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Old 20-03-2013, 21:01   #1
bosque
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Honore de Balzac

It's probably pretentious to say this but Balzac is a blisteringly good writer.

I'm reading his Cousin Bette, gloriously scabrous in its angry (pre-Marxian ?) denunciation of the obscene French bourgeoisie in ugly 1830s Paris, with its ambitious married courtezans without scruple so long as they meet their ends. While off stage are the oppressed working class and France's brutal occupation of Algeria and the exploitation of its natural resources (sounds familiar). We can see how Cousin Bette clearly influenced Dostoyevski's masterly (though badly flawed) The Idiot.

Was The Human Comedy really written by one man ? It is made up of about 90 novel separate novels/stories. We know Balzac collaborated with others on early pre-Human Comedy cycle novels. His published work is at times so varied that I find it hard to believe (say) Old Goriot was written by the same man who wrote Harlot High & Low. And the character Vautrin, so good in Goriot is ruined in the later books by the use of silly melodramatic narratives. I'm not trashing melodrama, it's a valid 19th Century art-form, and used brilliantly by Dostoyevski in his matchless The Possessed (a prophecy of the lunacy wrought by Lenin and Stalin). But when used by Balzac, it seems almost penny-dreadful stuff very unlike the plotting in Balzac's run of masterpieces, all absorbing huge achievements.

I have no French so I have to read him in the many very good translations. Well worth a go if 19th Century novels are your thing, if not - not.

Last edited by bosque; 20-03-2013 at 21:05.
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Old 21-03-2013, 09:18   #2
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Thanks - I'm always on the look out for something new. What would be the best starting point?
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Old 21-03-2013, 09:24   #3
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Quote:
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Thanks - I'm always on the look out for something new. What would be the best starting point?
Old Goriot is a good starting point and thought by many to be the best of his many novels. You will need to be able to sustain reading with at times very few paragraph breaks and very long chapters. I did and found it hugely readable and great fun.
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Old 21-03-2013, 09:36   #4
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Re: Honore de Balzac

Old Goriot is a fantastic read
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Old 21-03-2013, 09:48   #5
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Thanks - Old Goriot it is then!
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