Archive for January 19th, 2011

HONORÉ DE BALZAC (1799 – 1850) French

Universally recognised as a genius in the novel, converted what had been styled ‘Romance’ into a convincing record of human experience. His vast life work was arranged under the title ‘La Comédie Humaine’ in which he claimed at once to be a philosopher explaining man to himself, a historian or secretary of society, and a sociologist and psychologist. Balzac first became a lawyer’s clerk, did some hack writing which he called ‘Literary Pigswill’ and was unsuccessful in his foray into business and got into deep debts. He first achieved a measure of success as a writer in 1829 with ‘Les Chouans’ a historical novel and ‘La Physiologie du Marriage’ (which dealt with the theme of cuckoldry). His prodigious literary output over the next 20 years included some 40 novels, many of them masterpieces.
By 1834 he had decided to group his works so that it should form one whole in three general categories – Etudes Analytiques, dealing with the principles governing human life and society; Etudes Philosophyques, revealing the causes determining human action; and the Etudes Moeurs, showing the effect of these causes. These were divided into six kinds of scenes describing private, provincial, Parisian, political, military and country life. By 1840 he had decided to call the whole by the title ‘La Comédie Humaine’. The list of his loves is long and many of the women in his life were important to his work. In 1832 he was corresponding with a Polish countess, Eveline Hanska, and they agreed to marry after her husband’s death. Though her husband died in 1841 the marriage did not take place until 1850 by which time Balzac was mortally ill. He died five months later.

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