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Vautrin   By: (1799-1850)

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Honoré de Balzac's novel Vautrin is a compelling and thought-provoking exploration of ambition, power, and the blurred lines between good and evil. Set in post-revolutionary France, the story immerses readers in the gritty underbelly of Parisian society, where criminals and corrupt officials coexist in a web of deceit and manipulation.

The protagonist, Jacques Collin, also known as Vautrin, is a complex and enigmatic character who embodies the dark allure of ambition. With his cunning intellect and magnetic charisma, Vautrin easily captivates both the reader and the other characters within the narrative. Balzac masterfully depicts the deep-seated desire for power that drives Vautrin, while simultaneously revealing the moral ambiguity that lies beneath his formidable exterior.

The novel skillfully intertwines Vautrin's manipulations with various subplots, drawing readers into a web of interconnected storylines. Balzac's attention to detail and his vivid descriptions bring the world of 19th-century Paris to life, creating a rich and immersive reading experience. From the grand salons of the elite to the poverty-stricken neighborhoods of the working class, every aspect of society is meticulously portrayed, providing readers with a comprehensive understanding of the social and political landscape of the time.

One of the most fascinating aspects of Vautrin is the exploration of the concept of identity. Balzac delves deep into the complexity of human nature, exposing the masks that individuals wear to hide their true selves. Through the various characters in the novel, the author examines the lengths to which people will go to maintain their facades, even if it means resorting to treachery or violence. This theme adds layers of depth and suspense to the narrative and prompts readers to question their own notions of identity and authenticity.

Balzac's prose is eloquent and sophisticated, evoking a sense of time and place that is both vivid and atmospheric. His meticulous attention to detail and his keen observations of human behavior make for a truly engrossing read. Every sentence is carefully crafted, and the language flows seamlessly, even in translation, making Vautrin a pleasure to read.

However, it is worth noting that Vautrin can be a challenging read for those unfamiliar with the historical context of 19th-century France. The novel is steeped in political and social commentary, often through lengthy digressions and a multitude of characters. While these elements enhance the overall richness of the narrative, they can at times overwhelm the reader and detract from the central storyline.

In conclusion, Vautrin is a masterfully crafted novel that delves into the depths of human ambition and the fragility of identity. Balzac's vivid descriptions, intricate plotlines, and complex characters create a captivating reading experience that is sure to leave a lasting impression. Despite its complexity, Vautrin is a must-read for those interested in exploring the darker side of human nature and the societal forces that shape our lives.

First Page:




Presented for the first time at the Porte Saint Martin Theatre, Paris March 14, 1840


It is difficult for the playwright to put himself, five days after the first presentation of his piece, in the situation in which he felt himself on the morning after the event; but it is still more difficult to write a preface to Vautrin , to which every one has written his own. The single utterance of the author will infallibly prove inferior to so vast a number of divergent expressions. The report of a cannon is never so effective as a display of fireworks.

Must the author explain his work? Its only possible commentator is M. Frederick Lemaitre.

Must he complain of the injunction which delayed the presentation of his play? That would be to betray ignorance of his time and country. Petty tyranny is the besetting sin of constitutional governments; it is thus they are disloyal to themselves, and on the other hand, who are so cruel as the weak? The present government is a spoilt child, and does what it likes, excepting that it fails to secure the public weal or the public vote... Continue reading book >>

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