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Q: did balzac say "behind every great fortune lies a great crime?" ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   1 Comment )
Subject: did balzac say "behind every great fortune lies a great crime?"
Category: Arts and Entertainment > Books and Literature
Asked by: bugbear-ga
List Price: $15.00
Posted: 14 Jan 2004 16:29 PST
Expires: 13 Feb 2004 16:29 PST
Question ID: 296588
Did Balzac really say "behind every great fortune lies a great crime,"
and if so where?  If he didn't say it, who did?  I never see a source 
for this common quote and am beginning to suspect it.
Subject: Re: did balzac say "behind every great fortune lies a great crime?"
Answered By: pinkfreud-ga on 14 Jan 2004 18:46 PST
Rated:5 out of 5 stars
The quote is a paraphrase from a line in Honoré de Balzac's tragicomic
novel "Le Père Goriot."  Here is the quote in its original French:

"Le secret des grandes fortunes sans cause apparente est un crime
oublié, parce qu' il a été proprement fait."

Institut de Linguistique Française: Balzac

An English translation:

"The secret of a great success for which you are at a loss to account
is a crime that has never been found out, because it was properly

Worldwide School: Father Goriot

Note that "grandes fortunes," translated above as "great success," can
also be translated as "great fortune(s)" or "great wealth." "Sans
cause apparente," translated above as "for which you are at a loss to
account," can be translated as "without apparent cause." "Un crime
oublié," translated above as "a crime that has never been found out,"
can be translated as "a forgotten crime" or "a lost crime." So there's
a lot of leeway here. The most common versions of the quote that I've
seen on the Web have shortened it somewhat, but the meaning is more or
less the same.

My strategy in locating this information was derived from my memory of
having read the quote many years ago. I thought I recalled the phrase
"crime oublié." The search string below led me to its source.

Google Web Search: "balzac" + "crime oublié"

If this is not the quote you're seeking, or if a link does not
function, please request clarification; I'll be glad to offer further
assistance before you rate my answer.

Best regards,

Clarification of Answer by pinkfreud-ga on 14 Jan 2004 19:08 PST
Here is another English translation of the quote:

"The secret of great wealth with no obvious source is some forgotten
crime, forgotten because it was done neatly."

Chico Examiner
bugbear-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars and gave an additional tip of: $3.00
suspected as much; thanks

Subject: Re: did balzac say "behind every great fortune lies a great crime?"
From: pinkfreud-ga on 14 Jan 2004 21:33 PST
Thank you very much for the five-star rating and the tip!


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