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Madame Chrysantheme

Pierre Loti

Book Overview: 

Pierre Loti was for many years an officer in the French Navy, giving him the opportunity to sample and analyze different national and cultural milieux, in which he deeply immersed himself. The present book, said to have formed the basis for the famous "Madame Butterfly" story, is presented as an autobiographical account of his marriage to a young Japanese woman while his ship was stationed in Nagasaki. His style is surprisingly modern for the period, perhaps anticipating Camus. His descriptions of summer in Nagasaki have a detail which is at the same time personal and detached, while his observations of the people are less than sympathetic. A sense of ennui and lack of conventional morality pervades.

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Book Excerpt: 
. . .aigrette of silver flowers, the ebony coiffure, the gray silk robe and mauve sash of Mademoiselle Jasmin, my fiancee!

Heavens! why, I know her already! Long before setting foot in Japan, I had met her, on every fan, on every teacup with her silly air, her puffy little face, her tiny eyes, mere gimlet-holes above those expanses of impossible pink and white cheeks.

She is young, that is all I can say in her favor; she is even so young that I should almost scruple to accept her. The wish to laugh leaves me suddenly, and instead, a profound chill seizes my heart. What! share even an hour of my life with that little doll? Never!

The next question is, how to get rid of her.

She advances smiling, with an air of repressed triumph, and behind her looms M. Kangourou, in his suit of gray tweed. Fresh salutes, and behold her on all fours, she too, before my landlady and before my neighbors. Yves, the big Yves, who is not about to be married. . . Read More

Community Reviews

Loti is the prototype of the writer traveller. He finished his life in Charentes in France. His house is a model of kitsch exoticism. His novels distil an erotism like the Pompier art which excited the frustrated people of this time. I decided to read this book after having seen Mrs Buterfly in B...more

I'm not sure how I came across wanting this book, but I had to buy it used from Amazon. I love the used edition I got: it was an old edition from 1985 that featured poorly photocopied typeset, and really cool black and white renderings of watercolor images of the scenes being described in the boo...more

None of my friends have read this? How extraordinary! This book was part of the inspiration for Puccini's opera "Madama Butterfly," however, Madame Chrysantheme doesn't commit suicide at the end. The book begins with an officer's fervent desire to get off the merchant boat he's working on, and he...more

Nagasaki 1945.... there are forebodings on every nook. Amazing...

Finished 12/14/08

I feel as though I want to write a full commentary book about this book. I first hated Loti and the way he carried himself when he first arrived in Japan, I haven't seen this air of smugness on previous books of his...more

Pierre Loti, noted writer and member of the French Academy, was in the French Navy from 1867 to 1900. Madame Chrysantheme is the journal of his summer stay in Japan. It is rich in local color and traditions of late nineteenth century Japan.

Pierre Loti's Madame Chrysantheme is an unusual combination of a beautifully written work and a moral callousness that defies description. It is the tale of a French sailor on extended leave in Nagasaki, Japan, who arranges for a "temporary wife" with whom to bide his time until his ship sets sai...more

Diario di viaggio di un marinaio temporaneamente "bloccato" in Giappone. Il termine bloccato sembra qui decisamente appropriato in quanto l'autore accetta questa sua situazione con uno stato d'animo che si avvicina più alla rassegnazione che alla stimolazione data dall' interesse per l'incontro c...more

Originally written in French at the end of the 19th century, it tells the story of a young man's stay in Nagasaki, Japan. Overflowing with politically incorrect descriptions of the Japanese, which makes it very difficult to read in places.

Great and awful. Here's the premise, fairly simple: the narrator, a French sailor, stays in Nagasaki for a few months, waiting for the departure of his ship. He rents a house and a pretty local girl to serve as his "wife" (that's what he calls her).
The book is mostly composed of a series of vigne...more

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