What sort of mind is that? It’s a world!


“Correspondence is killing me”, Balzac told his mother in 1832. “I have to write to two people at once . . . . My life is a constant miracle”; “It’s incredible how much I manage to produce.” The new edition of Balzac’s correspondence, scrupulously compiled and annotated by Roger Pierrot and Hervé Yon, fully justifies Balzac’s self-admiration. Like the earlier Classiques Garnier edition of his Correspondance, also by Roger Pierrot (1960–69), this one omits the 419 letters written by Balzac to his future wife, the Polish countess, Eveline Hanska. (These are published in a separate, two-volume edition.) Many other letters were lost or destroyed: “My husband tore your letter into a thousand pieces before my eyes”, one of his admirers told him in 1833. “Why did you send it to my house, at an hour when all wives are still asleep and all husbands are at home?”

Despite the disappearance of a large part of his correspondence, this first volume of three contains 623 letters from Balzac. Since the Bibliothèque de la Pléiade has abandoned the unfortunate practice of publishing only one side of a correspondence, this new edition, edited by Pierrot and Hervé Yon, also includes hundreds of letters from Balzac’s correspondents, forming what the editors call “an epistolary encyclopedia”.

more from the TLS here.