Balzac’s La Comédie Humaine

A work in progress….

The Chouans (1829)

The Physiology of Marriage (1829)

An Episode Under the Terror (1831 according to my copy 1830 elsewhere)

The Vendetta (1830) elsewhere Vendetta

The Ball at Sceaux 1830 La Bal de Sceaux

Gobseck (1830)

At the Sign of the Cat and Racket

A Second Home

Domestic Peace

Study of a Woman



The Elixir of Life

Passion in the Desert

El Verdugo

Catherine de’ Medici

The Hated Son

The Magic Skin

The Red Inn

The Unknown Masterpiece


The Exiles

The Recruit

Maître Cornelius

Madame Firmiani

A Woman of Thirty

The Message

La Grande Bretêche 

The Purse

The Deserted Woman

Eugénie Grandet

The Black Sheep 

Cousin Bette

Cousin Pons and Part II

Love in a Mask


13 responses to “Balzac’s La Comédie Humaine

  1. Have you read that new translation of The Unknown Masterpiece and Gambara? I just checked out a copy. Have to drag myself away from JT…

  2. No I haven’t. I have a complete set of Balzac from the 19thc. Various old copies, some new translations and even more on the Kindle. BUT, since you can never have enough Balzac, I’ll check this out.

  3. Hey Lichanos: How NEW is that translation? It’s by Richard Howard who also translated the Sachs book. Unless there are two Richard Howards….

    • Uh…I don’t quite operate in geologic time, but I guess new is not the word for the NYRB translation by Howard from 2000. Sorry about that. 19th century it’s not!

      • I wanted to make sure I had the right one. I subscribe to the NYRB e-newsletter and I wondered how I missed this, but now I see it was 2000. Wouldn’t want to miss a new Balzac.

  4. From Thompson to Balzac’s Unknown Masterpiece: sort of like slamming on the brakes and doing a 180 real quick! A Balzac novel wouldn’t be quite so much of a jolt – Cousin Bette? – but in his short stories, he lets his romanticism run wild.

    Can’t say I liked it all that much, all that art-talk from the last few centuries make for pretty thin drama, but I could go on endlessly about that… I’m having a lot of trouble focusing on Gambara, and have retreated back into The Grifters.

  5. I’ve been wondering how it will compare to Zola’s The Masterpiece. I think I’m going to take a break after Savage Night as I don’t want to start merging Thompson’s characters together.

  6. Guy, some of the links aren’t working. I tried the ones for Pere Goriot and Cousin Bette and both were dead.

  7. I’m reading Zweig’s biography of Balzac now, from 1946. It’s very good! Recommend it highly.

  8. Balzac is noted by Bouvard and Pecuchet:

    The work of Balzac amazed them like a Babylon, and at the same time like grains of dust under the microscope.

    In the most commonplace things arise new aspects. They never suspected that there were such depths in modern life.

    “What an observer!” exclaimed Bouvard.

    “For my part I consider him chimerical,” Pécuchet ended by declaring. “He believes in the occult sciences, in monarchy, in rank; is dazzled by rascals; turns up millions for you like centimes; and middle-class people are not with him middle-class people at all, but giants. Why inflate what is unimportant, and waste description on silly things? He wrote one novel on chemistry, another on banking, another on printing-machines, just as one Ricard produced The Cabman, The Water-Carrier and The Cocoa-Nut Seller. We should soon have books on every trade and on every province; then on every town and on the different stories of every house, and on every individual—which would be no longer literature but statistics or ethnography.”

    The last sentence strikes me as Flaubert’s echo of criticism of Balzac by ‘intellectuals’ of his day. As usual, it seems on the mark, except…

  9. Larry J. Field

    Guy, I just finished reading the rather recent Oxford Classic edition of Cousin Bette. It is stunning. When you reread this title, you may want to at least examine this edition.

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