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Honore de Balzac

Honoré de Balzac (1799–1850) was a French journalist and writer and is considered one of the creators of realism in literature. Balzac's huge production of novels and short stories are collected under the name La Comédie Humaine, which originated from Dante's The Divine Comedy. Before his breakthrough as an author, Balzac wrote without success several plays and novels under different pseudonyms. Despite prolific output, Balzac lived in debt.

Balzac was born in Tours, France. He spent the first four years of life in foster care in the village of Saint-Cyr and was returned to his parents at the age of four. At school Balzac was an ordinary pupil. He studied at the Collège de Vendôme and the Sorbonne, and then worked in law offices. In 1819, Balzac announced that he wanted to be a writer. He returned to Paris and was installed in a shabby room at 9 rue Lediguiéres. A few years later, he described the place in La Peau de Chargin, though his first work was Cromwell.

By 1822 Balzac had produced several novels under pseudonyms, but he was ignored as a writer. Against his family's hopes, Balzac continued his career in literature, believing that the simplest road to success was writing. Unfortunately, he also tried his skills in business. Balzac ran a publishing company and he bought a printing house, which did not have much to print. When these commercial activities failed, Balzac was left with a heavy burden of debt. It plagued him to the end of his career.

In 1829, Balzac wrote La Dernier Chouan, a historical work in the manner of Sir Walter Scott, which he wrote under his own name. Gradually, Balzac began to gain notice as an author. Between the years 1830 and 1832 he composed six novelettes titled Scènes de la Vie Privée, which was addressed more or less to a female readership.

In 1833, Balzac conceived the idea of linking together his old novels so that they would comprehend the whole society in a series of books. This plan eventually led to 90 novels and novellas, which included more than 2,000 characters. Balzac's huge and ambitious plan drew a picture of the customs, atmosphere, and habits of the bourgeois France. Balzac got down to the work with great energy, but also found time to pile up huge debts and fail in hopeless financial operations. After two years, he had to flee from his creditors and conceal his identity under the name of his housekeeper, Madame de Brugnolle.

Among the masterpieces of La Comédie Humaine are Le Pére Goriot, Les Illusions Perdues, Les Paysans, La Femme de Trente Ans, and Eugénie Grandet.

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