The son of a civil servant, Honoré de Balzac was born in 1799 in Tours, France. After attending boarding school in Vendôme, he gravitated to Paris where he worked as a legal clerk and a hack writer, using various pseudonyms, often in collaboration with other writers. Balzac turned exclusively to fiction at the age of thirty and went on to write a large number of novels and short stories set amid turbulent nineteenth-century France. He entitled his collective works The Human Comedy. Along with Victor Hugo and Dumas père andfils, Balzac was one of the pillars of French romantic literature. He died in 1850, shortly after his marriage to the Polish countess Evelina Hanska, his lover of eighteen years.
Old Goriot (Everyman's Library)by Honore de Balzac, Donald Adamson
Honoré de Balzac’s great theme was money, and in his best-loved novel, Old Goriot, he explored its uses and abuses with the particularity of a poet. A shabby Parisian boarding house in 1819 is the setting where his colorful characters collide. These include an elderly retired merchant called Old Goriot, who has bankrupted himself for the sake of his two rapacious, social-climbing daughters, Delphine and Anastasie; a mysterious and sinister conspirator named Vautrin; Victorine, a disinherited heiress; and a naive and impoverished law student from the country, Eugène de Rastignac.
Rastignac is appalled at first by the greed and corruption he finds in Paris, but he soon sets his sights on conquering high society. He joins forces with the array of schemers who surround him, while the suffering, self-sacrificing Goriot yearns in vain for his daughters’ love. The sprawling, vibrant, and turbulent Paris of the post-Napoleonic era is itself a major character in the novel, an emblem of the social upheaval that Balzac portrays so brilliantly. Old Goriot was the first of Balzac’s novels to employ his famous technique of recurring characters, and it has come to be seen as the keystone in his grand project, The Human Comedy.
Translated by Ellen Marriage
(Book Jacket Status: Not Jacketed)
- Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
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- 5.18(w) x 8.25(h) x 1.10(d)
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Father Goriot by Honore de Balzac is one of the works of La Comedie Humaine. The plot of the story is rather complicated, but as the novel approaches the end, everything starts falling into its proper place. Both wealthy and poor classes are analyzed in the novel through the actions and interests of individuals. Vice characterizes the nature of Parisian society; for this reason, vice opposes and also prevails over virtue. Of course, in order to create the drama of the novel, vice is used to represent a large section of the people living in Paris at the time. The novel illustrates a large segment of the human condition during the first half of the nineteenth century. Furthermore, the powerful evil over good theme of the novel is rather devastating.
I read this book for an application project on the five themes of geography. It was somewhat hard to follow and only vaguely related to the five themes. I liked much of Balzac's writing style, although I sometimes got lost in long descriptions and explanations. Balzac seems to want you to feel sympathy for one of the characters, Old Goriot. I felt that some of the characters were overly dramatic. Although Old Goriot was somewhat hard to follow, the overall story was interesting to me.