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Honoré de Balzac

Honoré de Balzac Honoré de Balzac[2†]

Honoré de Balzac, originally named Honoré Balssa[1†][2†], was born on May 20, 1799, in Tours, France[1†][2†]. He was a French literary artist who produced a vast number of novels and short stories collectively called La Comédie humaine (The Human Comedy)[1†][2†]. His keen observation of detail and unfiltered representation of society made him one of the founders of realism in European literature[1†][2†]. His multi-faceted characters, even the lesser ones, were complex, morally ambiguous, and fully human[1†][2†]. Inanimate objects in his works, such as the city of Paris, took on many human qualities[1†][2†].

Early Years and Education

Honoré de Balzac was born in Tours, France, on May 20, 1799[1†][4†]. He was the eldest son of four children of Bernard François and Anne Charlotte Balzac[1†][4†]. His father, Bernard Francois Balzac, was a government regional administrator[1†][5†]. His mother, who was thirty-two years younger than his father, saw the birth of her son as her duty and treated him indifferently[1†][4†]. This lack of affection overshadowed his childhood[1†][4†].

Balzac’s primary school took place at the Lequay Institution until he was eight years old[1†][6†]. Between 1807 and 1813, he was a student at the Collège de Vendôme[1†][6†]. During this time, he found solace in books, but excessive reading eventually brought on a nervous condition, which affected his health[1†][4†]. He was brought home in 1813[1†][4†].

In 1814, his family moved to Paris[1†][5†][4†], where he completed his secondary education in law[1†][4†]. He also attended lectures at the Sorbonne from 1816 to 1819[1†][6†]. Despite his parents’ wishes for him to enter the legal profession, Balzac declared writing as his profession[1†][4†]. He became a clerk for an attorney[1†][5†][6†].

Career Development and Achievements

Balzac began working as a clerk in Paris at about age 16[3†]. An early attempt at a business career left him with huge debts[3†][7†][8†]. For decades, he toiled incessantly to improve his worsening financial condition[3†]. Before and during his career as a writer, he attempted to be a publisher, printer, businessman, critic, and politician[3†][7†][8†]. However, he failed in all of these efforts[3†][7†][8†].

In 1829, his novels and stories began to achieve some success[3†], and his early masterpieces soon followed[3†]. Balzac produced a vast number of novels and short stories collectively called La Comédie humaine (The Human Comedy)[3†][1†][2†]. He helped to establish the traditional form of the novel and is generally considered to be one of the greatest novelists of all time[3†][1†][2†].

His keen observation of detail and unfiltered representation of society made him one of the founders of realism in European literature[3†][2†]. His multi-faceted characters, even the lesser ones, were complex, morally ambiguous, and fully human[3†][2†]. Inanimate objects in his works, such as the city of Paris, took on many human qualities[3†][2†].

Balzac’s writing influenced many famous writers, including novelists Émile Zola, Charles Dickens, Marcel Proust, Gustave Flaubert, and Henry James, and filmmakers François Truffaut and Jacques Rivette[3†][2†]. Many of his works have been made into films and continue to inspire other writers[3†][2†]. James referred to him as "really the father of us all"[3†][2†].

First Publication of His Main Works

Honoré de Balzac was a prolific writer, and his body of work is impressive in both its breadth and depth. His most significant works are part of a series called La Comédie humaine (The Human Comedy), which presents a panorama of French society in the first half of the 19th century[9†][1†][3†][10†].

Here are some of his most notable works:

Balzac’s works are renowned for their deep character development, intricate details, and realistic portrayal of society[9†][1†][3†]. His works had a significant influence on French literature and are still widely read today[9†][1†][3†].

Analysis and Evaluation

Honoré de Balzac is renowned for his keen observation of detail and unfiltered representation of society, which has led to him being regarded as one of the founders of realism in European literature[2†]. His characters are multi-faceted, complex, morally ambiguous, and fully human[2†]. Even his lesser characters are complex and fully human[2†][12†].

Balzac’s plots embrace a wide range of attitudes: tragically sad or comically ironic, highly idealistic, fantastic, or romantic[2†][13†]. However, he is judged to have excelled particularly as a realist in his candid portrayal of the tremendous will to power of human nature and of the influence of money on social behavior[2†][13†].

The French poet and literary critic Charles Baudelaire expressed a profound insight into Balzac’s genius when he stated that Balzac was not a realist but rather a visionary who taught readers to see and understand the exploitation and alienation of modern men and women[2†][12†]. His novels described the radical transformation of French society after the French Revolution and the Napoleonic era[2†][12†].

Balzac did not depict the broad sweep of history but rather the intense and very personal suffering of key characters whose vulnerability and innocence allowed them to be destroyed by others[2†][12†]. Balzac created the narrative technique of recurring characters whom readers find at different moments in their lives in various novels[2†][12†]. His The Human Comedy revealed his ability to describe with sensitivity and psychological depth characters from the full spectrum of French society[2†][12†].

Personal Life

Honoré de Balzac’s personal life was as complex and intriguing as the characters he created in his novels[2†][1†]. His life was marked by a constant balancing act concerning finances, and he was often in debt[2†][6†]. His relationship with his family was often strained by financial and personal drama, and he lost more than one friend over critical reviews[2†].

In 1832, Balzac started a correspondence with Madame Ewelina Hańska, a married Polish baroness[2†][6†]. Their relationship began as a distant admiration and evolved into a deep love that would last until the end of Balzac’s life[2†][6†]. After many years of correspondence and several meetings, Balzac married the widowed Countess Hańska in St Barbara’s Catholic Church in Berdychiv, Russia on March 14, 1850[2†][6†]. This was a significant event in Balzac’s personal life, as he had long been smitten with the Countess[2†][6†].

Balzac’s tumultuous life was one of mounting debts and almost incessant toil, with frequent bouts of writing feverishly for 15 hours at a stretch[2†][3†]. His death has been attributed to overwork and excessive coffee consumption[2†][3†].

Conclusion and Legacy

Honoré de Balzac’s legacy is immense and continues to influence literature today[1†][3†]. His work, particularly the vast collection of novels and short stories collectively known as La Comédie humaine, is considered a cornerstone of realism in European literature[1†][3†]. His detailed and unembellished depiction of contemporary life, his keen observation of detail, and his representation of society have earned him a place among the greatest novelists of all time[1†][3†].

Balzac’s novels are notable for their great narrative drive, their large casts of vital and diverse characters, and their obsessive interest in and examination of virtually all spheres of life[1†][3†]. His works have influenced many famous writers, including novelists Émile Zola, Charles Dickens, Marcel Proust, Gustave Flaubert, and Henry James, and filmmakers François Truffaut and Jacques Rivette[1†][3†]. Many of Balzac’s works have been made into films and continue to inspire other writers[1†][3†].

The French poet and literary critic Charles Baudelaire expressed a profound insight into Balzac’s genius when he stated that Balzac was not a realist but rather a visionary who taught readers to see and understand the exploitation and alienation of modern men and women[1†][12†].

Balzac’s tumultuous life, marked by mounting debts and almost incessant toil, has been attributed to overwork and excessive coffee consumption[1†][3†]. Despite the struggles he faced, Balzac’s influence on the field of literature is undeniable[1†][3†].

Key Information

References and Citations:

  1. Britannica - Honoré de Balzac: French author [website] - link
  2. Wikipedia (English) - Honoré de Balzac [website] - link
  3. Britannica - Honoré de Balzac summary [website] - link
  4. Encyclopedia of World Biography - HonorÉ de Balzac Biography [website] - link
  5. IMDb - Honoré de Balzac - Biography [website] - link
  6. SunSigns - Honore De Balzac Biography, Life, Interesting Facts [website] - link
  7. Geneastar - Family tree of Honoré DE BALZAC [website] - link
  8. Goodreads - Book: None [website] - link
  9. ThoughtCo - The Life and Works of Honoré de Balzac, French Novelist [website] - link
  10. Simple Wikipedia (English) - Honoré de Balzac [website] - link
  11. Goodreads - Book: The Works of Honore De Balzac [website] - link
  12. eNotes - Honoré de Balzac Analysis [website] - link
  13. eNotes - Honoré de Balzac Long Fiction Analysis [website] - link
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