Ford Madox Ford's Favorite Balzac Novel
My Posts on Balzac
Ford Madox Ford in two pages in his The March of Literature mounts a vicious attack on Balzac's work and him as a person. He describes The Comedie Humaine "as one immense fairy tale having the merit of bringing one in contact with the titanically gasping figure of Balzac himself but totally without value as a comment on, or a projection, of life." He goes on to attack Balzac as having little direct knowledge of life and characterizes most of his work as a "Parisian Nights Entertainment". He says Balzac has but the smallest knowledge of real life so he cannot write about it. One senses a class conflict in this when Ford talks of Balzac for years living in cheap pensions. Ford Madox Ford was immensely well read but this is appalling ignorance. I am starting to realize that few pedagogical authorities who pontificate on Balzac have actually read the entire Human Comedy or even have an actual grasp of the nature of the work. Maybe as this was wriiten about 1939, Ford was annoyed by those who dared to put Balzac on par with Trollope, Thackeray or Dickens.
The Rise and Fall of Cesar Birotteau covers many years in the life of a Parisian perfumer and his family. I know this is putting the pupil before the master but I have read several novels by Zola which cover very much the same ground so I found it hard to get terribly interested in the many pages devoted to the use of financial notes and the trading in them in the work. I liked the descriptions of the perfume business in 1830s a lot and I laughed when I read of the betting of the family future on a cream that is guaranteed to restore lost hair. There are lots of great descriptions of furniture, houses and even perfume bottles in this novel. Of course a lot of space is devoted to finding good spouses for the families children. There is a wonderful long section about the conversion of the middle class shop/house of the family into an oppulent dwelling and perfumery for the upper crust of Paris. There is a grand party.
There are schemes and melordrama aplenty, villians and saints. There is a lot of smaltz in Balzac but every work I have so far read has long brilliant sections.
27 of 91
I have now begun Pierrette.