Urban Prose of Balzac and Breton
Atle Kittang, UNIVERSITY OF BERGEN
Honoré de Balzac is normally taken to be the first novelist to bring the art of fiction into close contact with real, everyday contemporary life. It could be maintained, however, that Balzac’s prose tends to work in the opposite direction as well, producing a kind of magic of everyday life. Actually, in some of its important dimensions Balzac’s Paris is quite as hallucinatory as the Paris of André Breton, who, as a true surrealist, wanted to blur or overcome the distinctions between life and art in order to bring forth a new kind of everyday life – “the dazzling everyday” (le merveilleux quotidien).
This can be substantiated by studying the topographies of the city and the theme of love in some representative selections from the urban prose of the two writers.1 Paris is the
1 The following pages constitute a preliminary presentation of some aspects of a project in progress whose aim is to study “the surrealism of Realism” and “the realism of Surrealism” in works by Balzac and Breton.