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Gambara   By: (1799-1850)

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Gambara by Honoré de Balzac is a fascinating exploration of the power of music and the human mind. Set in 19th-century Paris, the novel follows the life of the eccentric composer Gambara as he navigates the harsh realities of his existence.

Balzac's vivid and detailed descriptions bring the city to life, painting a vivid picture of both its grandeur and its squalor. Through his protagonist, he delves into the depths of obsession and the madness that can accompany artistic genius.

Gambara, an Italian composer living in Paris, is a mysterious and enigmatic character. He possesses an unrivaled talent for composition but struggles to find recognition and success. His obsession with creating the ultimate masterpiece consumes him, driving him to live in poverty and isolation.

Balzac expertly delves into the mind of Gambara, portraying his descent into madness with great empathy and understanding. The author explores the thin line between genius and insanity, exposing the fragility of the human mind when exposed to the pressures and expectations of society.

While the novel is primarily focused on Gambara, Balzac also introduces a host of supporting characters who add depth and complexity to the story. From Gambara's long-suffering wife to the conniving music publisher who takes advantage of his brilliance, each character serves a purpose in highlighting various facets of the music world and human nature.

The themes of ambition, delusion, and the pursuit of artistic perfection are carefully woven throughout the narrative. Balzac's prose is lush and descriptive, transporting readers into the world of music and creativity. The vivid descriptions of Gambara's compositions and the emotions they evoke allow readers to experience the power of music firsthand.

While Gambara may not be as well-known as some of Balzac's other works, it is a thought-provoking and engaging novel that leaves a lasting impression. The author's exploration of the human psyche and the sacrifices one may make in the name of art is both compelling and chilling.

Overall, Gambara is a must-read for fans of Balzac's work and anyone interested in the inner workings of artistic genius. Balzac's intricate storytelling and powerful themes make this novel a remarkable exploration of the human condition.

First Page:


By Honore de Balzac

Translated by Clara Bell and James Waring


To Monsieur le Marquis de Belloy

It was sitting by the fire, in a mysterious and magnificent retreat, now a thing of the past but surviving in our memory, whence our eyes commanded a view of Paris from the heights of Belleville to those of Belleville, from Montmartre to the triumphal Arc de l'Etoile, that one morning, refreshed by tea, amid the myriad suggestions that shoot up and die like rockets from your sparkling flow of talk, lavish of ideas, you tossed to my pen a figure worthy of Hoffmann, that casket of unrecognized gems, that pilgrim seated at the gate of Paradise with ears to hear the songs of the angels but no longer a tongue to repeat them, playing on the ivory keys with fingers crippled by the stress of divine inspiration, believing that he is expressing celestial music to his bewildered listeners.

It was you who created GAMBARA; I have only clothed him. Let me render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's, regretting only that you do not yourself take up the pen at a time when gentlemen ought to wield it as well as the sword, if they are to save their country. You may neglect yourself, but you owe your talents to us.


New Year's Day of 1831 was pouring out its packets of sugared almonds, four o'clock was striking, there was a mob in the Palais Royal, and the eating houses were beginning to fill... Continue reading book >>

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