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Ferragus by Honoré de Balzac
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Balzac was such a prolific writer that one is bound to ask the question: Where to begin? La Comédie humaine is the umbrella under which most of his fictional output is set, the earliest of which appeared in 1830. Even Balzac himself was undecided about the proper order of the many dozens of works, having reorganized the list several times over the years.

Ferragus came relatively early in the series, appearing in 1833, more than a year before Pere Goriot, the Balzac novel most familiar at least to English readers. Ferragus was the first novel in a trilogy called The Thirteen (Histoire des treize), followed by the Duchess of Langeais (La Duchesse de Langeais) and The Girl with the Golden Eyes (La Fille aux yeux d’or). In Balzac’s final organization of La Comédie humaine, The Thirteen appeared under a grouping entitled “Scenes from Parisian Life" (Scènes de la vie parisienne).

Balzac’s original intent with regard to The Thirteen was to exploit the eternal fascination with secret societies and their alleged illicit machinations behind the scenes. However, just at the time he was to begin Ferragus — which was to be serialized in a Paris weekly — he became caught up in the idea that Paris itself was a living breathing organism and could be the true protagonist of a novel. Thus, Ferragus begins with as dramatic a description of the city of Paris as one is apt to find anywhere. Throughout the novel, the city is indeed a palpable presence; however, Balzac fell short of turning it into the protagonist. And the netherworld of occult organizations — barely mentioned — merely lends a foreboding atmosphere, vaguely visible from the shadows.

In some ways Ferragus is like a melodrama, particularly in its delivery. Everything seems exaggerated. Is it really possibly to will oneself to die? Balzac’s style of writing is such that no detail is left to the imagination, perhaps a key to the nature of his Realism which distinguishes this book from what might otherwise be considered a typical Romantic novel. The words tumble out breathlessly. The characters almost seem like the stock players in a melodrama. As someone wrote, Balzac’s favorite types include “the noble soldier, the scoundrel, the proud workman, the fearless spy and the alluring mistress.” Every one of these types appear in Ferragus!

Even though the characters seem formulaic although by no means cardboard cutouts, I suspect this novel is fairly representative of Balzac. The reader can learn a great deal about the highly stratified post-Napoleonic French society — even in the pages of this one little book. Balzac’s garrulous style by itself is fascinating and the novel is filled with suspense.

The riveting plot concerns itself with a happily married couple whose idyllic existence is threatened by the amorous interest of a feckless young man (“the noble soldier”) who interjects himself uninvited into their lives and ferrets out a dangerous secret. Doubts creep in and — well, what happens next is for the reader to find out. ( )
2 vote Poquette | May 30, 2014 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Balzac, Honoré deprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Calvino, ItaloForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lusignoli, ClaraTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 142500718X, Paperback)

ReadHowYouWant publishes a wide variety of best selling books in Large and Super Large fonts in partnership with leading publishers. EasyRead books are available in 11pt and 13pt. type. EasyRead Large books are available in 16pt, 16pt Bold, and 18pt Bold type. EasyRead Super Large books are available in 20pt. Bold and 24pt. Bold Type. You choose the format that is right for you.

A captivating story about human emotions and relations. Balzac narrates the tale of a man who suspects his wife of infidelity. He shows how relationships can suffer through miscommunication. Balzac proves himself as an author above par by his insightful exploration of the fear of social failure, and the way it defines and governs the pattern of human life. Compelling!

To find more titles in your format, Search in Books using EasyRead and the size of the font that makes reading easier and more enjoyable for you.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:14:50 -0400)

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