Summer 1940 • Vol. II No. 3 NonfictionJuly 1, 1940 |

On Rereading Balzac: The Artist as Scapegoat

Balzac is little read nowadays; he is remembered as one of the more unkempt geniuses of an unkempt century. As a psychologist he is not to be compared with his contemporary Stendhal, nor as a craftsman with his successor Flaubert. He is rather to be held up to the young as a monumental example of the consequences of indiscipline. The highest compliment likely to be paid him is that he was one of the first and most "strenuous" critics of bourgeois society. Karl Marx admitted to having learned much of his knowledge and his theory of that society from the Comédie Humaine. This is in a straight line with Brunetière’s judgment, in his famous Centenary Address at Tours in 1899, that Balzac would gain in value and importance with the passage of the years because his works were essentially "scientific documents." Yet an open minded rereading of Balzac can only leave us with the feeling that neither of these judgments does justice to the real quality and nature of his achievement. Tru

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