Having finished the novel “Father Gorio” in 1834, Balzac comes to a fundamentally important decision: he intended to create a grandiose artistic panorama of the life of the French society of the post-revolutionary period, consisting of related novels, stories and stories. To this end, previously written works, after appropriate processing, he includes in the “Human Comedy” – a unique epic cycle, whose design and title were finally ripe by the beginning of 1842.
Calling the cycle of works “The Human Comedy”, Honore de Balzac, first, I wanted to emphasize that his creation has for the contemporary writer of France the same significance as Dante’s “Divine Comedy” had for medieval Europe. Secondly, it is likely that in the terrestrial, human life with its “chilling cold” Balzac saw analogues of the allegorical circles of Dante’s hell.
The embodiment of this grand design falls on the most fruitful period of the writer’s work – between 1834 and 1845. It was in this decade that most of the novels and novels of the “Human Comedy” were created, creating, Balzac strove to “the integrity of the epic action.” To this end, he consciously divides the “Human Comedy” into three main sections: “Etudes of Morals,” “Philosophical Episodes,” and “Analytical Studies.”
“Etudes of morals”, in turn, are divided into six subsections:
“Scenes of private life.” “Scenes of provincial life.” “Scenes of the Parisian life.” “Scenes of political life.” “Scenes of military life.” “Scenes of village life.”
In total for “Etudes of morals” Balzac conceived 111 novels, but managed to write 72.
The section “Philosophical etudes” is not subdivided. For this section, Balzac conceived 27 novels and short stories, and wrote 22.
For the third section of the epic – “Analytical studies” – the writer has conceived five novels, and written only two: “The physiology of marriage” and “The adversity of married life.”
In total, for the epic “Human Comedy” 143 works were to be created, and -95 was written.
In the “Human comedy” Honore de Balzac, 2000 characters act, many of which “live” on the pages of the epic according to the principle of cyclicity, moving from one work to another. Dervil’s lawyer, Dr. Bianchon, Eugene de Rastignac, convict Vautrin, poet Lucien de Rubambre and many others are “returning” characters. In some novels, they appear before the readers as the main characters, in others – as secondary, in the third, the author mentions... them casually.
Balzac depicts the evolution of the characters of these heroes at different stages of their development: a pure soul and degenerated under pressure circumstances, which are often stronger than Balzac’s heroes. We see them as young, full of hope, mature, aged, wise life experience and disappointed in their ideals, defeated or victorious. Sometimes, in a particular novel, about the past of this or that hero Honore de Balzac tells us very little, but the reader of the “Human Comedy” already knows the details of their life from other works of the writer. For example, the abbot Carlos Herrera in the novel “The Shine and Poverty of the Courtesans” is a convict Vautrin, with whom the reader is already familiar with the novel “Father Gorio”, and the successful secular dodger Rastignac, who in the pages of the novel “The Lost Illusions” full of hopes and faith in people, teaches the young Lucien de Rubempre, in the novel “Father Gorio” degenerates into a calculating and cynical habitual secular salons. Immediately we meet with the enamored of Lucien Esther, who turns out to be the grand-niece of the usurer, Gobsek, the hero of the story of the same name.
In the “Human Comedy”, the house of the banker and the beggarly slums, the mansion of the aristocrat and the commercial office, the high society salon and the gambling house, the artist’s workshop, the scientist’s laboratory, the poet’s attic and the newspaper’s editorial office, similar to the robber dens, turned out to be invisible threads. The pages of the “Human Comedy” are presented to the readers by political moviemakers, bankers, businessmen, usurers and convicts, poets and artists, as well as boudoir and bedroom of secular beauties, small rooms and cheap hostels in which the destitute impoverished people are huddled.
In the preface to The Human Comedy, Honoré de Balzac wrote: “In order to deserve the praise that every artist should strive for, I needed to learn the basics or one common basis of these social phenomena, to grasp the hidden meaning of a huge cluster of types, passions, events… My labor has its own geography, as well as its genealogy, its families, its localities, its surroundings, actors and facts, as well as its arms, its nobility and the bourgeoisie, its artisans and peasants, politicians and dandies, their army, in word the whole world”.