The Unknown Masterpiece, by Honoré de Balzac, Rampant Lions Press (1997)

Honoré de Balzac‘s classic short story The Unknown Masterpiece (Le Chef-d’œuvre inconnu), first published in 1831, is an interesting and thoughtful contemplation on art. An old painter named Frenhofer has mastered the techniques of the day, yet struggles to complete his own masterpiece which he has kept hidden from all other eyes. When a young artist (Poussin) offers his lover (Gillette) as a model, Frenhofer quickly completes … Continue reading The Unknown Masterpiece, by Honoré de Balzac, Rampant Lions Press (1997)

The Charterhouse of Parma, by Stendhal, Limited Editions Club (1955)

Marie-Henri Beyle (1783-1842), better known by his nom de plume Stendhal, is one of the greatest french novelists of all time.  Because he wrote what is considered realism during a period when Romantic works were popular, he was initially not well appreciated by his contemporaries.  While it took to the early parts of the twentieth century for a full appreciation of Stendhal to take hold, his stock had previously … Continue reading The Charterhouse of Parma, by Stendhal, Limited Editions Club (1955)

Droll Stories, by Honoré de Balzac, The Southworth Press for the Limited Editions Club (1932)

Droll Stories (Contes drolatiques) is a collection of short stories by Honoré de Balzac published between 1832 and 1837. Dedicated to the entertainment “of Pantagruelists everywhere and of none else“, the stories are certainly Rabelaisian in nature (also, Boccaccio would be proud). Lively, humorous and unbound from social convention (The Limited Editions Club Monthly Letter refers to its “naughty, naughtiness“), the stories are a delight to read, while being distinct stylistically from Balzac’s voluminous other … Continue reading Droll Stories, by Honoré de Balzac, The Southworth Press for the Limited Editions Club (1932)

Eugenie Grandet, by Honore De Balzac, Limited Editions Club (1960)

Eugénie Grandet, the first of what was to become the massive collection of works by Honoré de Balzac called La Comédie humane (The Human Comedy), was first published in 1833. Eugénie Grandet became the first of the grouping of works under ‘Scenes of Country Life’.  The novel is about miserliness and its destructive psychological impact,  with an associated theme of unhappy love intertwined. Balzac dedicated the second edition to his lover and mother of his daughter, Maria Du Fresnay. It turns … Continue reading Eugenie Grandet, by Honore De Balzac, Limited Editions Club (1960)

Old Goriot, by Honore De Balzac, Limited Editions Club (1948)

Honoré de Balzac (1799-1850) was an early proponent of literary realism (perhaps with a dash of naturalism), with the collection called La Comédie humane (The Human Comedy) being his crowning achievement. At 91 published works and 46 unpublished, this collection of interrelated stories is immense. His characters are real; even the good have flaws. Themes include power, wealth and social success. Characters across the social spectrum come in and out throughout his novels, typically shown … Continue reading Old Goriot, by Honore De Balzac, Limited Editions Club (1948)

Lost Illusions, Honoré de Balzac, The Folio Society (2009)

The title ‘Lost Illusions‘ has always intrigued me into wanting to read this book. The picture in my head, based on the title, was a story full of philosophical musings on how age and experience inevitably crush the dreams and aspirations of youth. I am not sure why that story line captures my attention, but it always does, perhaps in the hope that nuggets of … Continue reading Lost Illusions, Honoré de Balzac, The Folio Society (2009)