Honoré de Balzac (1799-1850) is generally credited as the inventor of the modern realistic novel. In more than ninety novels, he set forth French society and life as he saw it. He created a cast of over two thousand individual and identifiable characters, some of whom reappear in different novels. He organized his works into his masterpiece, La Comedie Humaine, which was the final result of his attempt to grasp the whole of society and experience into one varied but unified work.
These vivid stories—of crime, sexuality, and artistic creation—demolish the idea that Balzac’s best work is to be found in his long, elaborate novels. In these new translations we see Balzac drawing on the tradition of oral storytelling, and the results are fresh, startling and delightful.
The story, which has served as an inspiration to artists as various as Cézanne, Henry James, Picasso, and New Wave director Jacques Rivette, is, in critic Dore Ashton’s words, a “fable of modern art.”