresh, fades. Alas, d'Albert tells us in so many words that he and Rosette are at the point where they have had enough of one another. What is needed is an infusion of energy to lift them to unexplored vistas of raw sensuality, passion and unspeakable beauty. And such an infusion arrives on the scene, a personage who turns out to be a triple dose of energy -- a supremely graceful, super-sexually-charged, a cross-dressing, gender-shifting, high-octane lad (a lass, really) on horseback -- Théodore aka Mademoiselle de Maupin.

Pure literary magic shinning with the brightness and heat of the midday sun. And this Penguin edition is a most readable translation along with an informative introduction, notes, footnotes and Gautier's famous preface expounding an `art for art sake' aesthetic in answer to the up-tight moralist hacks of his day. Indeed, art for art sake, reading for reading sake, dance for dance sake - as in Matisse's five joyous dancers - and with this book in hand the five dancers are: D'Albert, Rosette, Théodore, goddess Aphrodite, and you as reader. Joie de vivres.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
sensual awakening Dec 21 2008
By A. G. Plumb - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
In this novel a young woman, Mademoiselle de Maupin, dresses as a man to find out what men are all about before she becomes committed to one in marriage. Not surprisingly it creates confusions for her. But, just to think of such a thing suggests some strange sexual chracteristics. What she finds out about men is not at all flattering. But the book is even-handed with some caustic comments about women also. Maupin rescues a girl about to become entrapped by one of the most unlikeable specimens of malehood. But how can she (still appearing to be a man) take under her wing a girl to care for her?

Gautier starts the book with a series of letters describing the confusion in the life of a young man, D'Albert. D'Albert takes a mistress, Rosette, because he is distressed about his own lack of fulfilment (what's wrong with him we may wonder?). But the mistress happens to have been disappointed in love because she had fallen in love with Maupin (apparently a man) who had to reject that love because .....

D'Albert has a fulfilling relationship with Rosette but someohow it is not satisfying. When Maupin returns - perhaps feeling guilty over how she had abandoned Rosette, perhaps even wanting to explain - D'Albert is captivated. He fears he must be homosexual, with all the horror or shock that entails as a realisation at the first instance. Perhaps we do accept homosexuality more readily these days, but it must still come as something of a shock to an individual. To me even the realisation of heterosexuality was something of a shock and I could only get used to the idea by thinking of biology and the 'normalness' of sex (why is it so hidden I wondered - and still do).

But D'Albert is profoundly heterosexual in his love for Maupin even though she still appears to be a man. The consummation of their love is both rewarding and disappointing to D'Albert. And in the end Gautier implies things about Maupin - and even Rosette - that are less clear.

This is a wonderful, evocative novel; erotic and sensual. Perhaps the plot stretches credibility a bit - if D'Albert had been a less unsettled man himself ..... But it doesn't matter if you are male or female, prepare yourself for some sharp observations on the behaviour of your own sex.

other recommendations:
'Indiana' - George Sand
'The Secret Power of Beauty' - John Armstrong
'Diaries' - Alma Schindler (Mahler-Werfel)


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