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The Recruit   By: (1799-1850)

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Honoré de Balzac’s novel, The Recruit, offers a captivating journey through the tumultuous era of the French Revolution. Set amidst the backdrop of war and political chaos, this riveting tale delves into the life of a young man named Julien Hautefort, as he is forcibly enlisted into the army and embarks on a transformative adventure.

Balzac masterfully weaves together elements of historical fiction and psychological exploration in The Recruit. Through vivid descriptions and meticulous attention to detail, he skillfully immerses readers into the harsh realities of war and the profound effects it has on individuals. Julien's character development is particularly noteworthy, as Balzac expertly portrays his evolution from an unsuspecting young man driven by his own dreams and ambitions, to a hardened soldier confronted with the grim realities of life on the battlefield.

What sets this novel apart is Balzac’s ability to delve into the human psyche, exploring moral dilemmas and the complex nature of human relationships. As Julien navigates the treacherous world of war, he encounters a diverse array of characters who test his values and loyalty, leading him to question his own sense of self and purpose. Balzac’s astute portrayal of the internal struggles faced by Julien adds a layer of depth and introspection to the story, which proves to be as compelling as the historical events surrounding it.

Furthermore, The Recruit offers a vivid portrayal of the social and political landscape of the period. Balzac's meticulous research and meticulous attention to historical authenticity shines through, as he expertly captures the atmosphere of the time. From the crowded streets of Paris to the grim reality of the battlefront, Balzac's descriptive prose brings the setting to life, making readers feel as if they are right alongside Julien, experiencing the challenges and hardships of the era.

However, one aspect that may deter some readers is the occasional reliance on lengthy and detailed historical exposition. While these passages serve to provide important context and background, they can at times slow down the pacing of the narrative. Nevertheless, the overarching strength of the plot and characters ultimately compensates for these occasional lulls, ensuring that readers remain engaged throughout.

In conclusion, Honoré de Balzac’s The Recruit is a must-read for those fascinated by the French Revolution and historical fiction. With its compelling storytelling, complex characters, and meticulous attention to historical detail, the novel offers an immersive experience that both educates and entertains. Balzac's insightful exploration of morality amidst the chaos of war ensures that The Recruit resonates long after the final page is turned.

First Page:


By Honore De Balzac

Translated by Katharine Prescott Wormeley


To my dear Albert Marchand de la Ribellerie.


At times they saw him, by a phenomenon of vision or locomotion, abolish space in its two forms of Time and Distance; the former being intellectual space, the other physical space.

Intellectual History of Louis Lambert.

On an evening in the month of November, 1793, the principal persons of Carentan were assembled in the salon of Madame de Dey, where they met daily. Several circumstances which would never have attracted attention in a large town, though they greatly preoccupied the little one, gave to this habitual rendezvous an unusual interest. For the two preceding evenings Madame de Dey had closed her doors to the little company, on the ground that she was ill. Such an event would, in ordinary times, have produced as much effect as the closing of the theatres in Paris; life under those circumstances seems merely incomplete. But in 1793, Madame de Dey's action was likely to have fatal results. The slightest departure from a usual custom became, almost invariably for the nobles, a matter of life or death. To fully understand the eager curiosity and searching inquiry which animated on this occasion the Norman countenances of all these rejected visitors, but more especially to enter into Madame de Dey's secret anxieties, it is necessary to explain the role she played at Carentan... Continue reading book >>

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