A Post by Ambrosia Boussweau, European Correspodent of The Reading Life
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A Novel in Two Parts
Madame de la Chanterie
Balzac loved to dwell on the dark side of Paris. One must assume, based partially on Stefan Zweig's book, Balzac, that a manwith the incredible energy and couiosity of our author, that he had a direct acquaintance with rhis aspect of Paris life. Like Dickens, he comes most to life writing about imperfect people.
In The Wrong Side of Paris, I think this is the best translation of the title, our thirty year old main character has become tired of the dissolute money driven life he is leading. He learns of a rooming house run by a noble woman with a tragic past, inhabited by an organization of men devoted to announmosly doing good deeds, helping those in distress. The revolution of 1793 had devasted the lives of all the men in the organization, destroying their world.
He learns of a Polish family (Balzac had his own "Polish Connection") living in the slums of Paris. The wife lives in luxury not knowing the cost of her life style is born by the poverty ridden existence of her family. Of course our hero saves the day and joins the secret society.
This is an interesting work but not Balzac at his best