Many readers have long considered Balzac to be perhaps the greatest of all novelists.
Eugénie Grandet, his masterful study of a girl whose life is scarred by her father's insane greed, goes a long way to justifying that opinion.
World literature has some memorable cold-hearted misers, but they pale beside Balzac's Monsieur Grandet, father of the long-suffering Eugénie.
Grandet's wealth is legendary and, inevitably, when Eugénie's cousin Charles, recently orphaned and penniless, turns up, Eugénie, accustomed to her father's epic penny-pinching, is hopelessly smitten.
Eugenie's emotional awakening, stimulated by her love for her cousin, brings her into direct conflict with her father, whose cunning financial successes are well matched against her determination to rebel.
He tells his daughter that marriage is out of the question.
One of the earliest entries in Balzac's towering project La Comédie Humaine, his series of novels and short stories depicting "the whole pell-mell of civilization," Eugenie Grandet is the work of a writer who represents most fully the ability of the human animal to understand and illuminate its own condition.
The resulting tale is a commentary on wealth and human desire that still rings true in the twenty-first century, an incomparable storyteller's fascination with the power of storytelling, while throughout we also detect what Proust so admired: the "mysterious circulation of blood and desire."
Honoré de Balzac (1799–1850), one of the most influential of French novelists, was born in Tours and educated at the Sorbonne.
Alongside his current and future contemporaries, Victor Hugo and Marcel Proust, Honoré de Balzac is considered to be the preeminent French author of the 19th century.
Fabulous, larger-than-life, Balzac was a man of fertile talent and extreme contrasts, whose proficiency with the pen was matched only by the audacity of his appetites.
A clown, a genius, a glutton and a monk, Balzac burned brightly with the Promethean Gift, and left behind an enormous body of work loosely interconnected in theme and character, writing over eighty novels in the course of his last twenty years, including such masterpieces as Père Goriot, Eugénie Grandet, Lost Illusions, and Cousin Bette.
"Balzac was the master unequalled in the art of painting humanity as it exists in modern society. He searched and dared everything."
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