An essay-appeal to the writer Honore de Balzac (“Mischievous stories” - playful short stories by Honore de Balzac) - Honore de Balzac

Essays on literary works - 2023

An essay-appeal to the writer Honore de Balzac (“Mischievous stories” - playful short stories by Honore de Balzac)
Honore de Balzac

Honore de Balzac is a great French writer, whose creativity flourished at the beginning of the 19th century. His favorite heroes were young people who started their journey with honest and pure thoughts. And then the fate of each of them developed differently: some were defeated in the struggle for wealth and success, others achieved material wealth, but along with a moral decline.

Balzac's works represent the cruel world of that society, many human tragedies. Apparently, having decided to take a break between writing the "public dramas" presented by the author in the "Human Comedy" cycle, he creates light and funny short stories called "Naughty Tales". Reading them, you imagine a completely different Balzac, who has the talent to clearly, simply and beautifully depict people, love, evil, ordinary life.

I would like to turn to the author of these works from our time, to think a little with him, and sometimes to argue. I would like to ask the writer about the true reasons for the assessment of phenomena that he gives in his works.

Let me, first of all, dear author, express my admiration for your talent, your knowledge of society, your ability to see what others do not see.

How easily, jokingly, in your "Mischievous Stories" you present the philosophy of life on the example of everyday plots. The parade of beautiful female images created by you, noble and not very knights, serves various purposes. In your words, you want "not only to amuse people, but also to give them something useful, to teach them the lesson of fine taste." I think you did a great job of it.

Here is a typical example of the Countess Bonn from The Constable's Wife. A beautiful Parisian "for the sake of pleasant fun fools her husband" with the handsome Savoisi. But in the midst of love adventures, she "gets caught like a bird in a net."

You rewarded this lady with great ingenuity in love affairs, female deceit, disregard for other people's destinies. Moreover, these qualities of the Countess's character are depicted by you absolutely impartially - you appear only as an attentive outside observer, enabling readers to notice the depth of human windiness and callousness behind a light narrative.

How easily the countess is looking for a victim in order to escape from the trap set by her husband because of her infidelity. “Here must be shed, without any pity, noble and only noble blood!” she convinces her maid. And when the victim is finally found, both ladies calmly argue: “How many men die in the war because of trifles! So why shouldn't such a fine knight die for our favors."

Probably, you, as a French author, know Parisian women better, and I was surprised to see those unattractive female features that you describe. And you surprisingly managed to combine the description of not too moral behavior of the heroines with wonderful artistic techniques, love motifs, landscape sketches.

In the end, two handsome young men lost their lives, and you do not blame the Countess Bonn for this at all. You are generous, supportive and kind to her. Only one lesson can be drawn from your story: vain and proud knights need to be more careful in love adventures, and beautiful ladies cannot be blamed for anything, and "if they do not completely lose their heads, the god of love will never leave them."

Or maybe it was worth all the same to teach such ladies a lesson? You cannot always follow the rules in which they were brought up and by which they live. Often these laws lead to unjustified cruelty, suffering and death.

In my opinion, the image of the Countess Bonn is somewhat consonant with the image of the Viscountess Bosean - the heroine of the novel "Father Goriot". She also impartially and calmly advises the young Eugene: "Strike without any pity, look at men and women as mail horses, drive them until you drive them, and you will reach the top of your desires."

Behind the external beauty, brilliance, you make us see the selfish interests of your heroes, their spiritual indifference. And even the light and playful manner of narration of the story cannot completely obscure this.

With your "Mischievous Tales" you have fully "prevented the moral fall" of some women, helped them to escape from temptations and made them virtuous and humane. A characteristic example of this is the image of the beautiful Empire from the story "The Marriage of the Beautiful Empire". The favorite of fate, the object of worship of high-ranking men of France, from the king to the cardinal, the cheerful and frivolous Empire, which had a beautiful appearance, did not burden itself too much with the observance of moral principles and high morality. But you, a good author, are very fond of this beautiful sinner, calling her "impeccable and refined appearance", and only slightly hinting at her sins, windiness and inconstancy.

Probably, the Empire can really be justified in some way: nature has awarded it with extraordinary beauty, and it takes full advantage of it. Rich nobles showered her with gifts and golden ducats. But the heart of this charmer remains completely free, among her admirers she singles out only the elect and communicates with them, like “a commander saying to the ranks“ my soldiers ”.

However, the Empire does not forget about those poor people who live with it in the same city, helps the needy in every possible way, distributes generous donations to them. You are right, author, there are many good human qualities in this woman. And you described her very well, not only from one, the most controversial side, but did not lose sight of the other side of her life. The Empire had to endure the tragic loss of her daughter (she committed suicide to prevent dishonor), become disillusioned with life and retire. However, the spiritual generosity of the beauty never dried up, as evidenced by the funds "given by her generous hand for the construction of temples" and the construction of houses for the poor.

But life takes its toll, and the seclusion of the beautiful heroine ends. The empire is destined to fall in love with the ambassador of the French king, the young adviser of Lil-Adan, who "did not have a penny for his soul." I think it is no coincidence that the author makes her fall in love with a noble and poor gentleman who managed to discern the soul of the Empire, its compassion and sensitivity behind external beauty.

And then the author, in my opinion, admits some contradiction in the development of the plot. The name of this cycle is "Naughty Stories". But the ending of this novel is sad in nature, the main characters are in for a big disappointment in life.

The Empire sacrifices not only love, but also its own life to the beloved. Due to her age, as well as the inability to have children, she skillfully imitates the disease that led her to death. In fact, the aging beauty simply takes the poison, having previously left her entire fortune to her young husband Lil-Adan and arranging his wedding with the young viscountess.

Dear author, how nobly you introduced the Empire to all readers, writing the following lines about it: “No one knew the true cause of her death, two initiates kept silence so that the grieving spouse would not suspect in the least that the Empire had died in order to free him from his old barren wife” .

Thank you for showing “true virtue” in the form of an empire, although you endowed this heroine with the “sins of youth”. I cannot help quoting your words in justification of the Empire: “Among the most virtuous wives, no matter how much we exalt these pious persons, there would hardly be at least one who would dare to sacrifice her life for the sake of love, like the Empire.”

You have set a fine example of female self-sacrifice. In addition, the image of the Empire, you, dear author, make us think about the question - what is the "true sinfulness of man"?

With your "Naughty Tales" you teach merry laughter, ecstasy of life, open expression of feelings.

Thank you for the faithful and truthful portrayal of human characters and passions. You are deservedly called "a connoisseur of the human heart, a master psychologist." You portrayed female images, the soul and love of women so well that now this theme of your work is associated with a concept that has become entrenched in the mass consciousness, the romantic aphorism "A woman of Balzac's age."

Thank you for the immortal works, for the literary heritage left to posterity.