Biography of Famous Writers and Authors: Honore de Balzac Part 1

About the famous French writer Honore de Balzac, history and biography of the author.

Honore de Balzac (1799-1850). Honore de Balzac, one of the supreme writers of realistic fiction, was, in his own life, a man of gross appetites and pretensions as well as of gargantuan genius and accomplishment. In his novels he could portray the heart and mind of his fellow middle-class Frenchmen with the accuracy and gusto of a Dickens or a Tolstoi, yet he pretended to be of noble birth. (The addition of the aristocratic particle "de" to his surname was strictly his own idea.) He yearned for wealth, yet when he achieved it, he squandered it and managed to be constantly in debt. In fact, he reached a point when he seemed unable to write during those infrequent periods when creditors were not yapping at his heels. He could abstain from food and drink almost to the point of starvation and then suddenly indulge himself orgiastically in all the delights of the table. A man of many love affairs, he sired 3 daughters and a son, but he took no interest in them for he found his fictional characters more real than any human being. Even his physique was one of contrasts. Balzac had a noble, leonine head and massive shoulders mounted upon spindly legs. His height was no more than 5'3". At times he would dress like a dandy, at others like a beggar. Never did Balzac approach life moderately; he always rushed in and seized it.

Born in Tours, France, Balzac was the son of a petty official and a pretty heiress. Never his mother's favorite, his childhood, including his schooldays, was miserable. He did, however, gain a great love of literature and a thorough background in the French and English novel. Against its wishes, his family agreed to support him in a Parisian garret while he wrote a tragedy based on the life of Oliver Cromwell. The only thing tragic about it was that it was wretchedly written--and his family told him so. Undaunted, Balzac turned to grinding out slightly pornographic Gothic novels. This work sustained him until he became immersed in the master-work of his life, La Comedie Humaine, a series of interrelated novels and stories. So prodigious was his effort that over a 20-year period he produced 97 works covering 11,000 pages. Among these are such immortal classics as Le Pere Goriot, Eugenie Grandet, La Grande Breteche, and the Droll Stories, whose raciness matches that in the milder "adult" magazine fiction today.

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