Old Goriot (Pere Goriot)

old goriot cover image Old Goriot (Pere Goriot)

by Honore de Balzac
General Fiction
Neeland Media
Paperback, 162 pages

Balzac! Who reads Balzac anymore? We wondered that ourselves and so we thought we’d give it a try. We were not disappointed. Old Goriot is a part of Balzac’s Comedie Humain and first appeared in serial form in 1834 under the title Studies of Nineteenth Century Manners. He chronicles the lives of Parisian men and women who lived through the French Revolution, the times of Napoleon, and the France of the Restoration. He defines his characters in their surroundings in mid-19th Century Paris – their architecture and floor plans, their furniture décor, diet and clothing – not merely as description, but as an extension of personality and the shaping of character. The story is tense and riveting and not without humor. “All is true,” he writes early on (oddly enough in English!), “so true that everyone can recognize the elements of the tragedy in his own household, in his own heart perhaps.”