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Bureaucracy   By: (1799-1850)

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Honoré de Balzac's "Bureaucracy" is a captivating exploration of the intricate workings and underlying flaws of a bureaucratic system. Set against the backdrop of 19th-century France, Balzac's masterful narrative shines a spotlight on the individuals caught within the labyrinthine world of government offices.

The story follows the life of the protagonist, Émile, a young man dreaming of a career in the public sector. Balzac skillfully depicts the intertwining relationships, power struggles, and intrigues that characterize the bureaucratic world. Through Émile's journey, readers are exposed to the inner workings of an institution plagued by corruption, nepotism, and inefficiency, which Balzac skillfully portrays with his characteristically vivid language.

As Émile navigates the complex maze of hierarchies and protocols, Balzac dissects the detrimental impact of bureaucracy on both individuals and society at large. The author's astute observations highlight the dehumanizing effect of excessive rules, excessive paperwork, and arbitrary decision-making. Balzac's portrayal of the disillusionment experienced by Émile and others underscores the profound consequences of a system that values procedure over people.

Moreover, Balzac explores the human toll of bureaucracy, portraying characters who become mere cogs in a bureaucratic machine, stripped of their individuality and personal aspirations. Émile's struggle to balance his ideals with the harsh realities of his profession resonates with readers, as it reminds us of the precarious line between personal integrity and survival within a soul-crushing system.

While "Bureaucracy" delves into the darker aspects of a bureaucratic apparatus, Balzac also incorporates elements of humor and satire throughout the narrative. The author's wit and irony add depth to the storytelling, highlighting the absurdity of certain bureaucratic practices and showcasing Balzac's talent as a social commentator.

Balzac's vivid descriptions and insightful characterizations bring the world of "Bureaucracy" to life, immersing readers in a setting characterized by its meticulous attention to detail. While the storyline may occasionally lose momentum, Balzac's ability to intertwine personal tales and societal critique ensures that readers remain engaged and invested in the narrative.

"Bureaucracy" stands as a thought-provoking tale that resonates far beyond its historical context. Balzac's skillful prose and incisive exploration of human nature shine through, making it a must-read for those interested in examining the intricacies of power, corruption, and the individual struggle against an oppressive system.

First Page:


By Honore De Balzac

Translated By Katharine Prescott Wormeley


To the Comtesse Seraphina San Severino, with the respectful homage of sincere and deep admiration De Balzac



In Paris, where men of thought and study bear a certain likeness to one another, living as they do in a common centre, you must have met with several resembling Monsieur Rabourdin, whose acquaintance we are about to make at a moment when he is head of a bureau in one of our most important ministries. At this period he was forty years old, with gray hair of so pleasing a shade that women might at a pinch fall in love with it for it softened a somewhat melancholy countenance, blue eyes full of fire, a skin that was still fair, though rather ruddy and touched here and there with strong red marks; a forehead and nose a la Louis XV., a serious mouth, a tall figure, thin, or perhaps wasted, like that of a man just recovering from illness, and finally, a bearing that was midway between the indolence of a mere idler and the thoughtfulness of a busy man. If this portrait serves to depict his character, a sketch of this man's dress will bring it still further into relief... Continue reading book >>

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