Monsieur Goriot is one of a disparate group of lodgers at Mademe Vauquer's dingy Parisian boarding house. At first his wealth inspires respect, but as his circumstances are mysteriously reduced he becomes shunned by those around him, and soon his only remaining visitors are his two beautifully dressed daughters. Goriot's fate is intertwined with two other fellow boarders: the young social climber Eugene Rastignac, who sees a way to gain the acceptance and wealth he craves, and the enigmatic figure of Vautrin, who is hiding darker secrets than anyone. Weaving a compelling and panoramic story of love, money, self-sacrifice, corruption, greed and ambition, Old Man Goriot is Balzac's acknowledged masterpiece. A key novel in his Comédie Humaine series, it is a vividly realized portrait of bourgeois Parisian society in the years following the French Revolution.
One of the greatest French novelists, Balzac was also an accomplished writer of shorter fiction. This volume includes twelve of his finest short stories - many of which feature characters from his epic series of novels the Comédie Humaine. Compelling tales of acute social and psychological insight, they fully demonstrate the mastery of suspense and revelation that were the hallmarks of Balzac's genius. In The Atheist's Mass, we learn the true reason for a distinguished atheist surgeon's attendance at religious services; La Grande Breteche describes the horrific truth behind the locked doors of a decaying country mansion, while The Red Inn relates a brutal tale of murder and betrayal. A fascinating counterpoint to the renowned novels, all the stories collected here stand by themselves as mesmerizing works by one of the finest writers of nineteenth-century France.
Passionate and perceptive, the three short novels that make up Balzac's History of the Thirteen are concerned in part with the activities of a rich, powerful, sinister and unscrupulous secret society in nineteenth-century France. While the deeds of 'The Thirteen' remain frequently in the background, however, the individual novels are concerned with exploring various forms of desire. A tragic love story, Ferragus depicts a marriage destroyed by suspicion, revelation and misunderstanding. The Duchess de Langeais explores the anguish that results when a society coquette tries to seduce a heroic ex-soldier, while The Girl with the Golden Eyes offers a frank consideration of desire and sexuality. Together, these works provide a firm and fascinating foundation for Balzac's many later portrayals of Parisian life in his great novel-cycle The Human Comedy.
Eugène wants to get on in the world. So he has come to Paris, where the streets teem with chancers, criminals and social climbers - and everyone is out for what they can get. When he finds a place to stay at a shabby boarding house, he sees a potential plan to make a fortune: the two beautiful, aristocratic women who mysteriously come at night to visit the lonely old lodger Goriot. Could they bring him the status and acceptance he craves? In the city nothing is as it seems though. Soon Eugène gets out of his depth in a world of greed and obsession that he could never have imagined. One that can only end in terrible tragedy.
In a gloomy house in provincial Saumur lives the miser Grandet with his wife and daughter, Eugénie, whose lives are stifled and overshadowed by his obsession with gold. Guarding his piles of glittering treasures and his only child equally closely, he will let no one near them. But when the arrival of her handsome cousin, Charles, awakens Eugénie's own desires, her passion brings her into a violent collision with her father that results in tragedy for all. Eugénie Grandet is one of the earliest and finest works in Balzac's Comédie humaine cycle, his magnificent panorama of post-Revolutionary French life, which portrays a society consumed by the struggle to amass wealth and achieve power. Here Grandet embodies both the passionate pursuit of money, and the human cost of avarice.
Philippe and Joseph Bridau are two extremely different brothers. The elder, Philippe, is a superficially heroic soldier and adored by their mother Agathe. He is nonetheless a bitter figure, secretly gambling away her savings after a brief but glorious career in Napoleon's army. His younger brother Joseph, meanwhile, is fundamentally virtuous - but their mother is blinded to his kindness by her disapproval of his life as an artist. Foolish and prejudiced, Agathe lives on unaware that she is being cynically manipulated by her own favourite child, but will she ever discover which of her sons is truly the black sheep of the family? A dazzling depiction of the power of money and the cruelty of life in nineteenth-century France, The Black Sheep compellingly explores is a compelling exploration of the nature of deceit.
Balzac is concerned with the choice between ruthless self-gratification and asceticism, dissipation and restraint, in a novel that is powerful in its symbolism and realistic depiction of decadence.
Poor, plain spinster Bette is compelled to survive on the condescending patronage of her socially superior relatives in Paris: her beautiful, saintly cousin Adeline, the philandering Baron Hulot and their daughter Hortense. Already deeply resentful of their wealth, when Bette learns that the man she is in love with plans to marry Hortense, she becomes consumed by the desire to exact her revenge and dedicates herself to the destruction of the Hulot family, plotting their ruin with patient, silent malice. Cousin Bette is a gripping tale of violent jealousy, sexual passion and treachery, and a brilliant portrayal of the grasping, bourgeois society of 1840s Paris. The culmination of the Comedie humaine, Balzac's epic chronicle of his times, it is one of his greatest triumphs as a novelist.
Handsome would-be poet Lucien Chardon is poor and naive, but highly ambitious. Failing to make his name in his dull provincial hometown, he is taken up by a patroness, the captivating married woman Madame de Bargeton, and prepares to forge his way in the glamorous beau monde of Paris. But Lucien has entered a world far more dangerous than he realized, as Madame de Bargeton's reputation becomes compromised and the fickle, venomous denizens of the courts and salons conspire to keep him out of their ranks. Lucien eventually learns that, wherever he goes, talent counts for nothing in comparison to money, intrigue and unscrupulousness. Lost Illusions is one of the greatest novels in the rich procession of the Comedie humaine, Balzac's panoramic social and moral history of his times.
Mild, harmless and ugly to behold, the impoverished Pons is an ageing musician whose brief fame has fallen to nothing. Living a placid Parisian life as a bachelor in a shared apartment with his friend Schmucke, he maintains only two passions: a devotion to fine dining in the company of wealthy but disdainful relatives, and a dedication to the collection of antiques. When these relatives become aware of the true value of his art collection, however, their sneering contempt for the parasitic Pons rapidly falls away as they struggle to obtain a piece of the weakening man's inheritance. Taking its place in the Human Comedy as a companion to Cousin Bette, the darkly humorous Cousin Pons is among of the last and greatest of Balzac's novels concerning French urban society: a cynical, pessimistic but never despairing consideration of human nature.
In 1842, eight years before his death, Balzac described Ursule Mirouet as the masterpiece of all the studies of human society that he had written; he regarded the book as 'a remarkable tour de force'.An essentially simple tale about the struggle and triumph of innocence reviled, Ursule Mirouet is characterized by that wealth of penetrating observation so readily associated with Balzac's work. The twin themes of redemption and rebirth are illuminated by a consistently passionate rejection of both philosophic and practical materialism in favour of love. In this case love is aided by supernatural intervention, which itself effectively illustrates Balzac's life-long fascination with the occult.
'This is as much a mystery as the Immaculate Conception, which of itself must make a doctor an unbeliever.'A stunning pair of short stories about faith and sacrificial love.Introducing Little Black Classics: 80 books for Penguin's 80th birthday. Little Black Classics celebrate the huge range and diversity of Penguin Classics, with books from around the world and across many centuries. They take us from a balloon ride over Victorian London to a garden of blossom in Japan, from Tierra del Fuego to 16th-century California and the Russian steppe. Here are stories lyrical and savage; poems epic and intimate; essays satirical and inspirational; and ideas that have shaped the lives of millions.Honoré de Balzac (1799-1850). Balzac's works available in Penguin Classics are Old Man Goriot, Cousin Bette, History of The Thirteen, Selected Short Stories, Cousin Pons, A Harlot High and Low, Eugenie Grandet, The Wild Ass's Skin, The Black Sheep and Lost Illusions.
Handsome would-be poet Lucien Chardon is poor and naïve, but highly ambitious. Failing to make his name in his dull provincial hometown, he is taken up by a patroness, the captivating married woman Madame de Bargeton, and prepares to forge his way in the glamorous beau monde of Paris. But Lucien has entered a world far more dangerous than he realized, as Madame de Bargeton's reputation becomes compromised and the fickle, venomous denizens of the courts and salons conspire to keep him out of their ranks. Lucien eventually learns that, wherever he goes, talent counts for nothing in comparison to money, intrigue and unscrupulousness. Lost Illusions is one of the greatest novels in the rich procession of the Comédie humaine, Balzac's panoramic social and moral history of his times.