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. Read more...
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."
- ISBN-13: 9781590176641
- ISBN-10: 1590176642
- Publisher: New York Review of Books
- Publish Date: January 2014
- Page Count: 428
- Dimensions: 8 x 5.19 x 0.97 inches
- Shipping Weight: 0.99 pounds
Series: New York Review Books Classics
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2013-12-02
- Reviewer: Staff
As Peter Brooks observes in his marvelous introduction to this volume, reading Balzac is almost always thought of as requiring time—“of a length for evenings without television or smartphones.” Yet, amongst the exhaustive tales that make up his panoptic portrait of 19th-century France are shorter works that distill and exemplify Balzac’s great gifts. Collected here are nine supremely satisfying tales from the father of realism, newly translated for the first time in a century. Amongst them is the famous “Serrasine,” which unravels an unworldly young sculptor’s infatuation with an opera star. “Gobseck” is the intricate examination of Paris’s preeminent usurer, which reads as an allegory of the accelerating greed in the capitalism of Balzac’s time. Included also are lesser known works such as “A Passion in the Desert,” a shimmering mirage of a tale that tells of a lost soldier’s exotic encounter. Or “Adieu,” a proto-postmodern tale in which a soldier meticulously brings a memory to life to win back his lover from madness. These tales provide the reader a healthy introduction to Balzac’s famous hyperbole, his melodrama, and his extended descriptions and explanations where nothing goes unsaid. We don’t read Balzac for his refined style; rather, his genius lies in the sheer ambition of his reach, the vastness of his grasp. (Feb.)