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Many people (among them Henry James) have considered Honoré de Balzac to be the greatest of all novelists. Eugénie Grandet, his spare, classical story of a girl whose life is blighted by her father’s hysterical greed, goes a long way to justifying that opinion. One of the most magnificent of his tales of early nineteenth-century French provincial life, this novel is the work of a writer on whom nothing was lost, and who represents most fully the ability of the human animal to understand and illuminate its own condition.
In a gloomy house in provincial Saumur, the miser Grandet lives with his wife and daughter, Eugénie, whose lives are stifled and overshadowed by his obsession with gold. Guarding his piles of glittering treasures and his only child equally closely, he will let no one near them. But when the arrival of her handsome cousin, Charles, awakens Eugénie’s own desires, her passion brings her into a violent collision with her father that results in tragedy for all.
Père Goriot — one of the outstanding novels in The Human Comedy, Balzac's panoramic study of Parisian life — features richly detailed settings, a skillfully related plot, and a vibrant cast of characters. Young Rastignac's acquaintance with the elderly widower Goriot, a formerly wealthy merchant impoverished by the demands of his fashionable daughters, lies at the heart of this story of love and greed. Acclaimed by critic Leslie Stephen as "the modern King Lear," Père Goriot offers a timeless view of the tragedies behind the prosaic details of everyday life.
In "The Unknown Masterpiece," a tale much admired by Cézanne and Picasso, a painter becomes obsessed with his search for utter perfection. In its masterly examination of the conflict between an artist's commitment to his work and his obligations to others, the story involves a theme particularly close to Balzac's heart. Two of the other stories explore the consequences of the quest for worldly wealth. Written in 1830 but set in France's Revolutionary period, "An Episode During the Terror" moves from a suspenseful beginning to a solemn tableau that contrasts material poverty with spiritual riches; in "Facino Cane" an old and destitute blind man recounts how his passion for gold led to his fall from grace. Included also are "The Revolutionary Conscript" and "A Passion in the Desert."
In their bold, distinctive portraits of French society during the 19th century, these tales offer a perfect introduction for readers unfamiliar with Balzac's work. This modestly priced edition will also appeal to those already acquainted with the author's much-imitated but unsurpassed style.
This vivid portrait of the underbelly of nineteenth-century Paris, exuberantly rendered by Jordan Stump, is the first major translation in more than a century of Balzac’s forgotten masterpiece L’Envers de l’histoire contemporaine. Featuring an illuminating Introduction by Adam Gopnik, this original Modern Library edition also includes explanatory notes.
From the Hardcover edition.
This convenient dual-language volume includes six of Balzac's most highly regarded short stories: "An Episode During the Terror," a deftly told tale contrasting material poverty with spiritual riches; "A Passion in the Desert," inspired by Balzac's interest in the Near East and his fascination with Napoleon; "The Revolutionary Conscript," a critique of provincial life; "The Forsaken Woman," an intriguing study of female psychology and a how-to seduction manual; "The Unknown Masterpiece," which focuses on the conflict between an artist's commitment to his work and his relationship with the woman who loves him; and "Facino Cane," a tale of a destitute blind man's dreams of restoring his former wealth and power.
Stanley Appelbaum has provided excellent, line-for-line English translations of the text, as well as an informative introduction and notes related to each story. This superb selection of tales by one of the world's great writers of fiction is sure to delight students and devotees of French language and literature.
Books shape our lives and transform the way we see ourselves and each other. The best books are timeless and continue to be relevant generation after generation. Vintage Classics asked the winners of The Orange Prize for Fiction which books they would pass onto the next generation and why. Rose Tremain chose Eugénie Grandet.
Monsieur Grandet is a very rich man whose chief care is his gold. He runs his household with exacting miserly attention and his wife and daughter suffer a Spartan existence. On the evening of his daughter Eugénie's twenty third birthday his foppish nephew Charles suddenly arrives from Paris. Eugénie has never known passion. Now, in an instant, she falls in love and her life is changed forever. Monsieur Grandet will not countenance his daughter's marriage to her penniless cousin and Eugénie's determination to follow her heart leads her into direct conflict with her father.
'This brilliant but devastatingly sad novel moved me so much, I began it again the moment I got to the end' Rose Tremain.
In 1829, however, both sides of the road were clear, and the master of the post route, a tall, stout man about sixty years of age, sitting one fine autumn morning at the highest part of the bridge, could take in at a glance the whole of what is called in his business a "ruban de queue." The month of September was displaying its treasures; the atmosphere glowed above the grass and the pebbles; no cloud dimmed the blue of the sky, the purity of which in all parts, even close to the horizon, showed the extreme rarefaction of the air. So Minoret-Levrault (for that was the post master's name) was obliged to shade his eyes with one hand to keep them from being dazzled. With the air of a man who was tired of waiting, he looked first to the charming meadows which lay to the right of the road where the aftermath was springing up, then to the hill-slopes covered with copses which extend, on the left, from Nemours to Bouron. He could hear in the valley of the Loing, where the sounds on the road were echoed back from the hills, the trot of his own horses and the crack of his postilion's whip.