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About Honoré de Balzac
Owing to his keen observation of detail and unfiltered representation of society, Balzac is regarded as one of the founders of realism in European literature. He is renowned for his multi-faceted characters; even his lesser characters are complex, morally ambiguous and fully human. Inanimate objects are imbued with character as well; the city of Paris, a backdrop for much of his writing, takes on many human qualities. His writing influenced many famous writers, including the novelists Émile Zola, Charles Dickens, Gustave Flaubert, Jack Kerouac and Henry James, as well as important philosophers such as Friedrich Engels. Many of Balzac's works have been made into films, and they continue to inspire other writers.
An enthusiastic reader and independent thinker as a child, Balzac had trouble adapting to the teaching style of his grammar school. His willful nature caused trouble throughout his life and frustrated his ambitions to succeed in the world of business. When he finished school, Balzac was apprenticed in a law office, but he turned his back on the study of law after wearying of its inhumanity and banal routine. Before and during his career as a writer, he attempted to be a publisher, printer, businessman, critic, and politician; he failed in all of these efforts. La Comédie Humaine reflects his real-life difficulties, and includes scenes from his own experience.
Balzac suffered from health problems throughout his life, possibly due to his intense writing schedule. His relationship with his family was often strained by financial and personal drama, and he lost more than one friend over critical reviews. In 1850, Balzac married Ewelina Hańska, a Polish aristocrat and his longtime love; he died in Paris five months later.
Bio from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Photo by Louis-Auguste Bisson [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.
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* Beautifully illustrated with images relating to Balzac's life and works
* Concise introductions to the novels and other works
* The COMPLETE ‘La Comédie humaine’ in English translation
* The whole series is precisely organised into Balzac's plan
* Includes Balzac’s introduction AVANT-PROPOS
* Images of how the books were first printed, giving your eReader a taste of the original texts
* Famous works such as FATHER GORIOT, COUSIN BETTY, THE MAGIC SKIN and many more are illustrated with their original artwork
* Balzac’s five plays
* Criticism section, with seven essays by writers such as Henry James and Leslie Stephen, evaluating Balzac’s contribution to literature
* Features five biographies - discover in depth Balzac's literary life!
* Scholarly ordering of texts into chronological order and literary genres
* Special CHARACTERS resource, with information on all members of the cast of ‘La Comédie humaine’, with references to the novels and stories they appear in
THE HUMAN COMEDY
THE HISTORY OF ‘LA COMÉDIE HUMAINE’
STUDIES OF MANNERS IN THE 19TH CENTURY
Scenes from Private Life
AT THE SIGN OF THE CAT AND RACKET
THE BALL AT SCEAUX
LETTERS OF TWO BRIDES
A START IN LIFE
A SECOND HOME
STUDY OF A WOMAN
THE IMAGINARY MISTRESS
A DAUGHTER OF EVE
THE GRAND BRETECHE
THE DESERTED WOMAN
A WOMAN OF THIRTY
THE ATHEIST’S MASS
THE COMMISSION IN LUNACY
THE MARRIAGE CONTRACT
ANOTHER STUDY OF WOMAN
Scenes from Provincial Life
THE VICAR OF TOURS
THE TWO BROTHERS
Parisians in the Country
THE ILLUSTRIOUS GAUDISSART
THE MUSE OF THE DEPARTMENT
The Jealousies of a Country Town
THE OLD MAID
THE COLLECTION OF ANTIQUITIES
A DISTINGUISHED PROVINCIAL AT PARIS
EVE AND DAVID
Scenes from Parisian Life
THE DUCHESSE DE LANGEAIS
GIRL WITH THE GOLDEN EYES
RISE AND FALL OF CÉSAR BIROTTEAU
THE FIRM OF NUCINGEN
Scenes from a Courtesan’s Life
ESTHER HAPPY: HOW A COURTESAN CAN LOVE
WHAT LOVE COSTS AN OLD MAN
THE END OF EVIL WAYS
VAUTRIN’S LAST AVATAR
SECRETS OF THE PRINCESSE DE CADIGNAN
The Poor Relations
A MAN OF BUSINESS
A PRINCE OF BOHEMIA
THE LESSER BOURGEOISIE
The Seamy Side of History
MADAME DE LA CHANTERIE
Scenes from Political Life
AN EPISODE UNDER THE TERROR
AN HISTORICAL MYSTERY
The Deputy of Arcis
MONSIEUR DE SALLENAUVE
‘The Unknown Masterpiece’ is Honoré de Balzac’s short story first published in 1831.
Characters from every corner of society and all walks of life—lords and ladies, businessmen and military men, poor clerks, unforgiving moneylenders, aspiring politicians, artists, actresses, swindlers, misers, parasites, sexual adventurers, crackpots, and more—move through the pages of The Human Comedy, Balzac’s multivolume magnum opus, an interlinked chronicle of modernity in all its splendor and squalor. The Human Comedy includes the great roomy novels that have exercised such a sway over Balzac’s many literary inheritors, from Dostoyevsky and Henry James to Marcel Proust; it also contains an array of short fictions in which Balzac is at his most concentrated and forceful. Nine of these, all newly translated, appear in this volume, and together they provide an unequaled overview of a great writer’s obsessions and art. Here are “The Duchesse de Langeais,” “A Passion in the Desert,” and “Sarrasine”; tales of madness, illicit passion, ill-gotten gains, and crime. What unifies them, Peter Brooks points out in his introduction, is an incomparable storyteller’s fascination with the power of storytelling, while throughout we also detect what Proust so admired: the “mysterious circulation of blood and desire.”
The main character, Desplein is a successful surgeon and an atheist. His former assistant and friend is Doctor Horace Bianchon. One day Bianchon sees Desplein going into the Saint-Sulpice church, and follows him. He sees Desplein alone attending a mass. After Desplein departs, Bianchon questions the priest and finds that Desplein attends a mass at the church four times a year which he himself pays for.
A few years later, Bianchon again sees Desplein going into Saint-Sulpice for the regular mass. This time he questions Desplein about it. Desplein explains that the mass is in memory of a friend of his, a water carrier named Bourgeat. When Desplein was a poor medical student, Bourgeat was his neighbour in the same building. The landlord evicted both of them on the same day. They agreed to look for a new place together. They eventually found two cheap rooms in the attic of another building. From then on, Bourgeat became a father figure to Desplein. He helped to pay for Desplein's education, and did menial tasks like cutting the wood. After Desplein became successful, he bought Bourgeat a horse and cart for his water carrying work.
After Bourgeat's death, and knowing that Bourgeat was a devout Catholic, Desplein decided to have four masses a year for Bourgeat at Saint-Sulpice church.
Rastignac, who moved to Paris from the south of France, becomes attracted to the upper class and he is willing to use any means to better his situation.
Edition enrichie (introduction, notes, dossier de l'oeuvre, chronologie et bibliographie)
« J’ai trouvé une idée merveilleuse. Je serai un homme de génie », s’exclame Balzac au moment où il écrit Le Père Goriot. Il venait d’imaginer La Comédie humaine, ce cycle romanesque dans lequel les mêmes personnages réapparaissent d’un roman à l’autre. Il venait de créer un monde, le monde balzacien.
Les plus beaux romans, dit André Maurois, sont des romans d’apprentissage. Les illusions de la jeunesse s’y heurtent au monde féroce et pourtant plein de délices. L’ amour devient coquetterie, la vertu s’achète, l’argent ruine tout. Seule la passion balzacienne, ici l’amour paternel, résiste, dévorante et implacable. Le Père Goriot est la clef de voûte d’une œuvre géniale.
Edition de Stéphane Vachon.