Monday, June 11, 2012

Works of Honoré de Balzac (a Kindle collection from MobileReference Collected Works)

Save yourself several dozen trips to the library
I purchased this collection a year ago and have since read six of the pieces included: Les Chouans, Lost Illusions, Farewell, Sarrasine, At the Sign of the Cat and Racket, and Father Goriot. (Click on the “Balzac Honore de” tag in the right-hand column of this blog to read reviews of individual works.) I found none of the annoying typographical errors often present in public domain Kindle files that are generated by optical character recognition, which leads me to believe that someone actually took the time to proofread and edit the text. The English translations are all about a hundred years old, but contain no overly archaic terminology that would hinder a reader’s understanding. They retain just enough of an antiquated feeling to remind you that you’re reading a distinguished work of classic literature.

For those who don’t know, almost all of Balzac’s writings fall under the heading of the Comédie Humaine, a series of about 100 novels and stories loosely connected by recurring characters. This Kindle file features two interactive tables of contents, which are very convenient and easy to use. One arranges the pieces according to the way Balzac classified them within the structure of his Comédie Humaine. The second table of contents lists the titles in alphabetical order. In works composed of multiple novellas, for example Lost Illusions or The Thirteen, both the parent title and the title of each individual part are listed. Balzac’s works have often been published under more than one English title, in addition to the original French title, so if at first you can’t find a specific work included here, check Wikipedia for alternate titles. This file contains the complete Comédie Humaine, plus a handful of additional works, including the Droll Stories and five plays.

Some but not all of the pieces contained in this collection end with a list of recurring characters and the other novels of the Comédie Humaine in which they appear. While this is slightly helpful in choosing further works to read, for those really interested in the overall structure and continuity of the Comédie Humaine, I would recommend downloading Repertory of the Comédie Humaine by Anatole Cerfberr and Jules François Christophe, available for free from Project Gutenberg.

Balzac’s works and their English translations are all in the public domain, so you can get all of these works for free elsewhere. However, if you are a fan of Balzac it’s worth spending a couple of bucks just to avoid the hassle of downloading all these works individually. This well prepared collection presents Balzac’s amazing oeuvre in a satisfying, user friendly package.

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