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The Princesse de Cl`eves: with `The Princesse de Montpensier' and `The Comtesse de Tende' Paperback – Sep 15 2008

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford Paperbacks; Reissue edition (Sept. 15 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199539170
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199539178
  • Product Dimensions: 19.6 x 1.8 x 13 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 200 g
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #288,146 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

Product Description


'His well-judged introduction and his notes are angled towards a student readership ... He also, and this gives his translation a definite edge, includes two important shorter stories by Madame de Lafayette. His translation offers a fair equivalent of Lafayette's careful, often knotty, phrasing, which plunges the reader into the perpexities of amorous feeling and moral choice.' Times Literary Supplement

About the Author

Terence Cave is a Professor of French Literature, University of Oxford; and Fellow at St John's College, Oxford.

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By JJ on July 1 2009
Format: Paperback
This volume is a must read for fiction enthusiasts. The translation by Terence Cave is one of the best around, and both The Princesse de Cleves and The Princesse de Montpensier are wonderful. Fast-paced and intense, Madame de Lafayette's fiction are unforgettable.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 15 reviews
31 of 31 people found the following review helpful
A Landmark Work July 12 2002
By "ann_o_nymus" - Published on
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.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
"She foresaw terrible rocks ahead for the young woman" May 31 2009
By frumiousb - Published on
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.)
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Worth it! Aug. 1 2011
By Babieca - Published on
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!
10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
Courtly love Feb. 2 2010
By Tresillian - Published on
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
I love French litterature Nov. 28 2012
By vonvonmoto - Published on
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