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The Girl with the Golden Eyes

The Girl with the Golden Eyes by Honoré de Balzac
By: (1799-1850)

"Give me a feast such as men give when they love," she said, "and whilst I sleep, slay me..."

Listeners who like to plunge straight into a story would do well to skip the lengthy preamble. Here, Balzac the virtuoso satirist depicts the levels of Parisian society as a version of the Inferno of Dante - but perhaps keeps the reader waiting too long for the first act of his operatic extravaganza.

Our beautiful, androgynous hero, Henri de Marsay, is one of the bastard offspring of a depraved Regency milord and himself practises the cynical arts of the libertine. His quarry is the exotic Paquita Valdes, she of the golden eyes.

But there is a mysterious third person in this liaison...

The shocking truth of their interrelationships marks this out at once as one of those French novels that Lady Bracknell would instantly ban from the house.

First Page:


By Honore De Balzac

Translated by Ellen Marriage

PREPARER'S NOTE: The Girl with the Golden Eyes is the third part of a trilogy. Part one is entitled Ferragus and part two is The Duchesse de Langeais. The three stories are frequently combined under the title The Thirteen.


To Eugene Delacroix, Painter.


One of those sights in which most horror is to be encountered is, surely, the general aspect of the Parisian populace a people fearful to behold, gaunt, yellow, tawny. Is not Paris a vast field in perpetual turmoil from a storm of interests beneath which are whirled along a crop of human beings, who are, more often than not, reaped by death, only to be born again as pinched as ever, men whose twisted and contorted faces give out at every pore the instinct, the desire, the poisons with which their brains are pregnant; not faces so much as masks; masks of weakness, masks of strength, masks of misery, masks of joy, masks of hypocrisy; all alike worn and stamped with the indelible signs of a panting cupidity? What is it they want? Gold or pleasure? A few observations upon the soul of Paris may explain the causes of its cadaverous physiognomy, which has but two ages youth and decay: youth, wan and colorless; decay, painted to seem young... Continue reading book >>

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