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

Saturday, October 11, 2014

"Christ in Flanders" by Honore de Balzac (1831, a short story component of The Human Comedy)

I am now committing myself to read all of the 91 components of Honore de Balzac's Comedie Humaine.  Many of the components are short stories and novellas and I have already read several of the acknowledged large masterworks of the cycle so it is not an arduous a task as it seems. I am as of now not sure in what order to read them so I am just kind of reading at random for now.

"Christ in Flanders" is a strange story that almost seems out of place in the cycle as it is set in the Middle Ages.  Balzac lived from his writings and at somepoint in his career he reclassified many old works as part of The Comedie Humaine to increase sales and maybe he did this with "Christ in Flanders".   

I am sure the story is meant to convey in part Balzac's complicated attitude toward the church.  You can easily find it in translation online so I will just give the bare outlines.  A ferry type boat is loading a group of passengers to go to the Flemish island of Cadzand (sight of a famous battle in the 1300s).  The rich sit in the front of the boat, the poor in the rear.  Suddenly a very strange seeming man boards the boat at the last minute.  A terrible, very well described, life threatning storm arises.  The strange man tells all to be calm and have faith and you will survive.   What happens next might amaze and move you or you might say "come on Horore give us a breaks".  I will let you read it but clearly the man is Christ come back to save the worthy, the rich drown dragged down by their gold, the poor walk across the water to the island  with the strange man.   Ok to groan now!  "Christ in Flanders" was an interesting story and worth for most anyone the twenty or so minutes it takes the time complete.

18 of 91

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