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Honoré de Balzac - book author

Honoré de Balzac was a nineteenth-century French novelist and playwright. His magnum opus was a sequence of almost 100 novels and plays collectively entitled La Comédie humaine, which presents a panorama of French life in the years after the fall of Napoléon Bonaparte in 1815.

Due to his keen observation of fine detail and unfiltered representation of society, Balzac is regarded as one of the founders of realism in European literature. He is renowned for his multi-faceted characters; even his lesser characters are complex, morally ambiguous and fully human. Inanimate objects are imbued with character as well; the city of Paris, a backdrop for much of his writing, takes on many human qualities. His writing influenced many famous authors, including the novelists Marcel Proust, Émile Zola, Charles Dickens, Gustave Flaubert, Henry James and Jack Kerouac, as well as important philosophers such as Friedrich Engels. Many of Balzac's works have been made into films, and they continue to inspire other writers.

An enthusiastic reader and independent thinker as a child, Balzac had trouble adapting himself to the teaching style of his grammar school. His willful nature caused trouble throughout his life, and frustrated his ambitions to succeed in the world of business. When he finished school, Balzac was apprenticed as a legal clerk, but he turned his back on law after wearying of its inhumanity and banal routine. Before and during his career as a writer, he attempted to be a publisher, printer, businessman, critic, and politician. He failed in all of these efforts. La Comédie Humaine reflects his real-life difficulties, and includes scenes from his own experience.

Balzac suffered from health problems throughout his life, possibly due to his intense writing schedule. His relationship with his family was often strained by financial and personal drama, and he lost more than one friend over critical reviews. In 1850, he married Ewelina Hańska, his longtime paramour; he passed away five months later.

Honoré de Balzac is the author of books: Père Goriot, Eugénie Grandet, Lost Illusions, Cousin Bette, Le Colonel Chabert, The Wild Ass's Skin, A Woman Of Thirty, A Harlot High and Low, The Unknown Masterpiece, The Black Sheep

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01
Père Goriot is the tragic story of a father whose obsessive love for his two daughters leads to his financial and personal ruin. Interwoven with this theme is that of the impoverished young aristocrat, Rastignac, who came to Paris from the provinces to hopefully make his fortune. He befriends Goriot and becomes involved with the daughters. The story is set against the background of a whole society driven by social ambition and lust for wealth.
02
"Who is going to marry Eugenie Grandet?"

This is the question that fills the minds of the inhabitants of Saumur, the setting for Eugenie Grandet (1833), one of the earliest and most famous novels in Balzac's Comedie humaine. The Grandet household, oppressed by the exacting miserliness of Grandet himself, is jerked violently out of routine by the sudden arrival of Eugenie's cousin Charles, recently orphaned and penniless. Eugenie's emotional awakening, stimulated by her love for her cousin, brings her into direct conflict with her father, whose cunning and financial success are matched against her determination to rebel.

Eugenie's moving story is set against the backdrop of provincial oppression, the vicissitudes of the wine trade, and the workings of the financial system in the aftermath of the French Revolution. It is both a poignant portrayal of private life and a vigorous fictional document of its age.
03
Handsome would-be poet Lucien Chardon is poor and naive, 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 Comedie humaine, Balzac's panoramic social and moral history of his times.
04
Poor, plain spinster Bette is compelled to survive on the condescending patronage of her socially superior relatives in Paris: her beautiful, saintly cousin Adeline, the philandering Baron Hulot and their daughter Hortense. Already deeply resentful of their wealth, when Bette learns that the man she is in love with plans to marry Hortense, she becomes consumed by the desire to exact her revenge and dedicates herself to the destruction of the Hulot family, plotting their ruin with patient, silent malice.

Cousin Bette is a gripping tale of violent jealousy, sexual passion and treachery, and a brilliant portrayal of the grasping, bourgeois society of 1840's Paris. The culmination of the Comedie humaine, Balzac's epic chronicle of his times, it is one of his greatest triumphs as a novelist.
05
Le Colonel Chabert est supposé avoir été tué sur le champ d'honneur dans l'une des batailles de Napoléon. Laissé pour mort sur ​​le champ de bataille d'Eylau et ayant perdu sa mémoire, il a passé un an dans un asile. Le roman commence quand il revient à Paris, à la vie qu'il avait laisse derrière lui, seulement pour découvrir que, en son absence, sa vie - sa famille, sa société, son identité - a changé. Napoléon est déposée, l'aristocratie est revenu au pouvoir, comme si la révolution ne s'était jamais produit. Sa femme, croyant qu'il était mort, s'est remariée avec un aristocrate. Horrifié car elle prétend qu'elle ne le reconnaît pas, et rendu malade par une société qui ne reconnaît pas ses mérites antérieurs, Chabert fait la promesse de regagner son argent et sa réputation.
06
The Wild Ass's Skin is Honoré de Balzac's 1831 novel that tells the story of a young man, Raphaël de Valentin, who discovers a piece of shagreen, in this case a rough untanned piece of a wild ass's skin, which has the magical property of granting wishes. However the fulfillment of the wisher's desire comes at a cost, after each wish the skin shrinks a little bit and consumes the physical energy of the wisher. "The Wild Ass's Skin" is at once both a work of incredible realism, in the descriptions of Parisian life and culture at the time, and also a work of supernatural fantasy, in the desires that are fulfilled by the wild ass's skin. Balzac uses this fantastical device masterfully to depict the complexity of the human nature in civilized society.
07
Our heroine Julie is attending with her ailing father one of Napoleon’s reviews of his troops. It is after the debacle in Russia, but the Old Guard still knows how to put on a show. The lovely young girl is dazzled by Colonel Victor d’Aiglemont, a dashing young adjutant who gallops by. The father notices Julie’s fascination and shakes his head anxiously, knowing that the young man is unworthy of her.
08
Finance, fashionable society, and the intrigues of the underworld and the police system form the heart of this powerful novel, which introduces the satanic genius Vautrin, one of the greatest villains in world literature.
09
One of Honore de Balzac's most celebrated tales, "The Unknown Masterpiece" is the story of a painter who, depending on one's perspective, is either an abject failure or a transcendental genius--or both. The story, which has served as an inspiration to artists as various as Cezanne, Henry James, Picasso, and New Wave director Jacques Rivette, is, in critic Dore Ashton's words, a "fable of modern art." Published here in a new translation by poet Richard Howard, "The Unknown Masterpiece" appears, as Balzac intended, with "Gambara," a grotesque and tragic novella about a musician undone by his dreams.

Honoré De Balzac (1799-1850) is generally credited as the inventor of the modern realistic novel. In more than ninety novels, he set forth French society and life as he saw it. He created a cast of over two thousand individual and identifiable characters, some of whom reappear in different novels. He organized his works into his masterpiece, La Comedie Humaine,which was the final result of his attempt to grasp the whole of society and experience into one varied but unified work.

Richard Howard was born in Cleveland in 1929. He is the author of fourteen volumes of poetry and has published more than one hundred fifty translations from the French, including works by Gide, Stendhal, de Beauvoir, Baudelaire, and de Gaulle. Howard received a National Book Award for his translation of Fleurs du mal and a Pulitzer Prize for Untitled Subjects, a collection of poetry.
10
Formerly an aide-de-camp to Napoleon but now without prospects, Phillippe Bridau and his younger brother Joseph, a shiftless artist, become entangled in a struggle to recover the family inheritance in a world where "to be without money is to be without power."