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Honoré de Balzac
Tours 20 May 1799 - Paris 18 Aug. 1850 • French novelist




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Balzac ranks among the great masters of the novel. Of a bourgeois family, he himself later added the 'de' to his name. Neglected in childhood, he was sent to a grammar school at Tours and later to a boarding school at Vendôme, where he was a dull student but a voracious reader. In 1816 he began studying law at the Sorbonne, but after receiving his license in 1819 he decided to abandon law for literature. Half starving in a Paris garret, Balzac began writing sensational novels to order, publishing them under a pseudonym. Throughout his life he worked with feverish activity, sleeping a few hours in the evening and writing from midnight until noon or afternoon of the next day. He was ridden with debts, which were increased rather than relieved by his business ventures. Balzac’s first success, Les Chouans (1829, first published as 'Le Dernier Chouan'), was followed by La Peau de chagrin (1831). In the next 20 years he produced the vast collection of novels and short stories called La Comédie humaine. This, his greatest work, is a reproduction of the French society of his time, picturing in precise detail more than 2,000 characters from every class and every profession. The chief novels in La Comédie humaine are Louis Lambert (1832), Eugénie Grandet (1833), La Recherche de l’absolu (1834), Le Pere Goriot (1835), Les Illusions perdues (1837), Cesar Birotteau (1837), La Cousine Bette (1847), and Le Cousin Pons (1847). Outweighing Balzac’s faults – his lack of literary style, his moralizing, his tendency toward melodrama – are his originality, his great powers of observation, and his vivid imagination. His short stories include some of the best in the language, but his attempts at drama failed. Though an unattractive, awkward man, Balzac formed several famous liaisons. Only a few months before his death he married the Polish Countess Evelina Hanska, with whom he had conducted a romantic correspondence for 18 years.
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BOOKS BY HONORé DE BALZAC:

Eugénie Grandet
1833
One of the the earliest and most famous novels in Balzac's Comedie Humaine. Eugénie's emotional awakening brings her into direct conflict with her father, whose cunning and financial success are matched against her determination to rebel.
'La Comédie Humaine'
1830-1850
Multi-volume collection of interlinked novels and stories (nearly 100!) depicting French society in the period of the Restoration and the July Monarchy 1815-1848.

Old Goriot
1834
Monsieur Goriot is one of a select group of lodgers at Madame Vanquer's Parisian boarding house. At first his wealth inspires respect, but as his circumstances are reduced he becomes shunned and soon his only remaining visitors are two beautiful, mysterious young women.
Cousin Bette
1847
The story of the Hulot family. Risen to eminence under Napoleon 1, their aristocratic values leave them bewildered and vulnerable in the money-ridden burgeois Paris of the 1840s. It is also the story of Bette herself, the poor relation whose patient malice finally leads to their demise.
Cousin Pons
1847

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