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The Beastly Beatitudes of Balthazar B

eBook Only

By: J.P. Donleavy

Publication Date: October 2011

(11 customer reviews)

Balthazar B is the world’s last shy, elegant young man. Born to riches and a blonde mother’s breast in Paris, raised in lonely splendour, a soul bemused with the world’s haphazard frailties, he hopes to find each new day just as he left it yesterday. Balthazar B’s life spreads from Paris across the Channel to prep school in England. There he is befriended by the world’s most beatific sinner, the noble little Beefy, kindly to small dogs and old ladies, fearless to masters and bullies. And in holidays spent in Paris, Balthazar B falls upon love and sorrow with his beautiful governess, Miss Hortense.

He soon loses her to live out lonely London years, waking finally in the green sunshine of Ireland and Trinity College. Here, reunited with Beefy, he is swept away to the high and low life of Dublin. From the black-eyes little Breda, met in Irishtown, to the arms of the dark, strange and beautiful Miss Fitzdare. Until, caught between college authorities and a landlady’s dentures, their university careers come an inglorious end. They return to the seasons of London, there to take their tricky steps into marriage, Beefy in search of riches, Balthazar in search of love.

This touching story, as sad as it is hilarious, is Dublin in its heyday and London in its prime, between a Paris of all its pleasures.


J.P. ‘Mike’ Donleavy (1926–2017) wrote more than twenty books after The Ginger Man, including The Beastly Beatitudes of Balthazar B (1968), A Fairy Tale of New York (1973), The Onion Eaters (1971) and Schultz (1979) (all available as eBooks from Lilliput), along with several works of non-fiction such as The Unexpurgated Code: A Complete Manual of Survival and Manners (1975). He lived along the shores of Lough Owel near Mullingar in County Westmeath. Watch J.P. Donleavy win the An Post Lifetime Achievement Award 2015.

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11 reviews for The Beastly Beatitudes of Balthazar B

  1. Lilliput Press

    “During my teens, I stopped reading altogether. I was not interested in elves, the meaning of life or blots on the landscape. I tried the Father Brown mysteries but gave up on them because they were rigged stories. The Hardy Boys were better, frankly.

    Then as a sixth-former, I read this in my English class:

    ‘I do not understand the word smutty.’
    ‘Pity. Smutty. You will recognise when it comes. And know we shan’t stand for it.’
    ‘What is smutty?’
    ‘You mean what is smutty, sir.’
    ‘What is smutty, sir?’
    ‘That’s better. Smutty. Hmmm. A smear upon the spirit. Concerning things between the legs. There shall be no groping there, you can be sure of that. We shall have no Frenchiness either. When smuttiness comes smite it.’

    And I was hooked.

    Balthazar B is the world’s last elegant young man. Born to riches in Paris, he is shipped off to boarding school in England, where he is befriended by the noble Beefy. The novel concerns their intertwined fates as Beefy eventually steps out in search of riches and Balthazar in search of love. Only the world won’t listen. And while some Donleavy heroes look it in the eye and literally punch a way out of trouble, Balthazar disappears into the cocoon of his wealth instead, his loneliness sublimated into pages of internal monologue whose details capture his inability to go forward in life. (After his engagement to Elizabeth Fitzdare falls through, for instance, Balthazar notes ‘the fish in the tank had babies’.) He is so introspective it’s often a surprise when he speaks, so much of our knowledge of him comes from what he thinks rather than says.

    Although the book’s deficiencies have become clearer down the years, so have its virtues. Think of the baroque splendour of Beefy, the unwavering belief in true love and, perhaps most refreshingly, the willingness to explore the sadness of being a man in a way almost unheard of in modern fiction. Even the frank celebration of materialism is understandable for a post-war readership with fresh memories of rationing. Besides, the hand-sewn finery offers an insight into Balthazar, suggesting a passivity that is his greatest limitation. By finessing the sartorial details, his hope is that all good will come into his life, but, unfortunately, it never does. Little wonder successive failures grind down Balthazar, his thoughts turning to failure and remorse, two emotions that are never far away from the surface of the novel’s comedy.

    Since school, my copy has followed me around the world and probably had some impact on the person I have become. But I will always be grateful because Donleavy’s story kick-started my reading again, while his prose sent me in search of Perelman, Kafka and Joyce, the gateway to the world. This bawdy, melancholic yet very funny novel was the start.” ANTHONY ABDOOL

  2. Lilliput Press

    “I was given this book for Christmas by my father. He said that he had read it when he was my age and when he saw an old copy in a second-hand book shop he couldn’t resist buying it for me.

    I really didn’t know what to expect from this, the blurb on the back doesn’t give much away, the only real clue you get to the hilarity and smut that’s inside is where it mentions that Balthazar is befriended by ‘the worlds most beatific sinner’.

    All I really want to say is that I was genuinely shocked when I read this book, shocked that my dad had read this and given it to me when he usually gives me books by people like Zola, Hesse or Camus, shocked that this book was never banned, shocked that I’d never heard of it before and shocked/upset that I can’t see myself finding a better book for years to come.

    I don’t want to go into the technicalities of the book and it’s writing style etc as other reviewers have said it much better than I could and I would only find myself repeating their words but would agree with the person that said it is like ‘poetry disguised as prose’.

    This is one of the funniest, filthiest and most touching books I’ve ever read.”

  3. Lilliput Press

    “I read this on the recommendation of someone close to my heart and was totally unprepared for how it would grip me from the very first page. The style of writing is unusual but effective and I was unable to put this book down, reading it from cover to cover in one day. The characters are wonderfully drawn, even those who feature only briefly, making it impossible for the reader not to become deeply involved. In 5 months I have read this twice more, finding new things each time. It’s made me laugh and cry and I am in no doubt that I shall read it many more times in years to come, and always with a heartfelt thank you to the person who recommended it to me in the first place and changed my life.”

  4. Lilliput Press

    “I read this when I was teenager and was so moved by it. I also saw a play version.
    Balthazar B is as it says on the back cover ‘the world’s last shy elegant young man’. He is befriended at school by Beefy, his complete opposite, and they remain friends for many years.
    There is an hilarious bit where Bathazar gets drunk, stumbles into a garden in the middle of the night, gets wrapped up in the washing hanging on a line, and gives the woman of the house the fright of her life.
    It also contains some of the saddest writing I’ve ever read: ‘ As all hearts are. Worried lonely. Your eyes quiet. By the waters cold. Where the sadness lurks so deep. It doth make you still’.”

  5. Lilliput Press

    “Victoria Mary Clarke has descibed J.P. Donleavy as the ‘last of the Irish literary geniuses’. He drank with Behan, amongst many others, and celebrated Dublin city life in a way that would always leave an indelible impression on the minds of any reader who stumbled upon him. I came to this superb novel by way of serendipity, receiving it in error. But my disappointment was soon transformed into that special feeling of not wanting a book to ever end. Donleavy’s novels are often set in Ireland and often, at least in part, in Dublin. This one moves around from France, to London, through the midlands, then to Dublin. And it is in Dublin where Donleavy most successfully articulates his narrative and forms his characters. From porter to policeman, professor to patrician, Donleavy’s voice comes shining through; a tragi-comic tale like no other.”

  6. Lilliput Press

    “This book is an absolute delight – a touching, hilarious, rollicking romp. There were tear-jerkingly funny scenes set in Ireland, along with deeply moving episodes in the life of a bruised but fascinating character.”

  7. Lilliput Press

    “Lasceratingly funny writing alternating with bawdy high jinks and poignant sadness.” MICHAEL WELSH

  8. Lilliput Press

    “A welcome meeting with an old friend, Donleavy at his best. On a par with The Gingerman and The Onion Eaters. Recommended. I advise you to buy.” CONSTANZE

  9. Lilliput Press

    “Balthazar – I first read this book in the seventies loved it. Now I’ve read it again for the forth time and every time it seems to get better.”

  10. Lilliput Press

    “I was captivated by the beautiful flow of words and the storyline. I want to read it again and I have a feeling I will return to the book again and again.” ELIZABETH CLIFFORD

  11. Lilliput Press

    “I had heard many times of this novel, always with raves of how funny it is and how salacious, so I finally bought a copy. I am familiar with Mr Donleavy’s work and was not disappointed in the quality of his prose. Very few can match him for capturing the essence of a place or of a situation and his manipulation of pace is second to none. The characters are full and round, although I did not find them as intriguing as some in his other books.

    The story drifts, ebbs and flows, braiding the irreverent with the serious and the surreal with the everyday until the whole book is laid out like an open labyrinth. But underneath the raucous adventures and the little jokes is a downward spiral of melancholy that is difficult to avoid. Mr Donleavy’s hero, Balthazar, suffers from paralysing shyness and the bitterness of lost love, despite his wealth, his beauty and his charm. His view and experience of life slide steadily into despondency with, as the book progresses, apparently small hope of improvement. The little happiness he finds is not his to keep but is rather a cruel joke, told to show him what he cannot have. His hunger to be loved leaves him vulnerable to exploitation of all kinds, with predictable results.

    The amusing episodes scattered through the book seemed to be to be offered like a bag of sweets to keep me reading; the sexual adventures served the same purpose. All in all, I did not enjoy this novel although it is brilliantly written. I found the undercurrent of despair too real. Darcy Dancer, another of Mr Donleavy’s books (q.v.) could be classed a comedy in theatrical terms but for me Balthazar is a different style altogether.” Z HERBERT

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Weight 1 kg
Publication Date

October 2011