After his brilliant lectures in The Living Novel on the English, Russian and French novelists, and his celebrated portrait of a spendthrift in A Cab at the Door, V.S. Pritchett turns his command of irony and comedy to the most extravagant of all great novelists, Honore de Balzac.
Balzac was one of the founding geniuses among the world's great novelists. V.S. Pritchett presents a life-size portrait of the man inside the artist, the exuberant, uncouth provincial who combined encyclopaedic knowledge with the life of an exhibitionist and a would-be dandy, a gourmet, a disastrous financial speculator, a successful pursuer of aristocratic women, a born salesman and an untiring traveller. Yet, with some truth, Balzac called himself a monk, working his sixteen hours a day and keeping going on an ocean of strong coffee. When he died, he left the huge monument of the Comedie Humaine, an unsurpassed picture of French society from the rise and fall of Napoleon until the revolution of 1848.