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, September 2, 2015

"Unconscious Comedians" by Honore de Balzac (1846, A Short Story, A Component of The Human Comedy)

 "During this monstrous breakfast —advisedly so called in view of six dozen Osten oysters, six cutlets a la Soubise, a chicken a la Marengo, lobster mayonnaise, green peas, a mushroom pasty, washed down with three bottles of Bordeaux, three bottles of Champagne, plus coffee and liqueurs, to say nothing of relishes —Gazonal was magnificent in his diatribes against Paris."  - now that is a Balzacian best breakfast! 

"Unconscious Commedians" is a very good story, I liked everything about it but the close.  As the story opens a business man from the South of France, where you are from is very important in Balzac, has come to Paris to get in touch with a cousin who he has not seen for a long time.  The cousin, who we met sixteen years ago when he was just starting as a painter, has become a very successful known all over artist.  The man has come to Paris because he is being sued.  He owns a factory that depends on a stream that runs through his land for power and one of his neighbors is trying to block the stream.  The man feels he is going to lose and hopes his cousin can give him some advice.  He finds his cousin and the cousin tells him he thinks he can help him with the suit, which will be settled in Paris.  First the country cousin needs a Parisian education and make over!

The painter and one of his friends decides to take their country cousin on a tour of Paris.  They meet a lot of fascinating people.  They start out in front of a  theater.  We and the cousin learn about the people leaving the theater, the different jobs for theater people and the intrigues of the theater goers.

We find out why being a porter, arriving bags in a hotel, is such a good job.  We also learn a bit about how people get into different lines of work.

We meet a famous barber.  Of course there are all sorts of barbers in Paris, ultra-high society stylists to barbers to the poor.  In the fancy salon we go to we meet the people who do the different jobs and learn a lot about this business.  We go along when they take the country cousin for a pedicure, the idea is he has to be fixed up so he can meet the woman who is the mistress of the government official who will decide his case.  We meet a pawn broker who deals only with wealthy women.  Everybody is corrupt in this story or they are the victim of their vices and vanities.  Balzac spends just the right about of time with each person the cousin meets.  

The only I think I do not especially like in this story is how it closes, it rings false to me but Balzac knew what his audience wanted.  

This story is worth reading because of the great tour of Paris, not just as a component of The Human Comedy.  Over all I liked it a lot. 

Mel u

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