BALZAC'S PARIS: THE CITY AS HUMAN COMEDY
An exploration of Paris with Balzac, 19th century French society's most famous novelist and observer In Balzac's greatest work, a body of novels and stories collectively entitled The Human Comedy, he set out to offer a complete picture of contemporary French society and manners. His loving ode to Paris also serves as an introduction to the first capital of the modern world. The ever-new Paris to which he addresses his declaration of love consists of an accumulation of details - names, landmarks, streams, gates - a city with countless meticulously drawn figures: legal clerks, grisettes, journalists, concierges, usurers, salesmen, speculators. Balzac gathered the elements of this Paris by sauntering through it. 'To saunter is a science, ' he writes, 'it is the gastronomy of the eye. To take a walk is to vegetate; to saunter is to live.' This book follows in Balzac's footsteps, crossing the city in his big boots, running between his printers, publishers, coffee merchants, mistresses and friends, stopping for a moment, struck by a detail that his photographic memory faithfully fixed. More than a tour of the city, Balzac's Paris is an attempt to measure the soul of a place.
June 25, 2024