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History of the Thirteen: Ferragus / The Duchesse of Langeais / The Girl…

by Honoré de Balzac

Series: Scenes from Parisian Life (15-17), The Human Comedy (Études de Moeurs - Scènes de la vie parisienne I | 36), Studies of Manners (52-54)

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393552,760 (3.66)14
Passionate and perceptive, the three short novels that make up Balzac's History of the Thirteen are concerned in part with the activities of a rich, powerful, sinister and unscrupulous secret society in nineteenth-century France. While the deeds of 'The Thirteen' remain frequently in the background, however, the individual novels are concerned with exploring various forms of desire. A tragic love story, Ferragus depicts a marriage destroyed by suspicion, revelation and misunderstanding. The Duchess de Langeais explores the anguish that results when a society coquette tries to seduce a heroic ex-soldier, while The Girl with the Golden Eyes offers a frank consideration of desire and sexuality. Together, these works provide a firm and fascinating foundation for Balzac's many later portrayals of Parisian life in his great novel-cycle The Human Comedy. For more than seventy years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world. With more than 1,700 titles, Penguin Classics represents a global bookshelf of the best works throughout history and across genres and disciplines. Readers trust the series to provide authoritative texts enhanced by introductions and notes by distinguished scholars and contemporary authors, as well as up-to-date translations by award-winning translators.… (more)
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Crystal-clear, insightful characterization and social commentary, the reason we still talk with reverence about Balzac. This was written when he was younger, so it goes on a bit in some of the emotional descriptions, but it's all good. As always the reader will have to overlook or even better adequately contextualize oneself against the youthful Balzac's openly reactionary jingo gaulism of some parts.
I don't really get who the Thirteen are from reading the story, but oh well, I guess you had to have been there. I'll look it up. The best story is the middle one, Duchesse de Langeais, the best Physiognomies Parisiennes is in the third one, Girl with the Golden Eyes. ( )
  EugenioNegro | Mar 17, 2021 |
M60 Literature and Music
  TLH7718 | Dec 15, 2017 |
Balzac's History of the Thirteen is a trilogy of novels with entirely separate plots and different characters, with the link between them being a powerful secret society known as "The Thirteen". This Thirteen play a minor role in the first novel, but their part in the second is all but absent. This is disappointing because Balzac's preface discussed his wish to write these novels as being mainly about this secret group. For a proper conspiracy novel involving a secret society, readers would be much better served by Lawrence Norfolk's "Lempriere's Dictionary", or Umberto Eco's Foucault's Pendulum, probably the best in their category, with the former of these set just half a century or so before Balzac's stories. However, the novels in this volume by Balzac can also be appreciated for what they are: love stories with an element of intrigue.
All three of these novels are categorised by Balzac as part of his "Scenes of Parisian Life". In this edition of the Comedie Humaine, the third novel in this trilogy, "The Girl with the Golden Eyes", is omitted, for the mysterious reason cited in the editor's preface that it "contains things that are inconvenient."
The two novels present in this volume are very different in character. The first, "Ferragus", is about a young cavalry officer's infatuation with a young married woman reputed for her impeccable virtue. While following her he notices some puzzling behaviour, and the story unfolds during his attempts to fathom the mystery in which she is involved. This novel takes the pace of a thriller, as the protagonist meets with various attempts on his life and obstacles to his investigations.
The second, and much better of these novels, "La Duchesse de Langeais", is more properly a love story than the first. It centres around a war hero and explorer, who after years of service and survival under the most extreme and heroic circumstances, returns to Paris and experiences his first encounter with love. He becomes enamoured with the married Duchesse de Langeais, whom he meets at a ball. She doesn't feel any love for him, but entices him and leads him on for her own amusement. The story revolves around the pyschological games between the two, who alternate in their control of the situation, and the resulting dramatic consequences. ( )
1 vote P_S_Patrick | Mar 29, 2014 |
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Il est dans Paris certaines rues déshonorées autant que peut l'être un homme coupable d'infamie ; puis il existe des rues nobles, puis des rues simplement honnêtes, puis de jeunes rues sur la moralité desquelles le public ne s'est pas encore formé d'opinion ; puis des rues assassines, des rues plus vieilles que de vieilles douairières ne sont vieilles, des rues estimables, des rues toujours propres, des rues toujours sales, des rues ouvrières, travailleuses, mercantiles. (Ferragus, chef des Dévorants)
Il existe dans une ville espagnole située sur une île de la Méditerranée, un couvent de Carmélites Déchaussées où la règle de l'Ordre institué par sainte Thérèse s'est conservée dans la rigueur primitive de la réformation due à cette illustre femme. (La duchesse de Langeais)
Un des spectacles où se rencontre le plus d'épouvantement est certes l'aspect général de la population parisienne, peuple horrible à voir, hâve, jaune, tanné. (La fille aux yeux d'or)
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Passionate and perceptive, the three short novels that make up Balzac's History of the Thirteen are concerned in part with the activities of a rich, powerful, sinister and unscrupulous secret society in nineteenth-century France. While the deeds of 'The Thirteen' remain frequently in the background, however, the individual novels are concerned with exploring various forms of desire. A tragic love story, Ferragus depicts a marriage destroyed by suspicion, revelation and misunderstanding. The Duchess de Langeais explores the anguish that results when a society coquette tries to seduce a heroic ex-soldier, while The Girl with the Golden Eyes offers a frank consideration of desire and sexuality. Together, these works provide a firm and fascinating foundation for Balzac's many later portrayals of Parisian life in his great novel-cycle The Human Comedy. For more than seventy years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world. With more than 1,700 titles, Penguin Classics represents a global bookshelf of the best works throughout history and across genres and disciplines. Readers trust the series to provide authoritative texts enhanced by introductions and notes by distinguished scholars and contemporary authors, as well as up-to-date translations by award-winning translators.

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A trilogy of three short romance novels --"Ferragus," "La Duchesse de Langeais," and "The Girl With Golden Eyes" -- with a common thread being the secret society called The Thirteen.
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