Père Goriot marked the beginning of Balzac’s towering project La Comédie Humaine, his series of novels and short stories depicting “the whole pell-mell of civilization.”
It is the masterful study of father Goriot, a man who has sacrificed everything for his daughters, and the other inhabitants of a Parisian boarding house in 1819.
Goriot has literally bankrupted himself to shore up the finances of his two extravagantly married daughters, selling off everything he owns until he is penniless.
Also boarding in the same house are Eugene de Rastignac and a mysterious man named Vautrin, who develop a plot to advance Rastignac in society by swindling women for their money.
Attracted to one of Goriot’s daughters, Rastignac surrenders to the fever of social climbing.
The resulting tale is a commentary on wealth and human desire that still rings true in the twenty-first century.
Endlessly fascinating, Pere Goriot epitomizes Balzac's ultimate themes: the provincial trying to make good in Paris, the wreckage in the wake of unbridled ambition, and the complexity and brutality of machinations that few come to understand.
What unifies them is an incomparable storyteller’s fascination with the power of storytelling, while throughout we also detect what Proust so admired: the “mysterious circulation of blood and desire.”
Honoré de Balzac (1799–1850), one of the most influential of French novelists, was born in Tours and educated at the Sorbonne.
Alongside his current and future contemporaries, Victor Hugo and Marcel Proust, Honoré de Balzac is considered to be the preeminent French author of the 19th century.
Fabulous, larger-than-life, Balzac was a man of fertile talent and extreme contrasts, whose proficiency with the pen was matched only by the prolificacy of his appetites.
A clown, a genius, a glutton and a monk, Balzac burned brightly with the Promethean Gift, and left behind an enormous body of work loosely interconnected in theme and character, writing over eighty novels in the course of his last twenty years, including such masterpieces as Père Goriot, Eugénie Grandet, Lost Illusions, and Cousin Bette.
"Balzac was the master unequalled in the art of painting humanity as it exists in modern society. He searched and dared everything."