A kind-hearted and idealistic youth enters the grasping Parisian society of the 1820s, where his education in the realities and costs of city life begin among the residents of a shabby but respectable boardinghouse. 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. Acclaimed by critic Leslie Stephen as "the modern King Lear," it offers a timeless view of the tragedies behind the prosaic details of everyday life. Translated by Ellen Marriage.
Balzac once referred to art as "nature concentrated." And nowhere did his own art achieve such a rarefied state as in Colonel Chabert - one of the celebrated "Scenes from Private Life" from La Comedie Humaine. Chabert is among Balzac's most tragic heroes: a decorated Napoleonic War veteran believed to have been killed in battle. Severely disfigured, the Colonel, returns to Paris as if risen from the grave. There he finds his wife remarried, his pension gone, and his name linked nostalgically to the faded days of Empire. Employing a young lawyer named Derville, Chabert finds an ally to negotiate the labyrinthine system of Restoration justice; but as Derville plays the game of law and intrigue, we discover why Balzac himself thought that most post-Revolutionary politics were plagued with corruption. Chabert, despite his dignity, his history, his status as a fallen warrior, is no match for a society driven by the wiles of lawyers.
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.
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.
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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