Returning to Balzac after an outing with Zola, I realise how fond I've become of him.
El Verdugo is a story about a war crime. A French general orders reprisals after a massacre of occupation troops in Spain. There are shootings, hangings and a young aristocrat is promised his life- and the continution of his line- if he executes the rest of his family. Balzac thought of it as an etude philosophique.
La Paix du Menage is one of Balzac's party pieces- by which I mean it features a host of characters at a social gathering. He's uncommonly good at them- and I know from trying to write them myself, just how difficult they are. Here six characters perform elaborate manoeuvres at a society ball. The last time I met General Montcornet (in Cousine Bette) he was a recently deceased national hero and Steinberg the sculptor was executing an atrocious statue for his grave in Pere Lachaise. Here he features as a rakish young officer .