Who is the husband who can now sleep quietly beside his young and pretty consort, after learning that at least three bachelors are on the lookout to rob him; that, if they have not already encroached upon his property, they regard his bride as their legitimate prey, who, sooner or later, will fall victim to them, whether by force, by ruse, or by her own free will, and that it is impossible that, some day, they will not be victorious!
-from "Meditation IV: On the Virtuous Woman"
"I am not deep," Honoré de Balzac is reported have quipped, "but very wide." His satiric width is on full display in The Physiology of Marriage, a sociological essay on matrimony masquerading as a novel... or is it a novel masquerading as a sociological essay on matrimony?
Bold and cynical-or so his contemporaries perceived-this 1829 work is startling modern in its spirit and approach, a dryly witty expose of the underlying tensions of the enduring battle of the sexes.
Also in this volume: Balzac's short tale "Pierre Grassou," an 1840 story about a terrible painter who uses marriage to the daughter of a wealthy art collector as a stepping stone to success.
French writer HONORÉ DE BALZAC (1799-1850) is generally credited with the invention of realism in fiction, and his novels are considered among the greatest ever written in any language.
His grand La Comédie Humaine consists of a vast array of novels and short stories depicting French society of his time, among them Louis Lambert (1832), Les Illusions perdues (1837), and La Cousine Bette (1847).