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Colonel Chabert Paperback – November 17, 1997

ISBN-13: 978-0811213592 ISBN-10: 0811213595

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 101 pages
  • Publisher: New Directions (November 17, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0811213595
  • ISBN-13: 978-0811213592
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.3 x 0.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #797,660 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Language Notes

Text: English (translation)
Original Language: French

About the Author

Honore de Balzac (1799-1850) was born in Tours. By the time of his death, he had written over one hundred novels, novellas, and plays, all the while working as a journalist. Colonel Chabert is one of the "Scenes from Private Life," which is a part of Balzac's well-known life-long project, La Comedie Humaine.

Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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This is an extraordinary and rich novel narrating the glory and downfall of Colonel Chabert.
"hermia1596"
Every detail of a lawyer's life in 19th century Paris is scrutinized, every glimpse of urban dairyman or elite country squirehood rings true.
Bob Newman
The Human Comedy of Balzac is one of the crowning achievements of literature and ranks right up there with Shakespeare and Thomas Hardy.
Sesho

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Robert G. Serafini on May 10, 2004
Format: Paperback
...of a great Balzac novella. Ms. Cosman captures the rigorous, logical quality of Balzac's prose - most translators get lost in unidiomatic wordiness. This 100 page novella showcases the Master's comfort with legal matters, his profound understanding of "the fang and the claw" and features at its center the incomparable Derville, Balzac's great, recurring lawyer character. I usually recommend Pere Goriot for first-time Balzac readers because of the rich connections between that novel and many other Balzac works - but I am hard pressed to imagine a better one-course meal than this rendering of Colonel Chabert by Ms. Cosman. I certainly plan to read her version of The Girl with the Golden Eyes.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 28, 2001
Format: Paperback
Carol Cosman's translation of Balzac's French 'Colonel Chabert' into the English has been very effective here- she does not input her own interpretations and seems to have a good handle on Balzac's natural, concise wording style.
The story itself is fascinating. In a nutshell, it focuses on a military man who is essentially erased from society, and the tribulations and insights he has from this 'non-existant' state as he tries to re-establish himself. Not only is this a witty and profound social commentary, but an entertaining twist which just keeps twisting.
In reading other's reviews of this short masterpiece, it seems as if many people have missed the meaning of the finale. While it is indeed a very enigmatic ending, it is not as lugubrious or fatalistic as most believe. What happens is that Colonel Chabert, in essentially having his old identity annihilated, becomes enlighted. In the ultimate destruction of his ego he becomes free. This is the magic finale which Balzac labors so hard, and so majestically, to set up in the plot.
This tome is very impressive, and relatively short (just over 100 pages) for those new to Balzac who want a nice, piquant appetizer. Balzac is one of the most brilliant French fiction writers of all time! He is a giant, and in 'Colonel Chabert', he weaves another illustrious stitch into his tapestry the Comedie Humaine.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Bob Newman VINE VOICE on May 26, 2002
Format: Paperback
Balzac, one of the greatest writers who ever lived, did not trip up with this one. I read it with great pleasure and conclude, as people so often say, that the movie based on the story did not equal the original. Ever the cynic (some might say 'the realist') Balzac portrays here the efforts of a noble-minded soldier, who rose from an orphanage to serve his country under Napoleon in Egypt and eastern Europe, only to reap the all-too-common fate of dedicated and true warriors---to be forgotten and ignored. Death (which he accepted) might have seized him, but he found a living death, a denial of his sanity and identity, as the reward of his service. Reported killed at the battle of Eylau, against the Russians, after a heroic action, the soldier literally crawls from his grave to a kind of shadowy survival. In his earlier life, Colonel Chabert had raised a woman to his own status, but now finds that she is unwilling to let others learn of her origins and does not want to recognize that he is, in fact, her long lost husband. Honestly thinking she was widowed, she married a highborn aristocrat who knew nothing of her humble beginnings.
The tale is one of greed, intrigue, loyalty and disloyalty. As usual, Balzac manages to cast a light, pitiless and bright, on every rotten corner of the human condition, while offering a few inspiring examples in contrast. Every detail of a lawyer's life in 19th century Paris is scrutinized, every glimpse of urban dairyman or elite country squirehood rings true. No wonder I admire him so much, no wonder I have no hesitation in urging you to read COLONEL CHABERT and any other volume of Balzac you can lay your hands on.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Judith Puncochar on August 16, 2000
Format: Paperback
Carol Cosman does a masterful job of translating Balzac's story of COLONEL CHABERT. The book is 101 pages of fast and fascinating reading. I loved Balzac's quip about the three professionals who cannot appreciate the world: the priest, the doctor, and the lawyer... the unhappiest of whom is the lawyer whose "offices are gutters that cannot be cleansed." Everyone should read this book. It will appeal equally to realists and optimists and to those who partake in social criticism or simply enjoy a good story.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 2, 1998
Format: Paperback
Chabert, a colonel in Napoleon's army, and given up for dead after the battle of Eylau, returns to France to claim his wife, his good name and his fortune.
During the intervening period his wife has legally re-married (a man with strong ambitions to enter the Peerage (périe de France), and borne him two children. The husband's ambitions are thwarted, however; his wife is closely linked with the Bonapartist era but now the political climate has changed and she is considered suspect.
Chabert's re-appearance upsets everything; his wife's re-marriage could be annuled and her children declared illegitimate.
Both Chabert and his wife want to do right by each other; Chabert wants the restoration of his name and fortune, but his wife naturally fears the annulment of her present marriage and its consequences to her children.
Enter the lawyer, Maître Derville, with his "protocol susceptible de réunir l'adhésion des deux parties". Some readers have interpreted Derville's role as crooked. This is not so. Derville, too, wants to be fair to both sides and, under the circumstances, does what he can.
A poignant tale of how fate conspires to rob humans of the people and things they cherish most.
Surely, one of Balzac's best.
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