Balzac's Contes Drolatiques, published in three installments in the 1830s, offers a lively and lusty portrait of sixteenth-century French life and manners. These thirty stories in the tradition of Boccaccio, Chaucer, and Rabelais were claimed by the author to have originated in manuscripts from the abbeys of Touraine. Abounding in episodes of good-humored licentiousness, the tales scandalized Balzac's contemporaries and continue to delight modern readers. French novelist and playwright Honoré de Balzac (1799–1850) was a founder of realism in European literature. An inspiration to Proust, Dickens, Faulkner, Dostoyevsky, and countless others, Balzac wrote works that were hailed for their multifaceted characters and exquisite attention to detail. This edition's excellent translation was the first to make Contes Drolatiques available to English-speaking readers.
Edith Wharton's "Madame de Treymes" is a remarkable example of the form. It is the story of the tactical defeat but moral victory of an honest and upstanding American in his struggle to win a wife from a tightly united but feudally minded French aristocratic family. He loses, but they cheat. . . . In a masterpiece of brevity, Wharton dramatizes the contrast between the two opposing forces: the simple and proper old brownstone New York, low in style but high in principle, and the achingly beautiful but decadent Saint-Germain district of Paris. The issue is seamlessly joined.
The crown jewel in a remarkable literary career, Cousin Bette is regarded by many critics to be Balzac's last great work before his death in 1850. A fine example of European realist fiction, the story recounts the attempt of a disgruntled housewife to bring about the misery and destruction of her entire extended family. Fans of Tolstoy's War and Peace will enjoy Cousin Bette.
Fusing romance and realism in a unique, gripping style, Balzac wrote more than 90 novels and tales in which he endowed the lives of his seemingly ordinary characters with a highly melodramatic gloss. This choice collection presents readers with original translations of five of the great French writer's most acclaimed stories. 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.
"The Purse" is a short story that makes up part of Honore de Balzac's epic cycle The Human Comedy. Daydreaming while working on a ladder, the painter Hippolyte Schinner accidentally falls and sustains an injury. Two neighbors -- a mother and daughter -- come to his aid, and he falls in love at first sight with the beautiful young woman, Adelaide. But over time, he begins to notice that the veneer of aristocratic gentility that the two project is not what it appears.
Handsome would-be poet Lucien Chardon is poor and naïve, but highly ambitious. Failing to make his name in his dull provincial hometown, he is taken up by a patroness, the captivating married woman Madame de Bargeton, and prepares to forge his way in the glamorous beau monde of Paris. But Lucien has entered a world far more dangerous than he realized, as Madame de Bargeton's reputation becomes compromised and the fickle, venomous denizens of the courts and salons conspire to keep him out of their ranks. Lucien eventually learns that, wherever he goes, talent counts for nothing in comparison to money, intrigue and unscrupulousness. Lost Illusions is one of the greatest novels in the rich procession of the Comédie humaine, Balzac's panoramic social and moral history of his times.
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