The inconsistency of Balzac's work - Honore de Balzac

Essays on literary works - 2023

The inconsistency of Balzac's work
Honore de Balzac

The restored Bourbon monarchy collapsed in 1830. After the July Revolution, financiers, bankers, and money tycoons came to power in France. They put a king on the throne. Louis Philippe, they distributed ministerial portfolios and stock shares, they dictated the laws and directed the political course of the country. The bourgeois-democratic revolution remained unfinished. The condition of the people did not improve under the new regime. And the smell of gunpowder did not subside in the working-class quarters of French cities. Republican call "To arms, citizens!" will sound more than once on the streets of Paris in the 30s, and how barricades will appear from under the ground K “To live working or die fighting!” - the rebellious workers of Lyon will write on their banner. For the first time, the proletariat appeared in France in those years as an independent force opposing the bourgeoisie.

Immediately after the establishment of the July monarchy, a broad front of opposition formed against it. Both the Left Republicans, the most advanced people of that time, and the hidden Bonapartists, and the supporters of the overthrown Bourbon monarchy - the royalists, or, as they called themselves, the Legitimists - were all dissatisfied, everyone dreamed of a political revolution. Balzac is among the dissatisfied. The power of the usurers, the domination of the "vulgar money upstart" inspires him with disgust, but he does not become a republican: the power of the people, "Robespierre with a million hands", inspires him with fear. Like many other thinkers and writers of that time, Balzac creates his own utopia: he dreams of some kind of idealized monarchy that will take care of the people, relying on people of labor and talent. He wants to believe that a happy life can be given to the people "from above", that the traditional foundations of the monarchy and religion will be able to resist rampant self-interest, moral corruption. His utopia has little in common with the reactionary platform of the royalist party, but, trying to find some kind of political stronghold, Balzac declares himself a royalist. One of the most insightful people of his time, who saw the doom of the aristocracy and monarchy, he proclaimed himself their defender and supporter.

Balzac was mistaken, he was inconsistent in his political declarations, he entered into a struggle with himself. The contradictions of his worldview will be reflected in his work. But a limited monarchist thinker could not defeat in him a sharp-sighted and truthful artist, a democrat in all inclinations and tastes, in all his inner warehouse,Balzac the writer moves in line with the broad progressive trend of French literature, in the ranks of innovators who seek to turn art towards modernity. In the late 1920s, he was close to the romantics, to the army of Victor Hugo. Together with him, Balzac participated in the literary battles of the early 30s, defending freedom in art, overthrowing the outdated prohibitions and "rules" of past centuries. But many things already in these years distinguished Balzac from the romantics. In critical articles and pamphlets, he repeatedly spoke out against subjective arbitrariness, against the idealization of life and characters, to which adherents of romanticism paid tribute. Balzac appreciates the authenticity and accuracy of the image, seeks to introduce the spirit of research into literary creativity, the pathos of scientific knowledge. He wants to be a historian, writer of everyday life, systematist and philosopher,

During these years, more than one Balzac embarked on the path of artistic exploration of the depths of social life and the inner world of modern man. In 1830, Stendhal's novel Red and Black was published, "quivering with political excitement." “True, harsh truth” - such an epigraph was chosen by Stendhal for his novel. To open the veils over the harsh truth of life, to understand the connection between human destinies and the social circumstances in which they develop - these tasks were set for themselves by Stendhal and Balzac in France, Dickens and Thackeray in England. These were completely new tasks put forward by the era of bourgeois revolutions and national liberation movements, a new era, when new classes appeared on the historical stage.

The deeper and more truthfully life was reflected in the books of realist writers, the sharper their criticism became, the more merciless the revelations. They hoped that a sober assessment of the present would help find ways to improve and improve society. These paths were then unknown. Utopias continued to dominate even the most advanced minds.

The great realists of the 19th century, with all their perspicacity, could not yet see and understand where the forces of the future lurk, capable of leading humanity out of contradictions and dead ends, but these writers contributed to the collapse of the illusions about the "bourgeois paradise", painting the really existing bourgeois hell. And their protest reflected the growing protest of the popular masses at a new stage in the history of bourgeois society. They were revolutionary writers, although not all of them were aware of this. Criticism of reality was the strongest side of their work, which is why we call their artistic method critical realism.