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

Friday, March 13, 2015

"Another Study of Woman" by Honore de Balzac (1842, a short story, a component of The Human Comedy)

"Another Study of Woman", translated by Ellen Marriage, is the last work  in The Scenes From Private Life section of Honore de Balzac's The Human Comedy.  I will soon post on Balzac's own introduction to the series but he had in mind a total of 150 works he planned to include, he died with 91 completed, these divided into various sections based on what aspect of French society they focused upon.  

"A Study of Woman" is structured as a series of monolugues on the nature and character of women by speakers at a high society party.  Of course here in the 21th Century, the characterizing of all women as being the same seems shallow and Balzac is not, maybe, really doing that.  He is showing us how people think.  Balzac was, in my unschooled opinion, very influenced by Samuel Richardson and saw women at their most socially acceptable fashion as sophisticated controllers of great men, but controlling without letting the men realize what was happening.  Some of the advise mothers give to daughters in The Human Comedy, as in The Marriage Contract, is as cynical and contemptuous of men as that given to Shamela by her mother in Henry Fieldings must read work.  

The fun in this story is in hearing the arguments and theories.  Balzac also has his characters suggest that all Italian women are one way, Spanish another etc.  Some of his descriptions of people, including men, seem a bit bizzare almost as he tries to bring out every aspect of a person's physical appearance and attire as manifestations of the type of person they represent.  For example one man is described as having pretty feet, maybe this means small, as do all men of a sweet temperment.  

"Another Study of Woman" is an entertaining story, not perhaps among the best of his short fiction, there are 25 short stories in The Human Comedy but it is worth your time.  In every Balzac work there are at least wonderful parts, you can feel the power of Balzac in these lines from the monolugue of a military man in "A Study of Woman"

Mel u

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