The Centenarian: Or, The Two Beringhelds

Overview

Written for serial publication in 1822 under the pseudonym Horace de Saint-Aubin, this Faustian tale by Balzac has never before been available in English. More than a long-lost curiosity by an important writer, The Centenarian is also a seminal work of early science fiction, crucial to understanding both the development of the genre and the craft of this great author. Beringheld, a 400-year-old “mad scientist,” discovered the fluid necessary to human life, but he must extract the vital fluid of others to enlarge ...

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Overview

Written for serial publication in 1822 under the pseudonym Horace de Saint-Aubin, this Faustian tale by Balzac has never before been available in English. More than a long-lost curiosity by an important writer, The Centenarian is also a seminal work of early science fiction, crucial to understanding both the development of the genre and the craft of this great author. Beringheld, a 400-year-old “mad scientist,” discovered the fluid necessary to human life, but he must extract the vital fluid of others to enlarge his own powers. Balzac intertwines the mythic and the modern in ways that would prove enormously influential to science fiction. Like Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, this novel bridges the gap that separates alchemy and magic from the practice and problems of science. It is also crucial to an understanding of Balzac’s oeuvre, as it anticipates significant themes of power, knowledge, and secrecy. This Wesleyan edition features notes, appendices, and a critical introduction.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"An afterword offers an insightful discussion of the novel as an adumbration of many masterpieces and characters in other of Balzac's acknowledged creations. Perhaps most interesting, the translators make the case that The Centenarian lays the philosophical foundation of Balzac's 'science' (including Mesmer), which brought a number of his geniuses to failure. All of this, along with the excellent translation (with its appropriate footnotes), makes this an enchanting and worthwhile publication. Highly recommended."—Choice

"With the publication of the first English translation of Balzac's disavowed 1822 novel, the Wesleyan 'Early Classics of Science Fiction' series continues to rewrite the history of the genre. The work is...undeniably fascinating both as a luminal science-fiction text occupying the mostly uncharted cusp between supernatural gothicism and 19th-century science and, with a cliff-hanger ending in the catacombs of Paris, as early hack-work by the writer soon to be the leading example of French social realism. ...The translation also includes helpful notes and an afterword that intriguingly suggests how this early novel may presage some of Balzac's later characters and themes."—Library Journal website

“The Centenarian is remarkable in its exploration of then-new scientific concepts and then-current themes (including those common to Gothic novels), and for its anticipation of elements of future SF as well.”—INFODAD.COM

Publishers Weekly
This excellent, scholarly edition provides the first English translation of an obscure, early Balzac work (1822). A mix of gothic elements, romance and SF, this disjointed novel is a mishmash of stories set in different time frames, loosely linked by the two characters of the title-the Centenarian father and his illegitimate son Tullius, or General Beringheld. The monstrous, immortal father-who sustains his powers by extracting the life-essence from young people-is the novel's central figure, but Tullius's diaries form the main story. Born centuries after his father was born, Tullius, who later grows up to become a much-decorated general in Napoleon's army, searches for the Centenarian, a quest punctuated with love stories, including that of Tullius and the innocent Marianine. This improbable tale reveals a writer seeking a voice and will appeal to scholarly readers interested in the early history of science fiction and its origins in 19th-century French popular literature. (July) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780819567970
  • Publisher: Wesleyan University Press
  • Publication date: 7/10/2006
  • Series: Early Classics of Science Fiction
  • Edition description: ANN
  • Pages: 372
  • Product dimensions: 5.80 (w) x 8.60 (h) x 1.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Honoré de Balzac (1799-1850) is widely considered one of the greatest French novelists of the 19th century. His best-known works include Lost Illusions, Cousin Bette, and Old Goriot. Danièle Chatelain is professor of French, University of Redlands, and author of Perceiving and Telling: A Study of Iterative Discourse (1998). George Slusser is professor of comparative literature and curator of the Eaton Collection at the University of California, Riverside. Chatelain and Slusser co-edited the essay collection Transformations of Utopia: Changing Views of the Perfect Society (1999), and live in Highland, California.

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Table of Contents

Introduction
Translator's Notes
Balzac's Centenarian and French Science Fiction
THE CENTENARIAN, or The Two Beringhelds
Foreword
Chapters One through Twenty-Nine
First Editor's Note
Conclusion
Afterword
Notes
About the Author and the Editors

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