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3/5 (417 valutazioni)
312 pagine
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Jan 1, 1914

Jan 1, 1914

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Eugenie Grandet - Katharine Prescott Wormeley

The Project Gutenberg EBook of Eugenie Grandet, by Honore de Balzac

This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this eBook or online at www.gutenberg.org

Title: Eugenie Grandet

Author: Honore de Balzac

Translator: Katharine Prescott Wormeley

Release Date: April, 1999 [Etext #1715]

Posting Date: March 1, 2010

Language: English


Produced by John Bickers, and Dagny


By Honore De Balzac

Translated by Katharine Prescott Wormeley


To Maria.

May your name, that of one whose portrait is the noblest ornament of this work, lie on its opening pages like a branch of sacred box, taken from an unknown tree, but sanctified by religion, and kept ever fresh and green by pious hands to bless the house.

De Balzac.



There are houses in certain provincial towns whose aspect inspires melancholy, akin to that called forth by sombre cloisters, dreary moorlands, or the desolation of ruins. Within these houses there is, perhaps, the silence of the cloister, the barrenness of moors, the skeleton of ruins; life and movement are so stagnant there that a stranger might think them uninhabited, were it not that he encounters suddenly the pale, cold glance of a motionless person, whose half-monastic face peers beyond the window-casing at the sound of an unaccustomed step.

Such elements of sadness formed the physiognomy, as it were, of a dwelling-house in Saumur which stands at the end of the steep street leading to the chateau in the upper part of the town. This street—now little frequented, hot in summer, cold in winter, dark in certain sections—is remarkable for the resonance of its little pebbly pavement, always clean and dry, for the narrowness of its tortuous road-way, for the peaceful stillness of its houses, which belong to the Old town and are over-topped by the ramparts. Houses three centuries old are still solid, though built of wood, and their divers aspects add to the originality which commends this portion of Saumur to the attention of artists and antiquaries.

It is difficult to pass these houses without admiring the enormous oaken beams, their ends carved into fantastic figures, which crown with a black bas-relief the lower floor of most of them. In one place these transverse timbers are covered with slate and mark a bluish line along the frail wall of a dwelling covered by a roof en colombage which bends beneath the weight of years, and whose rotting shingles are twisted by the alternate action of sun and rain. In another place blackened, worn-out window-sills, with delicate sculptures now scarcely discernible, seem too weak to bear the brown clay pots from which springs the heart's-ease or the rose-bush of some poor working-woman. Farther on are doors studded with enormous nails, where the genius of our forefathers has traced domestic hieroglyphics, of which the meaning is now lost forever. Here a Protestant attested his belief; there a Leaguer cursed Henry IV.; elsewhere some bourgeois has carved the insignia of his noblesse de cloches, symbols of his long-forgotten magisterial glory. The whole history of France is there.

Next to a tottering house with roughly plastered walls, where an artisan enshrines his tools, rises the mansion of a country gentleman, on the stone arch of which above the door vestiges of armorial bearings may still be seen, battered by the many revolutions that have shaken France since 1789. In this hilly street the ground-floors of the merchants are neither shops nor warehouses; lovers of the Middle Ages will here find the ouvrouere of our forefathers in all its naive simplicity. These low rooms, which have no shop-frontage, no show-windows, in fact no glass at all, are deep and dark and without interior or exterior decoration. Their doors open in two parts, each roughly iron-bound; the upper half is fastened back within the room, the lower half, fitted with a spring-bell, swings continually to and fro. Air and light reach the damp den within, either through the upper half of the door, or through an open space between the ceiling and a low front wall, breast-high, which is closed by solid shutters that are taken down every morning, put up every evening, and held in place by heavy iron bars.

This wall serves as a counter for the merchandise. No delusive display is there; only samples of the business, whatever it may chance to be,—such, for instance, as three or four tubs full of codfish and salt, a few bundles of sail-cloth, cordage, copper wire hanging from the joists above, iron hoops for casks ranged along the wall, or a few pieces of cloth upon the shelves. Enter. A neat girl, glowing with youth, wearing a white kerchief, her arms red and bare, drops her knitting and calls her father or her mother, one of whom comes forward and sells you what you want, phlegmatically, civilly, or arrogantly, according to his or her individual character, whether it be a matter of two sous' or twenty thousand francs' worth of merchandise. You may see a cooper, for instance, sitting in his doorway and twirling his thumbs as he talks with a neighbor. To all appearance he owns nothing more than a few miserable boat-ribs and two or three bundles of laths; but below in the port his teeming wood-yard supplies all the cooperage trade of Anjou. He knows to a plank how many casks are needed if the vintage is good. A hot season makes him rich, a rainy season ruins him; in a single morning puncheons worth eleven francs have been known to drop to six. In this country, as in Touraine, atmospheric vicissitudes control commercial life. Wine-growers, proprietors, wood-merchants, coopers, inn-keepers, mariners, all keep watch of the sun. They tremble when they go to bed lest they should hear in the morning of a frost in the night; they dread rain, wind, drought, and want water, heat, and clouds to suit their fancy. A perpetual duel goes on between the heavens and their terrestrial interests. The barometer smooths, saddens, or makes merry their countenances, turn and turn about. From end to end of this street, formerly the Grand'Rue de Saumur, the words: Here's golden weather, are passed from door to door; or each man calls to his neighbor: It rains louis, knowing well what a sunbeam or the opportune rainfall is bringing him.

On Saturdays after midday, in the fine season, not one sou's worth of merchandise can be bought from these worthy traders. Each has his vineyard, his enclosure of fields, and all spend two days in the country. This being foreseen, and purchases, sales, and profits provided for, the merchants have ten or twelve hours to spend in parties of pleasure, in making observations, in criticisms, and in continual spying. A housewife cannot buy a partridge without the neighbors asking the husband if it were cooked to a turn. A young girl never puts her head near a window that she is not seen by idling groups in the street. Consciences are held in the light; and the houses, dark, silent, impenetrable as they seem, hide no mysteries. Life is almost wholly in the open air; every household sits at its own threshold, breakfasts, dines, and quarrels there. No one can pass along the street without being examined; in fact formerly, when a stranger entered a provincial town he was bantered and made game of from door to door. From this came many good stories, and the nickname copieux, which was applied to the inhabitants of Angers, who excelled in such urban sarcasms.

The ancient mansions of the old town of Saumur are at the top of this hilly street, and were formerly occupied by the nobility of the neighborhood. The melancholy dwelling where the events of the following history took place is one of these mansions,—venerable relics of a century in which men and things bore the characteristics of simplicity which French manners and customs are losing day by day. Follow the windings of the picturesque thoroughfare, whose irregularities awaken recollections that plunge the mind mechanically into reverie, and you will see a somewhat dark recess, in the centre of which is hidden the door of the house of Monsieur Grandet. It is impossible to understand the force of this provincial expression—the house of Monsieur Grandet—without giving the biography of Monsieur Grandet himself.

Monsieur Grandet enjoyed a reputation in Saumur whose causes and effects can never be fully understood by those who have not, at one time or another, lived in the provinces. In 1789 Monsieur Grandet—still called by certain persons le Pere Grandet, though the number of such old persons has perceptibly diminished—was a master-cooper, able to read, write, and cipher. At the period when the French Republic offered for sale the church property in the arrondissement of Saumur, the cooper, then forty years of age, had just married the daughter of a rich wood-merchant. Supplied with the ready money of his own fortune and his wife's dot, in all about two thousand louis-d'or, Grandet went to the newly established district, where, with the help of two hundred double louis given by his father-in-law to the surly republican who presided over the sales of the national domain, he obtained for a song, legally if not legitimately, one of the finest vineyards in the arrondissement, an old abbey, and several farms. The inhabitants of Saumur were so little revolutionary that they thought Pere Grandet a bold man, a republican, and a patriot with a mind open to all the new ideas; though in point of fact it was open only to vineyards. He was appointed a member of the administration of Saumur, and his pacific influence made itself felt politically and commercially. Politically, he protected the ci-devant nobles, and prevented, to the extent of his power, the sale of the lands and property of the emigres; commercially, he furnished the Republican armies with two or three thousand puncheons of white wine, and took his pay in splendid fields belonging to a community of women whose lands had been reserved for the last lot.

Under the Consulate Grandet became mayor, governed wisely, and harvested still better pickings. Under the Empire he was called Monsieur Grandet. Napoleon, however, did not like republicans, and superseded Monsieur Grandet (who was supposed to have worn the Phrygian cap) by a man of his own surroundings, a future baron of the Empire. Monsieur Grandet quitted office without regret. He had constructed in the interests of the town certain fine roads which led to his own property; his house and lands, very advantageously assessed, paid moderate taxes; and since the registration of his various estates, the vineyards, thanks to his constant care, had become the head of the country,—a local term used to denote those that produced the finest quality of wine. He might have asked for the cross of the Legion of honor.

This event occurred in 1806. Monsieur Grandet was then fifty-seven years of age, his wife thirty-six, and an only daughter, the fruit of their legitimate love, was ten years old. Monsieur Grandet, whom Providence no doubt desired to compensate for the loss of his municipal honors, inherited three fortunes in the course of this year,—that of Madame de la Gaudiniere, born de la Bertelliere, the mother of Madame Grandet; that of old Monsieur de la Bertelliere, her grandfather; and, lastly, that of Madame Gentillet, her grandmother on the mother's side: three inheritances, whose amount was not known to any one. The avarice of the deceased persons was so keen that for a long time they had hoarded their money for the pleasure of secretly looking at it. Old Monsieur de la Bertelliere called an investment an extravagance, and thought he got better interest from the sight of his gold than from the profits of usury. The inhabitants of Saumur consequently estimated his savings according to the revenues of the sun's wealth, as they said.

Monsieur Grandet thus obtained that modern title of nobility which our mania for equality can never rub out. He became the most imposing personage in the arrondissement. He worked a hundred acres of vineyard, which in fruitful years yielded seven or eight hundred hogsheads of wine. He owned thirteen farms, an old abbey, whose windows and arches he had walled up for the sake of economy,—a measure which preserved them,—also a hundred and twenty-seven acres of meadow-land, where three thousand poplars, planted in 1793, grew and flourished; and finally, the house in which he lived. Such was his visible estate; as to his other property, only two persons could give even a vague guess at its value: one was Monsieur Cruchot, a notary employed in the usurious investments of Monsieur Grandet; the other was Monsieur des Grassins, the richest banker in Saumur, in whose profits Grandet had a certain covenanted and secret share.

Although old Cruchot and Monsieur des Grassins were both gifted with the deep discretion which wealth and trust beget in the provinces, they publicly testified so much respect to Monsieur Grandet that observers estimated the amount of his property by the obsequious attention which they bestowed upon him. In all Saumur there was no one not persuaded that Monsieur Grandet had a private treasure, some hiding-place full of louis, where he nightly took ineffable delight in gazing upon great masses of gold. Avaricious people gathered proof of this when they looked at the eyes of the good man, to which the yellow metal seemed to have conveyed its tints. The glance of a man accustomed to draw enormous interest from his capital acquires, like that of the libertine, the gambler, or the sycophant, certain indefinable habits,—furtive, eager, mysterious movements, which never escape the notice of his co-religionists. This secret language is in a certain way the freemasonry of the passions. Monsieur Grandet inspired the respectful esteem due to one who owed no man anything, who, skilful cooper and experienced wine-grower that he was, guessed with the precision of an astronomer whether he ought to manufacture a thousand puncheons for his vintage, or only five hundred, who never failed in any speculation, and always had casks for sale when casks were worth more than the commodity that filled them, who could store his whole vintage in his cellars and bide his time to put the puncheons on the market at two hundred francs, when the little proprietors had been forced to sell theirs for five louis. His famous vintage of 1811, judiciously stored and slowly disposed of, brought him in more than two hundred and forty thousand francs.

Financially speaking, Monsieur Grandet was something between a tiger and a boa-constrictor. He could crouch and lie low, watch his prey a long while, spring upon it, open his jaws, swallow a mass of louis, and then rest tranquilly like a snake in process of digestion, impassible, methodical, and cold. No one saw him pass without a feeling of admiration mingled with respect and fear; had not every man in Saumur felt the rending of those polished steel claws? For this one, Maitre Cruchot had procured the money required for the purchase of a domain, but at eleven per cent. For that one, Monsieur des Grassins discounted bills of exchange, but at a frightful deduction of interest. Few days ever passed that Monsieur Grandet's name was not mentioned either in the markets or in social conversations at the evening gatherings. To some the fortune of the old wine-grower was an object of patriotic pride. More than one merchant, more than one innkeeper, said to strangers with a certain complacency: Monsieur, we have two or three millionaire establishments; but as for Monsieur Grandet, he does not himself know how much he is worth.

In 1816 the best reckoners in Saumur estimated the landed property of the worthy man at nearly four millions; but as, on an average, he had made yearly, from 1793 to 1817, a hundred thousand francs out of that property, it was fair to presume that he possessed in actual money a sum nearly equal to the value of his estate. So that when, after a game of boston or an evening discussion on the matter of vines, the talk fell upon Monsieur Grandet, knowing people said: Le Pere Grandet? le Pere Grandet must have at least five or six millions.

You are cleverer than I am; I have never been able to find out the amount, answered Monsieur Cruchot or Monsieur des Grassins, when either chanced to overhear the remark.

If some Parisian mentioned Rothschild or Monsieur Lafitte, the people of Saumur asked if he were as rich as Monsieur Grandet. When the Parisian, with a smile, tossed them a disdainful affirmative, they looked at each other and shook their heads with an incredulous air. So large a fortune covered with a golden mantle all the actions of this man. If in early days some peculiarities of his life gave occasion for laughter or ridicule, laughter and ridicule had long since died away. His least important actions had the authority of results repeatedly shown. His speech, his clothing, his gestures, the blinking of his eyes, were law to the country-side, where every one, after studying him as a naturalist studies the result of instinct in the lower animals, had come to understand the deep mute wisdom of his slightest actions.

It will be a hard winter, said one; Pere Grandet has put on his fur gloves.

Pere Grandet is buying quantities of staves; there will be plenty of wine this year.

Monsieur Grandet never bought either bread or meat. His farmers supplied him weekly with a sufficiency of capons, chickens, eggs, butter, and his tithe of wheat. He owned a mill; and the tenant was bound, over and above his rent, to take a certain quantity of grain and return him the flour and bran. La Grande Nanon, his only servant, though she was no longer young, baked the bread of the household herself every Saturday. Monsieur Grandet arranged with kitchen-gardeners who were his tenants to supply him with vegetables. As to fruits, he gathered such quantities that he sold the greater part in the market. His fire-wood was cut from his own hedgerows or taken from the half-rotten old sheds which he built at the corners of his fields, and whose planks the farmers carted into town for him, all cut up, and obligingly stacked in his wood-house, receiving in return his thanks. His only known expenditures were for the consecrated bread, the clothing of his wife and daughter, the hire of their chairs in church, the wages of la Grand Nanon, the tinning of the saucepans, lights, taxes, repairs on his buildings, and the costs of his various industries. He had six hundred acres of woodland, lately purchased, which he induced a neighbor's keeper to watch, under the promise of an indemnity. After the acquisition of this property he ate game for the first time.

Monsieur Grandet's manners were very simple. He spoke little. He usually expressed his meaning by short sententious phrases uttered in a soft voice. After the Revolution, the epoch at which he first came into notice, the good man stuttered in a wearisome way as soon as he was required to speak at length or to maintain an argument. This stammering, the incoherence of his language, the flux of words in which he drowned his thought, his apparent lack of logic, attributed to defects of education, were in reality assumed, and will be sufficiently explained by certain events in the following history. Four sentences, precise as algebraic formulas, sufficed him usually to grasp and solve all difficulties of life and commerce: I don't know; I cannot; I will not; I will see about it. He never said yes, or no, and never committed himself to writing. If people talked to him he listened coldly, holding his chin in his right hand and resting his right elbow in the back of his left hand, forming in his own mind opinions on all matters, from which he never receded. He reflected long before making any business agreement. When his opponent, after careful conversation, avowed the secret of his own purposes, confident that he had secured his listener's assent, Grandet answered: I can decide nothing without consulting my wife. His wife, whom he had reduced to a state of helpless slavery, was a useful screen to him

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  • (4/5)
    In the post-French Revolution town of Saumur, the sweet and naive Eugenie is much sought after as a bride (for her father's money, mostly) although she seems generally unaware of the attention. She, her mother and their one servant lead a sheltered and Spartan life under the miserly and tyrannical gaze of her father, a local baron of the wine trade. When she falls in love with her penniless cousin and gives her savings away to help him, she starts down a path of misery and disappointment.Well, it's not a happy read, but a well-crafted one, and it includes one of the most easy-to-loathe characters (Eugenie's father) I've ever come across. Recommended, if you like that sort of thing - think Thomas Hardy, but maybe a half-step less dreadfully depressing.
  • (4/5)
    No need for histrionic qualification, this was a sublime novel.
  • (4/5)
    Great book! Maybe it is even 4.5 *Balzac's characters were all well written (even though not all were very nice) & the prose was extremely readable. I found the ending rather sad...
  • (3/5)
    Dit is eigenlijk vooral de roman van de vrek Grandet, eerder dan van Eugenie. Het typetje van de gierigaard wordt prachtig getekend, al is er na Moli?re toch niet zoveel meer toe te voegen. Heel zwakjes zijn de andere karakters: Eugenie, de moeder, en de Cruchots en Grassins; alleen de dienstmeid Nanon vertoont nog wat consistentie.Ook aan de structuur van het verhaal mangelt er wat: op het einde is het een wirwar van plotse gebeurtenissen en wendingen, die het geheel onevenwichtig maken.Dus: rake typering van de vrek en zijn milieu, en van het overal aanwezige cynisme; zwakke vrouwenfiguren.
  • (3/5)
    Dit is eigenlijk vooral de roman van de vrek Grandet, eerder dan van Eugenie. Het typetje van de gierigaard wordt prachtig getekend, al is er na Molière toch niet zoveel meer toe te voegen. Heel zwakjes zijn de andere karakters: Eugenie, de moeder, en de Cruchots en Grassins; alleen de dienstmeid Nanon vertoont nog wat consistentie.Ook aan de structuur van het verhaal mangelt er wat: op het einde is het een wirwar van plotse gebeurtenissen en wendingen, die het geheel onevenwichtig maken.Dus: rake typering van de vrek en zijn milieu, en van het overal aanwezige cynisme; zwakke vrouwenfiguren.
  • (5/5)
    Monsieur Grandet is the wealthiest man in the provincial town of Saumur. The former cooper has used his business acumen and wiles, amid the social upheavals following the French Revolution and the subsequent Empire and Restoration, to skillfully acquire vineyards and a horde of gold that’s the envy of all. Yet the miser continues to dress as a laborer, and live in the same gloomy old house with his wife and daughter Eugénie as before. Their only visitors to this dismal abode are the families of his lawyer and banker, vying for the hand of Eugénie and her eventual inheritance. So the sudden appearance of a dashing and handsome young man from Paris into their midst quite upsets everyone’s schemes.Skillfully, succinctly and realistically Balzac constructs his story of monomaniacal greed and domestic bullying, punctuated with dramatic scenes of intense emotions, set against a backdrop of drab melancholy. However, like Dickens he can portray the striving for social status and wealth with a sharp and witty eye.
  • (4/5)
    Like several of Balzac's novels, there is a strong moral theme in the novel's plot, this time the love of money – especially gold. Coupled with stinginess as it is here, it contrasts with materialism in general, giving a character similar in some trains to that of Dickens' Scrooge in a Christmas Carol (published a decade later).Eugenie Grandet is the daughter of a very wealthy but miserly businessman, who plays a slightly greater role in the novel than her. They live in the large provincial town of Saumur, in a somewhat Spartan existence in grand but poorly-maintained house. Sheltered from the world, oblivious to her father's machinations, and kept companion by her caring mother, Eugenie grows up with an angelic and impressionable character. The other member of their small household is the housekeeper Nanon, who is also endearing and well characterised.Throughout the novel, the two main families in the town vie for Eugenie's hand, and though she is oblivious to their motivation behind their attentions, her father plays them off to benefit from the one-upmanship. Things are shaken up however when her wealthy cousin Charles arrives from Paris. She instantly falls in love due to his good looks and charm, and her world view begins to change. A further unsuspected change in fortune occurs for one of the characters, and this brings about the events that make up the rest of the plot.Many of the other usual Balzac themes are present – death, unrequited love, monomania, and social and psychological goings-on. This is not one of Balzac's longest novels, but it is very complete in what it is, without the tendency to drag out events unnecessarily such as in “Le Curé de Village”. It would therefore be a great introduction to Balzac, and his Comedie Humaine.
  • (4/5)
    "Eugenie Grandet" takes place in a gloomy house in the French village Saumur. Monsieur Grandet is an extremely rich old miser that makes life miserable for his wife and daughter Eugenie. When her handsome cousin Charles arrives without a penny to his name, Eugenies passion awakens. Against her fathers will she use her own money to help Charles. It’s the beginning to a tragic fight between two strong wills.Balzac’s novel is - like "Pere Goriot" - a part of his La Comédie Humaine. It’s an almost grotesque study in the detrimental effects of the power of money. It starts lighthearted with descriptions of Monsieur Grandets miserly life where every penny is saved and none spent - soon it turns into a bitter and ugly fight.
  • (5/5)
    Eugenie Grandet is one of the signature works of French literature, and Flaubert, who wrote Madame Bovary and is arguably the most celebrated French novelist, was supposedly greatly influenced by Balzac. It's easy reading Eugene Grandet to trace the line of realism in French literature from Stendahl's The Red and the Black, its predecessor, and Madame Bovary, its successor. All three concern themselves with people from the French provinces, which are presented as largely petty and grasping. All feature styles that are amazing in their command of details--rich but never rambling. All three novels deal with monomania. In the case of Madame Bovary, she seeks passion--the search for love (or lust?) rules all. With Julian Sorel of The Red and the Black it's ambition, as Sorel seeks to rise above his peasant roots. In this novel the ruling, blighting passion is avarice--money, gold, miserliness.Mind you, that's not Eugenie's guiding passion--and I think that's the one aspect of the novel that makes me deny it a fifth star. This is a pretty short novel, less than 200 pages--yet richer than many a bloated classic that goes on for hundreds of pages. It's rich in incident, style and character--that comes through even in translation. It's easy to understand why Henry James thought Balzac the greatest novelist in literature. And indeed I can see a strong resemblance between Catherine Sloper of James' Washington Square and Eugenie. Except Catherine feels more real, more an individual and more the center of her own story. For that matter to me so do secondary female characters in Stendahl's The Red and the Black, let alone Emma Bovary. For a title character Eugenie seems rather pallid to me, more acted upon than acting. Her father and love are more interesting, more central to her fate--it's their avarice that matters. Eugenie never quite seemed real to me, but more the "angelic" kind of figure that annoyed me in so much of Dickens that I've read. That said, yes, this is well worth reading and I'll remember this novel for a long time. Pere Grandet is a monster of miserliness like none I've read in literature. And I'm told with Balzac there's much more to him than one novel can convey. He embarked upon the ambitious project of linking his novels in a shared world, "La Comédie humaine," so minor characters in one often become the protagonists of others. And believe me, after reading this novel, this won't be the last I read of Balzac.
  • (5/5)
    Eugenie Grandet is the daughter of a leading citizen, and former mayor, of Saumur, France in the early 1800s. Her father is a terrible miser, shot through with greed, and although wealthy, forces his family to live like poor people. He keeps the food stuffs under lock and key and doles out the food each day, counting each cube of sugar. He also has a terrible temper.When Eugenie’s nephew, Charles, comes to live with the Grandet family for a while after his father goes bankrupt and commits suicide, Eugenie falls fast in love with him – cousins could marry in those days. When Charles goes to the Indies to make his fortune, Eugenie waits for him as they discussed. “She let herself drift deliciously with the tide of love. She snatched her happiness like a swimmer seizing a willow branch overhanging the river to draw himself to land and rest for a while.”Eugenie eventually inherits her father’s vast wealth. She is a poor little rich girl, seeking only love. “God poured quantities of gold into her lap, although gold meant nothing to her.”
  • (5/5)
    Avarice is the subject this early novel by Balzac. The story takes place in the town of Saumur on the Loire River and begins in 1819. We are introduced first to the house of Monsieur Grandet. Though it is in the most respectable part of town, it is drab, even shabby. No one would guess that its owner is the wealthiest man in the region. Monsieur Grandet, a former cooper turned vintner and speculator, lives here in a state of fanatical frugality with his meek and long-suffering wife, his pious and attractive 23-year-old daughter, and his secret hoard of gold. The two men who have more than an inkling of old man Grandet's true wealth are his banker and his notary. They pay particular attention to their client because each has a son of marriageable age and Grandet's unattached daughter, Eugénie, is his only heir.Eugénie is a simple girl who has grown up in plain surroundings and in complete ignorance of her father's vast wealth. She finds nothing peculiar or shameful in her shabby dress, the meager rations her father doles out each day, or the fact that the entire household must share a single candle. She is all but oblivious to her two provincial courtiers, but is devoted to her parents and her faith. Poor Eugénie is in for a shock when her cousin Charles, a Parisian dandy, comes for a surprise visit. She has never seen anything so fine and beautiful in her life as this young man. Eugénie falls head over heels in love with Charles, setting up a clash with her miserly father that tears the family apart. Her love deepens into devotion when Charles soon learns that the reason he was sent to his uncle's was that his father was about to commit suicide.Midway through the novel, Balzac states its theme: "Misers hold no belief in a life beyond the grave, the present is all in all to them. This thought throws a pitilessly clear light upon the irreligious times in which we life, for today more than in any previous era money is the force behind the law, politically and socially. Books and institutions, the actions of men and their doctrines, all combine to undermine the belief in a future life upon which the fabric of society has been built for eighteen hundred years."Though Monsieur Grandet, the miser, is the villain of the story, he is so delightfully eccentric and single-minded that he is almost impossible to hate. He manages to squeeze money out of almost every situation convincing others (and perhaps himself) that he is cash poor. He gives his wife and daughter each the most meager of allowances, then takes it back by leaving them to pay for things he has purchased. Every candle and loaf of bread is accounted for, and woe unto her who wastes as much as a crumb! He won't buy what he can borrow or get one of his tenants to give to him.Eugénie's character isn't as fully developed as that of her father. She is a young woman with only a child's experiences and a child's trusting view of the world. Even after a series of tragedies disillusions her, she is incapable of engaging fully with life. She is like one of her father's gold pieces, locked up forever and out of circulation. Regarding her impulsive devotion to her popinjay cousin, Balzac says "Quite often the things that human beings do appear literally incredible although in fact they have done them.... The very fact that her life had been so untroubled made feminine pity, that most insidious emotion, take possession of her heart more overwhelmingly."[Eugénie Grandet] is a wonderful novel, both simpler and shorter than most of Balzac's works. It would be a great place to start reading this author.
  • (5/5)
    Set in the historic French town of Saumur, which is surrounded by vineyards and produces some of France's finest wines, we are first introduced to Eugénie's father, Félix Grandet, and told how in the early 19th century, having married a rich merchant's daughter, he came to amass a vast fortune, in part due to his business acumen but also by having inherited the estates of his grandmother, his mother-in-law and grandfather-in-law, all in the same year. Grandet produced what was considered to be the best wine in the country, so that his fortune was constantly increased, and we are soon shown what manner of despicable meiser he was. Nobody in this small town, where everybody knows his or her neighbour's business, knew exactly the extent of the man's fortune, so scrupulous was he to hide any sign of it, though many were those who were certain (and not wrongly) that he hid away a great pile of gold which he liked to admire regularly. Though he could easily afford to live like a great lord, Grandet employed only one person in his service, the old Nanon, who showed her master an unwavering devotion and in return was made to work like a dog. Far from spoiling his wife and only daughter Eugénie, the despotic Grandet forced them to work at mending all the household's clothing, this task keeping them busy from morning to night. I won't detail here the extent of the man's avarice, because Balzac obviously took great delight in describing his mean creation, with a plot which continually underlines and confirms Grandet's sordid nature. Eugénie is a loving daughter who takes no offence at her father's constant mistreatment. The story takes off on Eugénie's 23rd birthday; the families of Grandet's lawyer and of his banker have been invited, both groups having high hopes of marrying their sons to the heiress. An unexpected guest also makes an appearance: Grandet's handsome nephew Charles Grandet, freshly arrived from Paris. The young man is a true Parisian dandy, such as are never seen in Saumur, and makes a not entirely positive impression, but Eugénie, seeing the splendour of her cousin's appearance, is suddenly made aware of the shabby state of their house. Charles has been sent over by his father, who has very suddenly found himself bankrupt, and has hopes that his brother Félix will take the spoiled young man under his wing and help him find an adequate means of earning a living. It seems that Balzac first had the idea for the great undertaking that was The Human Comedy (which consists of 91 finished works), while writing Eugénie Grandet in 1833. Though the subject of avarice is certainly a distasteful one, I thoroughly enjoyed this novel, which will from now on rank among my all-time favourites. The experience was made all the more pleasurable thanks to the narration on this audiobook version by the French actor André Dussollier.
  • (4/5)
    A gripping story with a surprisingly simple structure: with its claustrophobic setting (most of the action takes place in one room, and almost all in the same house) and small cast of characters, it could almost be a stage play. Most of the interest is in the ambiguous characterisation and the cunning way in which Balzac manipulates our sympathy to make us gradually come to see the flaws of the "good" characters and the virtues of the "bad" ones, until we aren't sure any more whom we can identify with. Things aren't as black-and-white as they are with Dickens.I got a little bit lost in the detail of the financial transactions — quite apart from anything else it's not trivial keeping track of the currency units — so I'm sure there were subtleties that escaped me, but I don't think that matters too much.
  • (5/5)
    An very accessible classic French novel telling the story of Felix Grandet, an old miser, his wife and daughter Eugenie. The family relationship is upset by the arrival of an indolent nephew, Charles - orphaned and left unknowingly destitute. An interesting exploration of wealth, honour, love and wisdom. This is an easy paced book which avoids excess of langour by seemingly indirectly inviting the judgement of the reader upon the actions of the characters. A good read.
  • (5/5)
    First and foremost I must rain fury down upon the head of M.A. Crawford, not for his translation, but for the infuriating introduction. I cannot understand these types of egotistical introductions that try to reveal the entirety of the story while simultaneously critiquing and commenting on the true intent of the author before the reader has cracked the 1st page. These all to common of introductions only make sense, and do not anger the reader, after the story has already been digested. These sordid types of introductions should not be called introductions and should not be read before the reading of the book, as they will most certainly contain spoilers. I skimmed Crawford's horrid intro over as quickly as possible (which was not in a short while, due to it's maniacal length) while silently fuming.I found myself at first disgusted my Monsieur Grandet. I then came to realize that he was absolutely correct in everything he did (aside from not enjoying his wealth in any other way but to clandestinely stroke it). I came to despise Eugenie Grandet. Why would I do that?What was it that Eugenie first saw in her cousin Charles that sparked her love for him? It was the flash of materialism personified. Had her love been sparked for Charles upon his fall, and been borne out of pity, I might not despise her so, and yet... She is her father's daughter. His fall only gave her justification to feel what she already felt for Charles. Her sense of her own awakened independence, her goodness, her uniqueness, her saintliness—all false. She was and is an ignorant and sheltered girl who was twisted not by the love of money but by the love of something infinitely more silly—the woman's concept of gilded romance. Eugenie was a youthful Don Quixote in panties, Charles her Dulcinea, except in this case Dulcinea was no ragged plump farm girl but a realized and not idealized Dulcinea, all the more tempting.Her fall was due to her worshiping the image of a fancy-pants'; as her father so often pointed out, "a vagabond with morocco boots." Not only is Eugenie ignorant, she is shallow. Love at first sight! Ta ta ta ta! Though Eugenie is "in the world though not of the world", as Balzac tells us, her reasoning and her actual actions show us that she is indeed "of the world". She is false tenderness, I say—cracked.Monsieur Grandet, though cruel and immoral, is true to himself and his own set of economic laws. I fancy him as London's Wolf Larsen landed ashore. I like him, though he is evil. He is in the world, of the world, and he conquers the world.If anyone is worthy of God's heaven, who is "in the world, not of the world", truly it is Mrs. Grandet, Eugenie's dear mother. She is blameless but for the single lie she told to protect her daughter.Nanon is an interesting character. I don't trust her. Certainly she is not bourgeois, though she ends up an elite, which certainly must have been an odd thing to behold. Nanon was the wolf's right arm. When the wolf was not looking, Nanon was up to all sorts of innocent mischievousness. Though loyal, she is not trustworthy. She is both wolf and lamb and more ignorant of the world than Eugenie, though she is full of worldly wisdom. I find her somewhat of a paradox, and quite disturbing, as paradoxes are not suppose to exist in reality. Goofy lovable zombie is a term that comes to mind... I'm weird I guess. Most people would say that Nanon, if not Eugenie, is the most lovable character in the book. She creeps me out. Eugenie pisses me off with her shallowness.Poor Charles. Charles is a typical example of man. I look at his life as more of a tragedy than Eugenie's; not because of money, love, and opportunity lost, but because of the depth of the cataclysm into which he fell, and what monster crawled forth into the world from it.
  • (4/5)
    A story about someone who you would think to be a genius buthe turns out to be a tyrant over his sick wife. Absolutely tricky,wicked personality.
  • (4/5)
    1193. Eugenie Grandet, by Honore de Balzac (read 2 Nov 1972) I found this absorbing reading, especially the first 2/3rds of the novel. Grandet is a miser, who tyrannizes over his wife and daughter. The daughter falls in love with her cousin, gives him her money, he takes off for the Indies--leaving Eugenie to face her father's wrath. In retrospect the story seems slight, but I enjoyed it greatly.
  • (4/5)
    I studied Eugenie Grandet for a French "A" level and ended up liking it and Balzac a lot. He's got a great feeling for people giving them plenty of space to develop. Eugenie is completely memorable as her dreams of freedom turn into an emptiness when freedom finally arrives.