I started reading this book in original French while living in France in the summer of 2010. I managed one chapter and then I had to return to the local library. I try to read one French book a year, but it’s more like I read one French every three years. This was the last French book I tried to start and I tried reading it over two years ago! With the Classics Club, I thought I would revisit this classic of French literature.
French is not necessarily an easy language to read and an even harder language to write. I have been lucky that my comprehension in French has always been good since I took immersion as a teenager, but even then, I am not completely fluent in reading in it.
People were telling me that the best way to read in another language is to read books translated into said language, but there are not many books that I want to read in French since many of them are in English or in the older, original French. One of my favourite French authors is Dumas, but I have largely read his books in English though I have reread some of the Count of Monte Cristo in French.
I read much slower in French than in English. I can’t quantify how much slower, but this book in English would have taken me one weekend day. I read the chapters in French then skimmed Project Gutenberg’s translation to verify.
This is a novel about Paris social life in the 19th century. Paris has and always will be an all-consuming place. The protagonist is very poor at the start of the story. Georges Duroy is apparently extremely good looking, charismatic, ambitious, but he also seems to be stupid and easily becomes conceited even at the beginning. It is funny to read in the beginning how transparent the characters and their motivations are. It is very much a critique of Paris life and a political satire. While the story is unique to the setting, a lot of the themes of social climbing, intrigue, and sex are still happening in political circles across the world.