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Balzac by Stefan Zweig (translated from the German by William and Dorothy Rose, with a chronology of Stefan Zweig's life and a bibliography of works by and about Stefan Zweig in English by Randolph Klawiter; 150,000 words, 22 illustrations)

Zweig devoted ten years of research and writing to
Balzac, which he regarded as his crowning achievement. This late work reads like a picaresque novel, with Balzac’s quest for “a woman with a fortune” and recurrent episodes of the author chasing an elusive pot of gold driving the story.

This biography of one classic author by another is filled with Zweig’s characteristic psychological insights. He portrays the energy and “exuberance of imagination” that produced some two thousand characters in
La comédie humaine, as well as the daily details of the coffee-chugging writer’s life, his manic writing schedule, method of correcting proofs, dealing with publishers and reviewers, signing contracts, doing marketing and publicity.

Balzac blends biography and literary history in a highly readable volume that will teach you French cultural history as you laugh out loud.

Balzac] is sure to entertain, instruct and charm ... It is a work of art, ... alive with the teeming life of its model ... It is true both to facts and to the more elusive psychological and spiritual truth of a man who ... has remained one of the most mysterious of great creators.” – Henri Peyre, Sterling professor of French Literature, Yale University, The New York Times