was the number chosen and for me that means Honoré de Balzac’s Old Goriot or so I thought – because when I got to the book shelf it appeared that the copy I actually had was Eugénie Grandet! But I haven’t read anything by Balzac and know nothing about him so this, written a couple of years before Old Goriot, can easily take its place I think.
And it’s quite exciting, not the title I’ve been looking at for the last four years and a brand new author to explore. As usual a quick look on Wikipedia has made me feel that I’ve been living under a rock all my life and this first glimpse has revealed an abundance of future reading!
Inspired by Dante’s Divine Comedy, Balzac set out to present a panorama of post-Napoleonic French life and between 1829 and 1848 produced a multi-volumed collection of interlinked novels, stories and essays, la comédie humaine which became his magnum opus.
Seen as one of the founders of realism in European literature, Balzac gives a detailed and unfiltered representation of society. While love and friendship are held dear, the deep immorality of a social system that favours power and greed and sees the weak crushed gives the series a sociological slant rather than Dante’s theological one.
Eugénie Grandet first published in 1833 is from the section called Scenes from Provincial Life and is the story of a young girl who inherits her father’s miserliness. The back cover blurb says:
‘In a house in provincial Saumer lives the miser Grandet with his wife and his daughter, Eugenie, who both suffer under the stifling shadow of his obsession with gold. But the arrival of her cousin, Charles, causes Eugenie’s own desires to burn. The inevitable collision with her father, and the tragedy which follows, is described by Balzac with irony and characteristic psychological insight.’