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.
The longest, without exception, of Balzac's books, and one which contains hardly any passage that is not very nearly of his best, Illusions Perdues suffers, I think, a little in point of composition from the mixture of the Angouleme scenes of its first and third parts with the purely Parisian interest of Un Grand Homme de Province. It is hardly possible to exaggerate the gain in distinctness and lucidity of arrangement derived from putting Les Deux Poetes and Eve et David (a much better title than that which has been preferred in the Edition Definitive) together in one volume, and reserving the greatness and decadence of Lucien de Rubempre for another. It is distinctly awkward that this should be divided, as it is itself an enormous episode, a sort of Herodotean parenthesis, rather than an integral part of the story. And, as a matter of fact, it joins on much more to the Splendeurs et Miseres des Courtisanes than to its actual companions. In fact, it is an instance of the somewhat haphazard and arbitrary way in which the actual division of the Comedie has worked, that it should, dealing as it does wholly and solely with Parisian life, be put in the Scenes de la Vie de Province, and should be separated from its natural conclusion not merely as a matter of volumes, but as a matter of divisions. In making the arrangement, however, it is necessary to remember Balzac's own scheme, especially as the connection of the three parts in other ways is too close to permit the wrenching of them asunder altogether and finally. This caution given, all that is necessary can be done by devoting the first part of the introduction entirely to the first and third or Angouleme parts, and by consecrating the latter part to the egregious Lucien by himself.
There are houses in certain provincial towns whose aspect inspires melancholy, akin to that called forth by sombre cloisters, dreary moorlands, or the desolation of ruins. Within these houses there is, perhaps, the silence of the cloister, the barrenness of moors, the skeleton of ruins; life and movement are so stagnant there that a stranger might think them uninhabited, were it not that he encounters suddenly the pale, cold glance of a motionless person, whose half-monastic face peers beyond the window-casing at the sound of an unaccustomed step. Such elements of sadness formed the physiognomy, as it were, of a dwelling-house in Saumur which stands at the end of the steep street leading to the chateau in the upper part of the town. This street—now little frequented, hot in summer, cold in winter, dark in certain sections—is remarkable for the resonance of its little pebbly pavement, always clean and dry, for the narrowness of its tortuous road-way, for the peaceful stillness of its houses, which belong to the Old town and are over-topped by the ramparts. Houses three centuries old are still solid, though built of wood, and their divers aspects add to the originality which commends this portion of Saumur to the attention of artists and antiquaries.
En 1845, Balzac décida de réunir toute son oeuvre sous le titre: La Comédie Humaine, titre qu'il emprunta peut-être à Vigny... En 1845, quatre-vingt-sept ouvrages étaient finis sur quatre-vingt-onze, et Balzac croyait bien achever ce qui restait en cours d'exécution. Lorsqu'il mourut, on retrouva encore cinquante projets et ébauches plus ou moins avancés. Vous ne figurez pas ce que c'est que La Comédie Humaine; c'est plus vaste littérairement parlant que la cathédrale de Bourges architecturalement, écrit-il à Mme Carreaud. Dans l'Avant-Propos de la gigantesque édition, Balzac définit son oeuvre: La Comédie Humaine est la peinture de la société.
1832. La Comédie humaine - Études de moeurs. Premier livre, Scènes de la vie privée - Tome I. Premier volume de l'édition Furne 1842 Hippolyte Schinner, jeune artiste peintre, fait une chute dans son atelier. Il se réveille entouré de ses deux voisines, madame de Rouville et sa fille, Adélaïde. Devenu habitué de leur maison, Hippolyte découvre leur vie de misère et rencontre d'étonnants personnages qui, tous les soirs, viennent perdre de l'argent au jeu. Un soir, Hippolyte oublie sa bourse. Adélaïde dit ne pas l'avoir trouvé, il doute de la moralité de ses deux voisines... Cette nouvelle de Balzac est une peinture de personnages vivant en huis-clos, pour lesquels le temps semble s'être arrêté, mais également la peinture délicate d'un amour naissant, avec ses moments de joie, et de doute.
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