“To the shame of the young be it said, good advice and warnings are never to seek.”
On a coach ride between towns, a callow young man gets caught up in a round of tale-telling with his fellow passengers and ends up committing an indiscretion that will take a lifetime to undo . . . In the town of Besançon, a cloistered young girl reads a romance penned by a mysterious newcomer and schemes to take the place of the story’s real-life inspiration: a beautiful Italian duchess . . . Two lovers stand in defiance of the age-old feud that has decimated their families: a vendetta that even Napoléon Bonaparte himself may be powerless to stop . . .
Beginning again in life, whether in one’s profession, or, to a lesser extent, for the purpose of concealing one’s identity, is the theme that unifies the three stories―A Start in Life, Albert Savarus, and The Vendetta―that appear in this volume of The Human Comedy.
La Comédie Humaine, left unfinished at the time of Balzac’s death, is a vast literary work comprising nearly one hundred short stories, novellas, and novels set in the aftermath of the Napoleonic Wars during the Bourbon Restoration and the July Monarchy. Throughout, Balzac utilizes nineteenth century French society to examine humanity and the human experience with all its attendant virtues, vices, and peculiarities.
Honoré de Balzac (1799-1850) was one of France’s most prolific and influential writers, and is generally considered to be one of the first and greatest of the literary realists. In his lifetime, he tried and failed at a number of professions, including that of legal clerk, printer, publisher, and as a businessman who engaged in a number of abortive ventures. These experiences, as well as numerous affairs with admiring ladies―many of them from the nobility―and an unsuccessful run for public office, provided him with a wealth of material for his writing, in which he was able to create some of the most memorable characters in French literature.