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Prelude to Foundation par [Asimov, Isaac]
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CLEON I-- . . . The last Galactic Emperor of the Entun dynasty. He was born in the year 11,988 of the Galactic Era, the same year in which Hari Seldon was born. (It is thought that Seldon's birthdate, which some consider doubtful, may have been adjusted to match that of Cleon, whom Seldon, soon after his arrival on Trantor, is supposed to have encountered.)

Having succeeded to the Imperial throne in 12,010 at the age of twenty-two, Cleon I's reign represented a curious interval of quiet in those troubled times. This is undoubtedly due to the skills of his Chief of Staff, Eto Demerzel, who so carefully obscured himself from public record that little is known about him.

Cleon himself . . .



Suppressing a small yawn, Cleon said, "Demerzel, have you by any chance ever heard of a man named Hari Seldon?"

Cleon had been Emperor for just over ten years and there were times at state occasions when, dressed in the necessary robes and regalia, he could manage to look stately. He did so, for instance, in the holograph of himself that stood in the niche in the wall behind him. It was placed so that it clearly dominated the other niches holding the holographs of several of his ancestors.

The holograph was not a totally honest one, for though Cleon's hair was light brown in hologram and reality alike, it was a bit thicker in the holograph. There was a certain asymmetry to his real face, for the left side of his upper lip raised itself a bit higher than the right side, and this was somehow not evident in the holograph. And if he had stood up and placed himself beside the holograph, he would have been seen to be 2 centimeters under the 1.83-meter height that the image portrayed--and perhaps a bit stouter.

Of course, the holograph was the official coronation portrait and he had been younger then. He still looked young and rather handsome, too, and when he was not in the pitiless grip of official ceremony, there was a kind of vague good nature about his face.

Demerzel said, with the tone of respect that he carefully cultivated, "Hari Seldon? It is an unfamiliar name to me, Sire. Ought I to know of him?"

"The Minister of Science mentioned him to me last night. I thought you might."

Demerzel frowned slightly, but only very slightly, for one does not frown in the Imperial presence. "The Minister of Science, Sire, should have spoken of this man to me as Chief of Staff. If you are to be bombarded from every side--"

Cleon raised his hand and Demerzel stopped at once. "Please, Demerzel, one can't stand on formality at all times. When I passed the Minister at last night's reception and exchanged a few words with him, he bubbled over. I could not refuse to listen and I was glad I had, for it was interesting."

"In what way interesting, Sire?"

"Well, these are not the old days when science and mathematics were all the rage. That sort of thing seems to have died down somehow, perhaps because all the discoveries have been made, don't you think? Apparently, however, interesting things can still happen. At least I was told it was interesting."

"By the Minister of Science, Sire?"

"Yes. He said that this Hari Seldon had attended a convention of mathematicians held here in Trantor--they do this every ten years, for some reason--and he said that he had proved that one could foretell the future mathematically."

Demerzel permitted himself a small smile. "Either the Minister of Science, a man of little acumen, is mistaken or the mathematician is. Surely, the matter of foretelling the future is a children's dream of magic."

"Is it, Demerzel? People believe in such things."

"People believe in many things, Sire."

"But they believe in such things. Therefore, it doesn't matter whether the forecast of the future is true or not. If a mathematician should predict a long and happy reign for me, a time of peace and prosperity for the Empire-- Eh, would that not be well?"

"It would be pleasant to hear, certainly, but what would it accomplish, Sire?"

"But surely if people believe this, they would act on that belief. Many a prophecy, by the mere force of its being believed, is transmuted to fact. These are 'self-fulfilling prophecies.' Indeed, now that I think of it, it was you who once explained this to me."

Demerzel said, "I believe I did, Sire." His eyes were watching the Emperor carefully, as though to see how far he might go on his own. "Still, if that be so, one could have any person make the prophecy."

"Not all persons would be equally believed, Demerzel. A mathematician, however, who could back his prophecy with mathematical formulas and terminology, might be understood by no one and yet believed by everyone."

Demerzel said, "As usual, Sire, you make good sense. We live in troubled times and it would be worthwhile to calm them in a way that would require neither money nor military effort--which, in recent history, have done little good and much harm."

"Exactly, Demerzel," said the Emperor with excitement. "Reel in this Hari Seldon. You tell me you have your strings stretching to every part of this turbulent world, even where my forces dare not go. Pull on one of those strings, then, and bring in this mathematician. Let me see him."

"I will do so, Sire," said Demerzel, who had already located Seldon and who made a mental note to commend the Minister of Science for a job well done.


Hari Seldon did not make an impressive appearance at this time. Like the Emperor Cleon I, he was thirty-two years old, but he was only 1.73 meters tall. His face was smooth and cheerful, his hair dark brown, almost black, and his clothing had the unmistakable touch of provinciality about it.

To anyone in later times who knew of Hari Seldon only as a legendary demigod, it would seem almost sacrilegious for him not to have white hair, not to have an old lined face, a quiet smile radiating wisdom, not to be seated in a wheelchair. Even then, in advanced old age, his eyes had been cheerful, however. There was that.

And his eyes were particularly cheerful now, for his paper had been given at the Decennial Convention. It had even aroused some interest in a distant sort of way and old Osterfith had nodded his head at him and had said, "Ingenious, young man. Most ingenious." Which, coming from Osterfith, was satisfactory. Most satisfactory.

But now there was a new--and quite unexpected--development and Seldon wasn't sure whether it should increase his cheer and intensify his satisfaction or not.

He stared at the tall young man in uniform--the Spaceship-and-Sun neatly placed on the left side of his tunic.

"Lieutenant Alban Wellis," said the officer of the Emperor's Guard before putting away his identification. "Will you come with me now, sir?"

Wellis was armed, of course. There were two other Guardsmen waiting outside his door. Seldon knew he had no choice, for all the other's careful politeness, but there was no reason he could not seek information. He said, "To see the Emperor?"

"To be brought to the Palace, sir. That's the extent of my instructions."

"But why?"

"I was not told why, sir. And I have my strict instructions that you must come with me--one way or another."

"But this seems as though I am being arrested. I have done nothing to warrant that."

"Say, rather, that it seems you are being given an escort of honor--if you delay me no further."

Seldon delayed no further. He pressed his lips together, as though to block off further questions, nodded his head, and stepped forward. Even if he was going to meet the Emperor and to receive Imperial commendation, he found no joy in it. He was for the Empire--that is, for the worlds of humanity in peace and union--but he was not for the Emperor.

The lieutenant walked ahead, the other two behind. Seldon smiled at those he passed and managed to look unconcerned. Outside the hotel they climbed into an official ground-car. (Seldon ran his hand over the upholstery; he had never been in anything so ornate.)

They were in one of the wealthiest sections of Trantor. The dome was high enough here to give a sensation of being in the open and one could swear--even one such as Hari Seldon, who had been born and brought up on an open world--that they were in sunlight. You could see no sun and no shadows, but the air was light and fragrant.

And then it passed and the dome curved down and the walls narrowed in and soon they were moving along an enclosed tunnel, marked periodically with the Spaceship-and-Sun and so clearly reserved (Seldon thought) for official vehicles.

A door opened and the ground-car sped through. When the door closed behind them, they were in the open--the true, the real open. There were 250 square kilometers of the only stretch of open land on Trantor and on it stood the Imperial Palace. Seldon would have liked a chance to wander through that open land--not because of the Palace, but because it also contained the Galactic University and, most intriguing of all, the Galactic Library.

And yet, in passing from the enclosed world of Trantor into the open patch of wood and parkland, he had passed into a world in which clouds dimmed the sky and a chill wind ruffled his shirt. He pressed the contact that closed the ground-car's window.

It was a dismal day outside.


Seldon was not at all sure he would meet the Emperor. At best, he would meet some official in the fourth or fifth echelon who would claim to speak for the Emperor.

How many people ever did see the Emperor? In person, rather than on holovision? How many people saw the real, tangible Emperor, an Emperor who never left the Imperial grounds that he, Seldon, was now rolling over.

The number was vanishingly small. Twenty-five million inhabited worlds, each with its cargo of a billion human beings or more--and among all those quadrillions of human beings, how many had, or would ever, lay eyes on the living Emperor. A thousand?

And did anyone care? The Emperor was no more than a symbol of Empire, like the Spaceship-and-Sun but far less pervasive, far less real. It was his soldiers and his officials, crawling everywhere, that now represented an Empire that had become a dead weight upon its people--not the Emperor.

So it was that when Seldon was ushered into a moderately sized, lavishly furnished room and found a young-looking man sitting on the edge of a table in a windowed alcove, one foot on the ground and one swinging over the edge, he found himself wondering that any official should be looking at him in so blandly good-natured a way. He had already experienced the fact, over and over, that government officials--and particularly those in the Imperial service--looked grave at all times, as though bearing the weight of the entire Galaxy on their shoulders. And it seemed the lower in importance they were, the graver and more threatening their expression.

This, then, might be an official so high in the scale, with the sun of power so bright upon him, that he felt no need of countering it with clouds of frowning.

Seldon wasn't sure how impressed he ought to be, but he felt that it would be best to remain silent and let the other speak first.

The official said, "You are Hari Seldon, I believe. The mathematician."

Seldon responded with a minimal "Yes, sir," and waited again.

The young man waved an arm. "It should be 'Sire,' but I hate ceremony. It's all I get and I weary of it. We are alone, so I will pamper myself and eschew ceremony. Sit down, professor."

Halfway through the speech, Seldon realized that he was speaking to the Emperor Cleon, First of that Name, and he felt the wind go out of him. There was a faint resemblance (now that he looked) to the official holograph that appeared constantly in the news, but in that holograph, Cleon was always dressed imposingly, seemed taller, nobler, frozen-faced.

And here he was, the original of the holograph, and somehow he appeared to be quite ordinary.

Seldon did not budge.

The Emperor frowned slightly and, with the habit of command present even in the attempt to abolish it, at least temporarily, said peremptorily, "I said, 'Sit down,' man. That chair. Quickly."

Seldon sat down, quite speechless. He could not even bring himself to say, "Yes, Sire."

Cleon smiled. "That's better. Now we can talk like two fellow human beings, which, after all, is what we are once ceremony is removed. Eh, my man?"

Seldon said cautiously, "If Your Imperial Majesty is content to say so, then it is so."

"Oh, come, why are you so cautious? I want to talk to you on equal terms. It is my pleasure to do so. Humor me."

"Yes, Sire."

"A simple 'Yes,' man. Is there no way I can reach you?"

Cleon stared at Seldon and Seldon thought it was a lively and interested stare.

Finally the Emperor said, "You don't look like a mathematician."

At last, Seldon found himself able to smile. "I don't know what a mathematician is supposed to look like, Your Imp--"

Cleon raised a cautioning hand and Seldon choked off the honorific.

Cleon said, "White-haired, I suppose. Bearded, perhaps. Old, certainly."

"Yet even mathematicians must be young to begin with."

"But they are then without reputation. By the time they obtrude themselves on the notice of the Galaxy, they are as I have described."

"I am without reputation, I'm afraid."

"Yet you spoke at this convention they held here."

"A great many of us did. Some were younger than myself. Few of us were granted any attention whatever."

"Your talk apparently attracted the attention of some of my officials. I am given to understand that you believe it possible to predict the future."

Seldon suddenly felt weary. It seemed as though this misinterpretation of his theory was constantly going to occur. Perhaps he should not have presented his paper.

He said, "Not quite, actually. What I have done is much more limited than that. In many systems, the situation is such that under some conditions chaotic events take place. That means that, given a particular starting point, it is impossible to predict outcomes. This is true even in some quite simple systems, but the more complex a system, the more likely it is to become chaotic. It has always been assumed that anything as complicated as human society would quickly become chaotic and, therefore, unpredictable. What I have done, however, is to show that, in studying human society, it is possible to choose a starting point and to make appropriate assumptions that will suppress the chaos. That will make it possible to predict the future, not in full detail, of course, but in broad sweeps; not with certainty, but with calculable probabilities."

Présentation de l'éditeur

It is the year 12,020 G.E. and Emperor Cleon I sits uneasily on the Imperial throne of Trantor. Here in the great multidomed capital of the Galactic Empire, forty billion people have created a civilization of unimaginable technological and cultural complexity. Yet Cleon knows there are those who would see him fall - those whom he would destroy if only he could read the future.

Hari Seldon has come to Trantor to deliver his paper on psychohistory, his remarkable theory of prediction. Little does the young Outworld mathematician know that he has already sealed his fate and the fate of humanity. For Hari possesses the prophetic power that makes him the most wanted man in the Empire... the man who holds the key to the future - an apocalyptic power to be know forever after as the Foundation.

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  • Format : Format Kindle
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  • Nombre de pages de l'édition imprimée : 530 pages
  • Editeur : Spectra (14 mars 2012)
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  • Langue : Anglais
  • ASIN: B003EY7JH6
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Bien qu'il ai été dans les dernier a avoir été écrit, cet opus résous bien des énigmes que l'ont peut se poser lors de la lecture des foundation. Très bon livre qui surtout lus avant les foundation donne reellement envie de lire la suite
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Un véritable feu d'artifice de couleurs, de portraits, de rebondissements... Difficile d'en parler précisément sans dévoiler l'intrigue, donc précipitez-vous sur Trantor, vous ne le regretterez pas.
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Par lucskywalker le 13 juillet 2014
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bonne introduction au cycle mythique de fondation, mais cela parait un peu terne par rapport à la suite, en particulier H Seldon ne semble pas très inspiré!!
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THis is a brillant prequel to the Foundation series by asimov which clears up a few loose ends. Wonderfully written
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Commentaires client les plus utiles sur (beta) 4.5 étoiles sur 5 299 commentaires
182 internautes sur 182 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 The Fall of the Empire... and the Start of the Foundation, 3-1/2 stars, 403 Pages, Publ 1988 31 mai 2006
Par Antinomian - Publié sur
Format: Poche Achat vérifié
This novel has a subtle beginning. I would take a little to time reading the beginning to absorb Asimov's setting and style here. The science of psychohistory that laid out the Foundation had to start somewhere, and this is where it starts and with Hari Seldon. So there's a lot written of Seldon's early life and a lot about different sections of the Galactic Empire capital planet of Trantor. Seldon is not represented as some sort of superman, but if you've read other books in the Foundation series, as someone to admire, and is seen as a person outside of just psychohistory. Sort of like seeing the famous photograph of Albert Einstein riding a bicycle. And as others in the Empire see the potential power of psychohistory, even before Seldon does, thus begins the race to harness that power. The joy, and the point, in reading this novel is in the knowing the eventual power of psychohistory and thus how it develops. Seldon has to be persuaded to progress his theory of psychohistory by the other interesting characters in the novel. Can you imagine, early in the 20th century, having to go "come on Albert, will you at least *try* to develop the theory of General Relativity".

There are two type of readers that would be potentially interested in reading this book for the first time: those that have read the traditional Foundation series and are wondering if they should continue here with this prequel, and those that haven't read the originals and are wondering if they should start here. For the former, sure with the understanding that Asimov's style will be different 40 years after he wrote the novellas of the original series, and for the former, no, I would start with Asimov's original Foundation trilogy. His original series is almost essential 40's/50's science fiction, and if one doesn't like that series, one is not going to care about the characters and events in Prelude To Foundation.

From the Author's Note and adding Forward The Foundation which was written afterwards (I may have left out a book or two), there are 15 books (a quint-decology?) in Asimov's universe. They are:

1. The Complete Robot (includes every story of I, Robot)

2. The Caves of Steel

3. The Naked Sun

4. The Robots of Dawn

5. Robots and Empire

6. The Currents of Space

7. The Stars, Like Dust--

8. Pebble in the Sky

9. Prelude to Foundation

10. Forward the Foundation

11. Foundation

12. Foundation and Empire

13. Second Foundation

14. Foundation's Edge

15. Foundation and Earth

Books 1 to 5 are Asimov's Robot series, books 6-8 his Empire series, and books 9 to 15 his complete Foundation series. They were initially separate series, but he used books 5, 9, and 10 to encompass them all into one series.
32 internautes sur 33 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 The beginning book of the famous Foundation series. 26 juin 1999
Par R. D. Allison ( - Publié sur
Format: Poche
In 1988, Asimov published a prequel to his famous Foundation series. He also uses this book to continue to tie in other novels that he had already written, most notably all of the robot stories, particularly involving R. Daneel Olivaw and Lije Baley, as well as "Pebble in the Sky" (1950) (in fact, in such a larger scheme, "Prelude to Foundation" follows "Pebble in the Sky" and precedes "Forward the Foundation" (1993)). In this novel, he finally uses Hari Seldon as a main character. A young assistant professor of mathematics, Hari Seldon, travels to the planet Trantor (the governing planet of the galactic empire) to present a paper at a convention on a new field he has begun referred to as psychohistory. In his paper, Seldon suggests that it might be theoretically possible to develop mathematical equations and techniques of analyses to predict, with strong statistical analysis, future events of human history on a broad scale (in which the discipline only is applicable to extremely large numbers of people). Asimov provides some hints that this field might use chaos theory as well, although he never uses that term. Seldon also believes that, while theoretically possible, it isn't practical. There are those, however, who believe that the galactic empire is collapsing and hope to use a developed psychohistory theory to help direct human society. Seldon finds himself running from the Emperor's agents and hiding in various different enclaves throughout the planet Trantor, and thus learning more and more about Trantor (those reviewers who criticize this trek are obviously missing its importance in the greater scheme of the series). He is attempting to find a smaller model of galactic populations that would allow him the ability to develop his theory. There are legends that tens of thousands of years ago, man had lived on only one planet: Earth. He is hoping to find some historical evidence for Earth and, in so doing, he discovers some surprising facts and events. I am probably unusual in that I enjoyed this book the most in the series. Perhaps its because I also live in an academic environment and see many similarities to Hari's problems. Asimov was obviously drawing on his own experiences.
33 internautes sur 37 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 A fascinating starting point 22 mai 2000
Par Kiki De Boeck - Publié sur
Format: Poche
This is the first Foundation-novel I read. After finishing it, I immediately went to the bookstore to buy 10 other Asimovs, which should say enough.. . . The galaxy sketched by Asimov is so colorfull and realistic, one is driven to read the entire book at once. Each department of Trantor has its own characteristics, just like each culture on our tiny 'Aurora'. The problems created by these differences are parallel to 'ours' as well. As I recognised the Big Galactic Problems Asimov adresses in this book in our modern society, I was curious to see the development of the special solution Hari Seldon tried to find for them. You can recognise the scientist in Asimov, when Hari Seldon is asking himself questions about the development of his psychohistory. I was very curious about the answers lined out in the following novels. Furthermore, I was fascinated with the idea of our Earth transformed into a mere legend, and the unexplainable 'Easterns' and 'Westerns' spread into the vast galaxy. Last but not least, the plot was very surprising. Asimov tricked me into some wrong ideas the entire novel. I am reading 'Foundation and Empire' now, and I'm still totally obsessed with it, so I recommend this series to everyone who likes SF-novels as well as social sciences.
13 internautes sur 14 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 Interesting look at Hari Seldon 18 janvier 2000
Par William M. Rand - Publié sur
Format: Poche
If you read Foundation and left wondering more about Hari Seldon, the man, as I did then this is a great book. If you hope that this book will provide some deep insight into psychohistory this is not the book to read. If you have never read the Foundation series before, this would be a fine book to start with. However I think it is a little lacking in the level of richness and detailed plot that the other books have. It is however still a fun book to read.
35 internautes sur 44 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
3.0 étoiles sur 5 Suffering from the one-sequel-too-many syndrome. 26 juin 2001
Par Barry C. Chow - Publié sur
Format: Poche
Like the old friend who doesn't know when to quit the party, this sequel has overstayed its welcome. Producing one-sequel-too-many seems to be an occupational hazard that strikes many writers of popular fiction, but it especially afflicts authors of science fiction. Herbert should have stopped after his first Dune novel. Clarke should never have added any further digits to 2001. And Asimov, who created what is arguably the best trilogy in the genre, should never have produced the dish-watery addendums that have made up each of the sequels to the three masterful originals.
The original Foundation trilogy worked in part because it struck the right balance between exposition and mystique. As the founder of psychohistory (one of the most inventive creative achievements in the SF genre), Hari Seldon may have been no more than a man, but Asimov wisely invested him with an almost mythical allure. This mystique was derived by maintaining a certain distance between the reader and the character, a remoteness that was necessary to sustaining the enormity of the books' setting. In making Seldon a larger than life figure, Asimov produced an archetype: a personification of knowledge; a symbol of intellectual potency; a prophet for the totality of human history. It is unwise to flesh such a figure out too fully. By limiting our knowledge, Asimov frees our imaginations to impart an element of majesty to the archetype that a more detailed exposition would only have destroyed.
In this book, and in each of the subsequent sequels, Asimov makes the mistake of demystifying Seldon. In so doing, he demystifies the universe that he so painstakingly created. We can no longer lose ourselves in the vast historical sweep of a galactic empire. Instead, our attention is diverted from the large drama of its collapse to the small drama of one man's struggle. In losing the mystique, we also lose the wonder.
To be sure, in the hands of a literary genius, stories setting off the life of a single individual against a backdrop of immense historical forces can be very compelling. But Asimov is no Hugo or Tolstoy. As a writer, his strengths are not to be found in his characterizations, his finesse, or in his facility with high drama. Like all great science fiction writers, Asimov's primary strength is his imagination. A galactic empire; a planet-straddling galactic capital; human behaviour reducible to mathematical laws; mental manipulation of emotions; the delicate balance of the human mind; the empathic relationship between the individual and the group; these are the themes that show him in the best light. When he sticks to them, as he does in the original trilogy, he invents a future that is overwhelming in its texture and its scope. When he departs from them, as he does here, the shallowness of his characters doom us to a disappointing stroll through the merely mediocre.
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