Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Colonel Chambert by Honore de Balzac (1832, a novella component of The Human Comedy)

Several movies have been made from Honore de Balzac's  Colonel Chambert.  It does have an exciting plots with lots of twists and turns.   The estimated reading time is sixty minutes and I found it a well spent hour.  

Colonel Chambert was declared dead years ago, killed while serving his hero Napolean.  He was found under a dead horse seemingly passed away and he was thrown in a pit for mass burial.  He awoke and dug his way out but the army declared him dead and gave his wife a widow's pension.

Like a number of other Balzac works, the story is structured in part as if one person is telling a tale to another. In this case Colonel Chambert is telling his story to a lawyer. He wants his death claim reversed and he wants promotion to general and he wants a pension.  His wife remarried long ago and has all his money. He wants his money back and he wants to, perhaps, reclaim his wife.

The plot is a lot of fun so I won't tell it. In a very funny opening segment we sit in as the law clerks make fun of the clients.  We learn a good big about the business of being an attorney.  The characters are well developed.  We see the colonel's extreme devotion to Napolean and his contempt for French society. We learn something shocking about his pretending to be high society wife and her new husband and the ending of the story is harsh.

"Colonel Chambert" is very much worth reading. It is fun and exciting and perhaps a bit melodramatic but that is ok.  I read an old public domain translation by Clara Bell.  

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Mel u

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