May 13, Ben rated it really liked it 4. Last year was my year of Shakespeare. This is my year of Proust. I think that my next ambitious literary reading endeavor is to immerse myself in the entirety of Balzacs Human Comedy, that immense and impressive collection of nearly works. It is well-known that Balzac had an addiction to 4. It is well-known that Balzac had an addiction to coffee and consumed quantities of caffeine sufficient to keep a whale up for a fortnight estimates vary, but many suggest that he drank around 50 cups a day!
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Sylvain Pons, a musician in a Parisian boulevard orchestra, has a close friend in another musician from the orchestra, the German pianist Wilhelm Schmucke.
They lodge with Mme Cibot but Pons — unlike Schmucke — has two failings: his passion which is almost a mania for collecting works of art and his passion for good food. Schmucke, on the other hand, has only one passion, his affection for Pons. Pons, being a gourmet, much enjoys dining regularly with his wealthy lawyer cousins M.
When this ill-considered marriage project falls through, Pons is banished from the house. She also steals one for herself. Horrified to discover his betrayal by Mme Cibot and the plots that are raging around him, Pons dies, bequeathing all his worldly possessions to Schmucke.
The latter is browbeaten out of them by Fraisier. He in turn dies a broken-hearted man, for in Pons he has lost all that he valued in the world. The art collection comes to the Camusot de Marville family and the vultures profit from their ill-gotten gains. However, Le Cousin Pons is not exclusively about the clash of extremes.
Some characters, even the eponymous hero himself, are presented in a nuanced way. Balzac also presents the lawyer Fraisier and the doctor Poulain in an ambivalent light. The morals of the working-class characters, e. The values of art are contrasted with those of money. Artistic values aside, Balzac displays the reification or materialisation of the world.
The law is seen by Balzac as a way of depriving people of their rightful property. Harassed by Fraisier, Schmucke renounces his property rights.
Balzac subverts conventional social values as social norms are revealed to be a fiction. The values of the Camusot de Marville family are materialistic. The union of the Topinards, who are not strictly married, is the kindest, most affectionate relationship of man and woman in the novel.
The friendship of Pons and Schmucke is true love but not love within marriage. The two men are poor and physically ugly but their relationship is golden and pure. Their Platonic friendship runs parallel to the idealising function of art. Though not a lover in the human physical sense, Pons is a man with an over-riding passion, the passion for artistic beauty. In its etymological sense passion equates to suffering. He is a man with a mania or idee fixe, and this passion is the cause of his suffering and death.
Narrative strategies[ edit ] As has been shown by Donald Adamson , Le Cousin Pons began its existence as a novella, or nouvelle, and was suddenly transformed into a full-length novel. This process of transformation necessitated certain inconsistencies and an uneasy transition from long-short story to fiction of sizeable proportions and complexity.
It is in dispute whether these two narrative elements have been fused into a perfect whole. Pritchett considers that Balzac has been totally successful in combining the two storylines. The struggle for an inheritance was one of the narrative situations most congenial to Balzac. In this drama of light and darkness, or chiaroscuro , the art collection is the heroine of the story. Roman-feuilleton serial. The serialisation of novels was a feature of the rapid growth of the newspaper industry in France after Balzac became increasingly preoccupied by their popularity in the s and tried to emulate them.
This involved incorporating many features of melodrama ; it also encouraged the ending of each serialised extract on a note of high suspense. The serialisation of fiction also necessitated the increasing use of dialogue.
This is particularly so in the later stages of the novel. XVII and 1st supplementary vol.