Eugénie Grandet

Eugénie Grandet

Eugénie Grandet

Eugénie Grandet

Synopsis

One of the earliest and most famous novels in Balzac's Com'edie humaine, Eug'enie Grandet portrays the fall of the Grandet household. In its record of financial acuity, the vicissitudes of the wine trade, and the social and economic consequences of the Revolution, we find a vigorous fictional document of the age.

Excerpt

'At this very hour', Flaubert wrote in support of the claim that the heroine of Madame Bovary had her counterparts in contemporary life, 'my poor Bovary no doubt suffers and weeps in twenty villages of France.' Since the greater part of Emma Bovary's tragedy takes place after the move from Tostes to Yonville, we can presumably include provincial towns as well as villages in the catchment area of this declared overlap of fiction and fact. A Bovary suffering, weeping and perhaps dreaming her life away in, for instance, Saumur? And what if we further complicate the fact-fiction scenario with the calculation that, by the time Flaubert writes the above, in Saumur one Madame de Bonfons, née Grandet (and by now perhaps Marquise de Froidfond) would be, or rather 'is', fifty-seven years old? Back in 1833 she 'is' a widow, and rumour has it that she is contemplating a second marriage. The use of the present tense is in fact Balzac's, introduced on the last page of his novel to narrow the gap between 'fact' and 'fiction' by closing the gap between the time of narrative and the time of narration. Moreover, the question who Eugénie Grandet is to marry is one that appeared to exercise her creator in a quite radically absorbing way. The story famously runs-- though sceptics say it is apocryphal--that, in the course of an evening spent with his friend Jules Sandeau, Balzac suddenly accorded ontological priority to fiction over fact by declaring that the subject of Sandeau's conversation (his sick mother) was of little importance alongside the pressing question of his heroine's marital arrangements: 'That's all very well,' Balzac is alleged to have said after several minutes of absent-minded listening, 'but let's get back to reality. Who is going to marry Eugénie Grandet?'

This anecdote explains why Balzac would doubtless have . . .

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