Honoré de Balzac

(1799 – 1850)

Honoré de BalzacBiographical Sketch

Honoré de Balzac (born Honoré Balssa; Tours, France, May 20, 1799 – Paris, France, August 18, 1850) was a French novelist and playwright. His magnum opus was a sequence of short stories and novels collectively entitled La Comédie Humaine, which presents a panorama of French life in the years after the 1815 fall of Napoleon Bonaparte.

Due to his keen observation of detail and unfiltered representation of society, Balzac is regarded as one of the founders of realism in European literature. He is renowned for his multifaceted characters, who are morally ambiguous. His writing influenced many subsequent novelists such as Marcel Proust, Émile Zola, Charles Dickens, Edgar Allan Poe, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Gustave Flaubert, Benito Pérez Galdós, Marie Corelli, Henry James, William Faulkner, Jack Kerouac, and Italo Calvino, and philosophers such as Friedrich Engels and Karl Marx. Many of Balzac’s works have been made into or have inspired films, and they are a continuing source of inspiration for writers, filmmakers and critics.

An enthusiastic reader and independent thinker as a child, Balzac had trouble adapting to the teaching style of his grammar school. His willful nature caused trouble throughout his life and frustrated his ambitions to succeed in the world of business. When he finished school, Balzac was an apprentice in a law office, but he turned his back on the study of law after wearying of its inhumanity and banal routine. Before and during his career as a writer, he attempted to be a publisher, printer, businessman, critic, and politician; he failed in all of these efforts. La Comédie Humaine reflects his real-life difficulties, and includes scenes from his own experience.

Balzac suffered from health problems throughout his life, possibly due to his intense writing schedule. His relationship with his family was often strained by financial and personal difficulties, and he ended several friendships over critical reviews. In 1850 he married Ewelina Hańska, his longtime love; he died five months later.

Read more about Honoré de Balzac on Wikipedia.



La Comédie Humaine
Scènes de la Vie Politique
  • Les Chouans (1829)
    (The Chouans)
  • Une Épisode sous la Terreur (1830)
    (An Episode Under the Terror)
  • Une Passion dans le Désert (1830)
    (A Passion in the Desert)
  • Z. Marcas (1840)
  • Une Ténébreuse Affaire (1841)
    (A Shady Business; A Murky Business)
  • Le Député d”Arcis (1847)
    (The Deputy of Arcis)
Scènes de la Vie Privée
  • La Maison du Chat Qui Pélote (1830)
    (At the Sign of the Cat and Racket)
  • La Vendetta (1830)
  • Le Bal de la Sceaux (1830)
    (The Ball at Sceaux)
  • Une Double Famille (1830)
    (The Two Brothers)
  • La Paix de Ménage (1830)
    (A Marriage Settlement)
  • Étude de Femme (1830)
    (Study of a Woman)
  • Gobseck (1830)
  • Une Fille d’Eve (1830 – 1839)
    (A Daughter of Eve)
  • La Femme de Trente Ans (1831 – 1844)
    (A Woman of Thirty)
  • La Bourse (1832)
  • Le Colonel Chabert (1832)
    (Colonel Chabert)
  • Madame Firmiani (1832
  • Le Message (1832)
    (The Message)
  • La Femme Abandonnée (1832)
    (The Deserted Woman)
  • Le Père Goriot (1834-1835)
    (Père Goriot; Old Goriot)
  • Le Contrat de Mariage (1835)
    (The Marriage Contract)
  • L’Interdiction (1836)
  • La Messe de l’Athée (1836)
    (The Atheist’s Mass)
  • Béatrix (1839)
  • La Fausse Maîtresse (1841)
  • Albert Savarus (1842)
  • Un Début dans la Vie (1842)
    (A Start in Life)
  • Autre Étude de Femme (1842)
    (Another Study of a Woman)
  • Honorine (1843)
  • Modeste Mignon (1844)
Scènes de la Vie Parisienne
  • Sarrasine (1831)
  • Histoire des Treize
    (History of the Thirteen)

    • Ferragus (1833)
      (Ferragus, Chief of the Devorants)
    • La Duchesse de Langeais (1833-1834)
      (The Duchesse de Langeais)
    • La Fille aux Yeux d’Or (1834-1835)
      (The Girl With the Golden Eyes)
  • Facino Cane (1836)
  • Les Employés (1837)
  • Histoire de la Grandeur et de la Décadence de César Birotteau (1837)
    (Rise and Fall of Cesar Birotteau)
  • La Maison Nucingen (1838)
    (The Firm of Nucingen)
  • Les Secrets de la Princesse de Cadignan (1839)
    (The Secrets of the Princesse de Cadignan)
  • Splendeurs et Misères des Courtisanes (1839 – 1847)
    (A Harlot High and Low)
  • Pierre Grassou (1840)
  • Un Prince de la Bohême (1840)
    (A Prince of Bohemia)
  • L’Envers de l’Histoire Contemporaine (1842 – 1846)
  • Gaudissart (1844)
  • Un Homme d’Affaires (1845)
    (A Man of Business
  • Les Comédiens Sans le Savoir (1846)
    (Unconscious Comedians)
  • La Cousine Bette (1846)
    (Cousin Bette)
  • Cousin Pons (1847)
  • Les Petits Bourgeois (1854)
Scènes de la Vie de Campagne
  • Le Médecin de Campagne (1833)
    (The Country Doctor)
  • Le Lys Dans la Vallée (1836)
    (Lily of the Valley)
  • Le Curé de Village (1838-1839)
    (The Village Rector)
  • Les Paysans (1844)
    (Jealousies of a Country Town)
Scènes de la Vie de Province
  • Le Curé de Tours (1832)
    (The Vicar of Tours)
  • Eugénie Grandet (1833)
  • L’Illustre Gaudissart (1833)
    (The Illustrious Gaudissart)
  • La Vieille Fille (1837)
    (An Old Maid)
  • Les Illusions Perdues (1837 – 1843)
    (Lost Illusions)
  • Le Cabinet des Antiques (1836 – 1838, 1839)
    (The Cabinet of Antiquities)
  • Pierrette (1840)
  • Ursule Mirouet (1841)
  • La Rabouilleuse (1841-1842)
    (The Black Sheep)
  • La Muse du Département (1843)
    (The Muse of the Department)
Études Analytiques
  • Physiologie du Mariage (1829)
    (The Physiology of Marriage)
  • Petites Misères de la Vie Conjugale (1830, 1840, 1845)
Other Parts of the Comédie Humaine
  • Adieu (1830)
  • El Verdugo (1830)
  • L’Élixir de Longue Vie (1830)
    (The Elixir of Life)
  • La Peau de Chagrin (1831)
    (The Wild Ass’s Skin)
  • Physiologie du Mariage (1829)
    (The Physiology of Marriage)
  • Jésus Christ en Flandre (1831)
    (Christ in Flanders)
  • Le Chef-d’œuvre Inconnu (1831)
    (The Unknown Masterpiece)
  • Le Réquisitionnaire (1831)
  • Maître Cornélius (1831)
  • L’Auberge Rouge (1831)
    (The Red Inn)
  • Les Proscrits (1831)
  • L’Enfant Maudit (1831 – 1836)
  • L’Auberge Rouge (1831)
    (The Red Inn)
  • Sur Catherine de Médicis (1831 – 1841)
    (About Catherine de Medici)
  • Les Marana (1832)
  • Louis Lambert (1832-1833)
  • Contes Drôlatres (1832 – 1837)
    (Droll Stories)
  • La Récherche de l’Absolu (1834)
    (The Quest for the Absolute)
  • Melmoth Réconcilié (1835)
    (Melmoth Reconciled)
  • Un Drame au Bord de la Mer (1835)
    (A Drama on the Seashore)
  • Séraphita (1835)
  • Gambara (1837)
  • Assimilla Doni (1839)
  • Mémoires de Deux Jeunes Mariées (1841-1842)
    (Letters of Two Brides)
Online editions of Honoré de Balzac’s works:


A Favorite Quote

Cousin Bette

“If the artist does not fling himself, without reflecting, into his work, as Curtis flung himself into the yawning gulf, as the soldier flings himself into the enemy’s trenches, and if, once in this crater, he does not work like a miner on whom the walls of his gallery have fallen in; if he contemplates difficulties instead of overcoming them one by one … he is simply looking on at the suicide of his own talent.”

Find more quotes by Honoré de Balzac on Wikiquote and Goodreads.