Tuesday, January 26, 2010


"Today in History" readers (again if there are any of you out there)!!!
Brian has a review of Balzac's "Old Goriot" on Suite 101 =


Honore de Balzac leads us on a gritty and unflinching look at the manners and morals of the caste system of 19th Century France, and pulls no punches.

"The chariot of civilization, like the chariot of Juggernaut is scarcely halted by a heart less easily crushed by others in it's path. It soon breaks this hinderence to its wheel, and continues its triumphant course."

It is with this sombre reflection that Honore de Balzac begins his heart rending tragedy "Old Goriot". The post-Napoleonic Paris in which Balzac lived still had many of the traits of the more aristocratic days before the revolution which swept away Louis XVI. To be sure, the Three Estates no longer formally existed, but there was nevertheless a very rigid caste system still in place and very much in force. Everyone had their place. And social standing was of paramount importance in this world of grand balls, and luxurious salons, and the people who moved through them were judged accordingly, the revolution notwithstanding. If one was not a dignified member of the upper class, one was quite worthless, reguardless of who one was. One's life or death, one's happiness or lack of it were of no consequence. A man like the "Old Goriot" of the novel's title can whither away, and the Chariot of Juggernaut of which Balzac speaks will move pitilessly on its way noticing very little and caring even less.

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