Read An Episode Under The Terror by Honoré de Balzac Free Online
Book Title: An Episode Under The Terror|
The author of the book: Honoré de Balzac
Edition: Quill Pen Classics
Date of issue: 2008
ISBN 13: 9781605890838
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 939 KB
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Reader ratings: 5.6
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Set in January 1793, just after the execution of Louis XVI, Honoré de Balzac's An Episode Under the Terror shares a time period with such works as Les Chouans and Christ in Flanders. Like the former, it deals explicitly with the Revolution and with class and social relations, and with the latter it shares themes, like class and religion. While (justifiably) considered part of the Scènes de la vie politique it raises more important philosophical questions than Christ in Flanders, thought the latter is classified under Balzac's Études philosophiques, both subheadings in his broad La Comédie humaine. Among the most interesting ethical problems addressed in this work is the issue of free will and social responsibility, a problem tackled by countless writers, activists and ethicists (including Sartre, C.A. Campbell, Martin Luther King, Jr., John Steinbeck, Kurt Vonnegut and Elie Wiesel, among many others). Is, for instance, an executioner morally responsible for his actions? Or is he excused because he is "just doing his job"?
"Remember, my son, that it is not enough to have taken no active part in the great crime; that fact does not absolve you. The men who might have defended the King and left their swords in their scabbards, will have a very heavy account to render to the King of Heaven—Ah! yes," he added, with an eloquent shake of the head, "heavy indeed!—for by doing nothing they became accomplices in the awful wickedness——"
"But do you think that an indirect participation will be punished?" the stranger asked with a bewildered look. "There is the private soldier commanded to fall into line—is he actually responsible?"
An Episode Under the Terror, published in 1842, brings in familiar names and characters, like Beauséant, Langeais and Ragon, all encountered elsewhere in the Human Comedy, and this work of historical fiction not only deals with actual events (the Revolution), but Balzac makes real persons into characters, something done by other writers of historical fiction (e.g., Tolstoy does this in War and Peace) and something Balzac does with other titles like Le Père Goriot. Here we encounter a fictionalized version of the devoutly religious executioner Charles-Henri Sanson, the man who executed over 3,000 people, including Louis XVI himself. And what an interesting character he makes!
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Read information about the authorHonoré de Balzac was a nineteenth-century French novelist and playwright. His magnum opus was a sequence of almost 100 novels and plays collectively entitled La Comédie humaine, which presents a panorama of French life in the years after the fall of Napoléon Bonaparte in 1815.
Due to his keen observation of detail and unfiltered representation of society, Balzac is regarded as one of the founders of realism in European literature. He is renowned for his multi-faceted characters; even his lesser characters are complex, morally ambiguous and fully human. Inanimate objects are imbued with character as well; the city of Paris, a backdrop for much of his writing, takes on many human qualities. His writing influenced many famous authors, including the novelists Marcel Proust, Émile Zola, Charles Dickens, Gustave Flaubert, Henry James and Jack Kerouac, as well as important philosophers such as Friedrich Engels. Many of Balzac's works have been made into films, and they continue to inspire other writers.
An enthusiastic reader and independent thinker as a child, Balzac had trouble adapting himself to the teaching style of his grammar school. His willful nature caused trouble throughout his life, and frustrated his ambitions to succeed in the world of business. When he finished school, Balzac was apprenticed as a legal clerk, but he turned his back on law after wearying of its inhumanity and banal routine. Before and during his career as a writer, he attempted to be a publisher, printer, businessman, critic, and politician. He failed in all of these efforts. La Comédie Humaine reflects his real-life difficulties, and includes scenes from his own experience.
Balzac suffered from health problems throughout his life, possibly due to his intense writing schedule. His relationship with his family was often strained by financial and personal drama, and he lost more than one friend over critical reviews. In 1850, he married Ewelina Hańska, his longtime paramour; he died five months later.
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