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  • 5/12/2004

Honoré de Balzac

 (May 20,1799 -August 18,1850)

OnMay 20, 1799, author Honoré de Balzac was born in Tours, France.  He studied at the Collège de Vendôme and the Sorbonne.  Despite being called the Charles Dickens of France, his early life was haunted by failure.  He worked feverishly, often writing 14 hours a day, taking a short nap, and then writing the rest of the night with the help of strong Parisian coffee.
From 1819 to 1830, Balzac led a life of frequent privation and constant  industry, receiving for his reward the heavy burden of debt, resulting from a number of failed business ventures.  His financial woes would plague him throughout his career.  His first success as a writer came with the publication ofLes Chouans(1829,The Chouans).  Between 1830 and 1832 he publishedScenes from Private Life, a series of novelettes which finally brought him additional literary attention.
Then Balzac formed the notion of presenting inLa Comédie humaine (The Human Comedy) a complete picture of modern civilization.  Among the masterpieces which form part of his vast scheme areLe Père Goriot (Father Goriot),Les Illusions perdues(Lost Illusions),Les Paysans(The Peasants), La Femme de trente ans(The Thirty-Year-Old Woman), and Eugénie Grandet, in which detailed observation and imagination are the main features.
Balzac'sThe Human Comedy was phenomenal, covering 85 novels encompassing over 2,000 named characters written in 20 years, but the author's work still failed to bring him financial security.  During his later years he lived principally in his villa at Sèvres.
In 1849, when his health had broken down, he traveled to Poland to visit Eveline Hanska, a wealthy lady of Polish society, with whom he had corresponded for more than 15 years.  In 1850 she became his wife, and three months later, Balzac died.

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