Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Old Goriot (1834)

Old Goriot (1834) by Balzac is a serial centering around a boarding house in contemporary (1834) Paris, and the fortunes of the mysterious fellow, Goriot.

In my edition, there were no chapter breaks. The whole work was a single piece.

The work is a serial, drifting between moralizing on one side and melodrama on the other. It's job was to hook you and keep you reading, and also to add in lots of extra words so that the author earns more money. The work is well padded for the story that it tells.

I found this period of Paris quite interesting, and now understand how middle-class midwest America could find such a tale shocking. The Parisians were entirely worldly, much to the shock of the Godly American, and the tale pursued this worldliness with aplomb, apologizing for nothing.

Although one co-worker called this an intellectual work, it's anything but intellectual. While there are bits that could be called intellectual, most of the work focused on the Parisian upper class, giving a voyeuristic view of the rich and famous to the Parisian masses, meanwhile tearing down those classes as self-centered, criminal, and no better than anyone else.

Most of all, this book is about unvarnished humanity, where hypocrisy rules and money is king. All together, I found this book an interesting travel in time and space.