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

Sunday, April 5, 2015

"Massmilla Doni" by Honore de Balzac (1837, A Short Story, A Component of the Human Comedy)


The Comedie Humaine consists of 91 works, 41 novels, 25 Novellas, and 25 Short Stories.  Many book bloggers, the world's greatest readers, could climb the mountain iin three dedicated months.  I am now urging this project on all serious literary autodidacts.  

"Massmilla Doni" so far ranks among my best of Balzac.  It is set in Venice.  The plot action centers on an elaborate romance but the greatness of the work is in the account it gives of the role of opera in Ventian society and the very illuminating theorizing on the nature of music.  There is just a huge amount to be learned from this.  As I read the story I listened to Don Giovanni, the opera most talked about in the story and I will say that Balzac has, I think, greatly advanced my understanding of opera.   One reason I like to read on my IPAD is that I can simultaneously listen through I Tunes Radio to almost any sort of music to accompany my reading.   

The story goes into a lot of detail about the immense social importance of the Opera in Venice.  I did not know that the grandest boxes were owned by families.  Of course Balzac goes into the use of opera boxes for romantic purposes.

In Balzac and in English contemporaries, Venice is a city of exotic escape, where you can do things perhaps not fully approved of back home.  What Rio de Jinerro might represent today in the imagination of someone from London, Paris or Toronto was in the 1830s in Europe played by Venice.  This  fascination fextended up until almost W W Two in English literature in the writings of writers like D. H. Lawrence and E. F. Forester.

Balzac generalizes about how Italian women are different from French, and such but we accept it from him when we might laugh if done today.

For sure "Massmilla Domi" is very much worth reading as a stand alone book.  It is valuable  reading  as a text in musical appreciation and cultural history.

No comments: