by Honoré de Balzac
While I wasn't really sure what kind of storytelling experience to expect from my first Balzac ever, what I got was so plain and old-fashioned in some respects that I at times felt a little like an early '80s postpunk fan being confronted with a mid-'70s Bruce Springsteen record by mistake. What the hell? That being said, Eugénie Grandet wasn't exactly bad as an exemplar of 19th century earnest realism. Balzac's relatively straightforward tale of woe--a miser's daughter discovers that her father isn't the only man in the world to place the love of money above love and all else in his life--is related with a subtlety that surprised me, and there was probably just enough of an off-kilter vibe to the characterizations to make up for the lack of narrative flashiness. Although I doubt I'll be reading too much more of La Comédie humaine anytime soon, that Springsteen comparison might seem like more of a slight than was called for if/when you stop to consider that this little book is big and contradictory enough to contain an outsized character like Monsieur Grandet, who at one point accuses his nephew of being a good for nothing for being more upset over his father's death than with his father's debts which he has inherited, and an occasionally sympathetic narrator who, despite casting Eugénie and her mother as "coeurs purs" ["pure hearts"] in contrast to père Grandet's personification of "L'Argent dans toute sa puissance" ["Money in all its power"], is still willing to chastise the Grandet women in a rare intrusive outburst: "Encore, combien d'ignorance dans leur naïveté!" ["Still, how much ignorance in their naïvety!"] (93).
Honoré de Balzac (1799-1850)
I'm two weeks late for this post due to the reading hangover occasioned by Spanish Lit Month, but Eugénie Grandet was read with Bellezza of Dolce Bellezza fame. Her review can be found here.