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I was loving this, until a constant barrage of anti Semitic comments put me off You can see some of them in my updates, and I don t intend to go into it in detail here I am aware of the period he was writing in but that is no excuse. Cousin Pons was Honor de Balzac s last great novel, and certainly his grimmest Picture to yourself an old bachelor named Sylvain Pons who, over the years, has collected a fortune in paintings and objects d art His sole vice was to eat out with distant relatives, including the Camusota When the latter break with him over some molehill of which they make into a mountain, Pons takes to his bed and never gets up from it again.In the meantime, the value of his holdings, totaling as much as a million francs, comes to be known to his concierge and various allies whom she enlists, including a doctor named Poulain and a crooked lawyer named Fraisier, who conspire to get their hands on his collection, even if it means committing felonies to do so Pons s only friend is an elderly German musician named Schmucke, who lives with him, and who is dedicated heart and soul to him To Mme Cibot the concierge and the others, he is just a speed bump on the road to their attaining a fortune This novel is like a dark symphony, along the lines of Night on Bald Mountain without that musical piece s hopeful ending , in which palpable evil is incarnate and swirls around the desperately ill Pons and his friend Schmucke This is not one of those cases where good triumphs in the end It is, after all, a work by Balzac and one of his very best.I recommend this novel to anyone who is not likely to get depressed reading about the driving of two old men to their deaths As I got to the last chapters, I knew I could not put the book down without finishing it The ending is extremely harrowing This is the third time I have read Cousin Pons Few novels hold up as well to repeated readings. This starts off strongly, just as I might expect with Balzac While this is in his duet he called Poor Relations , we learn almost immediately that Cousin Pons did not suffer what you and I might call poverty He was cash poor, perhaps, but had become a collector of small items of art, and those had appreciated immensely The Government sent Sylvain Pons to Rome to make a great musician of himself and in Rome Sylvain Pons acquired a taste for the antique and works of art He became an admirable judge of those masterpieces of the brain and hand which are summed up by the useful neologism bric a brac and when the child of Euterpe returned to Paris somewhere about the year 1810, it was in the character of a rabid collector, loaded with pictures, statuettes, frames, wood carving, ivories, enamels, porcelains, and the like He had sunk the greater part of his patrimony, not so much in the purchases themselves as on the expenses of transit and every penny inherited from his mother had been spent in the course of a three years travel in Italy after the residence in Rome came to an end He had seen Venice, Milan, Florence, Bologna, and Naples leisurely, as he wished to see them, as a dreamer of dreams, and a philosopher careless of the future, for an artist looks to his talent for support as the fille de joie counts upon her beauty Despite the interest in the early going, this descended into somewhat of a slog, before returning to a interesting novel I had a hard time staying with it for a bit and actually stopped to read a couple of mysteries This ended up being exactly the right strategy Was it truly a slog or was I just not in the right frame of mind for Balzac In any case, I seemed to have stopped in just the right place, for when I came back to it, I found it interesting again.I often expect Balzac to have a somewhat surprising ending and one with a decided bit of irony I cannot imagine what he was thinking here, because he foretold where we could expect this to go One might easily expect skulduggery with an older single man who is discovered to have accumulated a fortune in art We are not surprised, then, when conspiracies abound There are conflicting conspiracies who will win out There was one small piece that I did not anticipate but Balzac wraps things up so quickly that we are not allowed to feel the full thrust of the irony.This is just a high 3 stars for me I had certainly hoped for. 4.5 stars I have jumped around quite a bit while reading Balzac s The Human Comedy, starting with The Unknown Masterpiece and Gambara, and then going back to what is probably his best known work, P re Goriot. Last year was my year of Shakespeare This is my year of Proust I think that my next ambitious literary reading endeavor is to immerse myself in the entirety of Balzac s Human Comedy, that immense and impressive collection of nearly 100 works.It is well known that Balzac had an addiction to coffee and consumed quantities of caffeine sufficient to keep a whale up for a fortnight estimates vary, but many suggest that he drank around 50 cups a day He also had a somewhat unusual technique of writing several stories and novels at the same time, perhaps a result of creativity in overdrive Some suggest that Balzac s addiction to coffee contributed to his untimely death But without the artificial energy to keep him going, would we then have ever known the sociological, philosophical and literary genius that make up The Human Comedy As a writer, Balzac had a great influence on many others, like Baudelaire, Marx and Proust just to name a few And he was likewise influenced by the likes of great French writers before him, notably Moli re whom is referenced many times in this particular work with great focus placed on Moli re s Tartuffe What I have noticed in Balzac s works so far themes which apparently weave throughout his Human Comedy is that he places a great deal of emphasis on greed and money, family relations and the social ills of 19th century Parisian life Balzac holds a mirror up to society and show it its grotesque image, portraying Parisian society of the 19th century as a jungle wherein human nature is not less red in tooth in claw than the animal nature from which it derives Bu uel Renoir His works can really be characterized as comedies of manners, many with dark undertones As the translator of this particular edition, Herbert Hunt, writes Balzac is pessimistic but not despairing, of human nature at an age, and in a milieu, when the blackest crimes were blandly committed under a cloak of legality What I have learned in the introduction to this work and then in the work itself is that many of Balzac s characters make repeat appearances throughout The Human Comedy, and it is partly for this reason and because of the unifying themes that I want to read the works in their entirety I found some good suggestions online for reading order Cousin Pons was written near the end of Balzac s life and in many ways reflects perhaps his own thoughts about mortality, with a main character who seems to be a fragment of the great author himself, who was, like Pons, known to have an affection for antiquing collecting bric a brac and for gluttony As the translator writes, Cousin Pons has made the search for succulent dinners his main purpose in life And though writing was likely Balzac s main purpose, his affection for gastronomic pleasures was probably at times of great import When Balzac writes about food, and of great valuables, the reader gets a sense of the strong affinity he has for it and the narrative becomes full of life The work is filled with interesting musings on devotion is there a truer friend in the world than Pons dear Monsieur Schmucke , greed, music, life and death, food and so much And it is Balzac s insight on this crazy world that makes this tragic, yet comic tale so intriguing so many years later It is not my favorite of Balzac s works that I ve read so far, but it is nonetheless a delightful, insightful and entertaining read. The friendship of Pons and Schmucke is a moving one and raises questions of loyalty, faithfulness and tolerance Two aged musicians live together in Paris under Madame Cibot the concierge of their apartment building Pons is a collector of art and as amassed a valuable collection He is also a bit of a miser and glutton who has been eating dinner with his wealthy relatives for years They have a falling out and blacken his name wrongly after his attempt of being matchmaker for his cousins ugly daughter fails He then goes into decline with only his friend Schmucke a simple minded German with the devotion of a faithful dog People become aware of his wealth and the vultures begin to circle Other collectors, his relatives, a lawyer and his concierge all vying for a share of the spoils This tragic comedy is true to life with the baddies being rewarded and the good not so much The last part of the novel is brilliant with Pons trying to outdo the greedy corrupt lawyer Frazier A great story with hidden depths of the greed and corruption of people I did laugh out loud finding out the fate of R monencq. For the past couple years I ve had a lot of trouble reading fiction It was like everything I read just fell flat I wondered if it was just that I had become such a skeptic in the rest of my life that I could no longer suspend disbelief enough to really buy into something make believe Now, I was going through a lot of crap personally, so lots of stress, and I don t know why that would inhibit my ability to escape into a story, but I thought maybe it did Whatever it was, I just ended up reading and enjoying a lot nonfiction and figured maybe I just couldn t do fiction any.And then came Balzac Ahhhhhh Despite its ultimately sad and cynical outcome, this book was a joyous experience Luckily, La Com die humaine is massive and I should have enough enjoyable fiction to last me through the misery of law school Actually, now that I think about it, I did read Droll Stories a few years ago and adored them Note to self when you find something you adore, try some of that The copy I own is a Penguin from 1968 I don t think I bothered trying to find the exact one when I listed the book on my shelves because there were just so damn many. Balzac is a master of his art Only a master could make me so utterly despondent and depressed at the downfall of the main protagonist, Cousin Pons, and his best friend, Schumucke I adored them both as the two nutcrackers, despite their character flaws Balzac is not known for creating fictions personages, he endows them all with the realism of vice developed through a lifetime While Balzac portrayed Cousin Pons s lust for gourmet food which he obtained by visiting his local family at dinner time, making him a parasite to some as a flaw, he did such an exquisite job describing this desire that I eventually no longer saw it as a flaw at all which may have been Balzac s point One of the keenest pleasures in Pons s former mode of living indeed one of the real joys of a man who dines at other people s tables had been the surprise, the gastronomic effect of an exceptional dish, a delicacy triumphantly served up by a hostess intent on imparting a really festive air to the dinner she is giving Pons missed this gourmet s delight Madame Cibot was in the habit of proudly announcing the dishes she was about to serve, and Pons could never look forward to the occasional thrill of something unexpected, something which formerly, in our grandparents household, went by the name of a covered dish This was a mystery to Schmucke Pons was too polite to complain, but if there is a lamentable thing than misunderstood genius, it is a stomach whose yearnings are left unsatisfied Unrequited love a theme overexploited in drama is based on an inessential need for, if we are spurned by one of God s creatures, we can give our love to God, who can heap treasures upon us But an unrequited stomach no suffering can be compared to this, for good living comes first And so the memory of the dinners he had eaten made the orchestra conductor lose a lot of weight he was stricken with gastric nostalgia Lingering with my sadness in the demise of Pons and Schmucke by the greed of others is a sudden need to serve a covered dish. Update 30 5 19This book is just so sad it hurts Second read Nothing to say except I want Cibot to diiiiiiiiiiiie I was so annoyed by this book, not because it is not good, but because most of the characters all of them except three depict corruption, greed They want to get money by all means, even if they have to strip someone they neither know nor understand I was so infuriated while I read Pons and Schmucke are children, naive and fond of each other Some scenes really moved me, and wanted to help them so much I don t tend to love Balzac s books, but he clearly has a talent to show human condition, the way humans can be wolves for each other This book was really depressing to me I so wanted the good side to win One of the words to make an appearance in the OED s latest update is the acronym YOLO , which, the editors note,is traced back to its antecedent, the axiomatic you only live once first used in a nineteenth century English translation of Balzac.Well who saw that coming Thanks to the magic of Google Books you can see the relevant passage Or, comme les salaires de Cibot produisaient environ sept huit cent francs en moyenne par an, les poux se faisaient, avec leurs trennes, un revenu de seize cent francs, la lettre mang s par les Cibot qui vivaient mieux que ne vivent les gens du peuple On ne vit qu une fois disait la Cibot.Coming soon how Elizabeth Gaskell coined FML. `Free ✙ Le Cousin Pons ↵ This Is A Pre Historical Reproduction That Was Curated For Quality Quality Assurance Was Conducted On Each Of These Books In An Attempt To Remove Books With Imperfections Introduced By The Digitization Process Though We Have Made Best Efforts The Books May Have Occasional Errors That Do Not Impede The Reading Experience We Believe This Work Is Culturally Important And Have Elected To Bring The Book Back Into Print As Part Of Our Continuing Commitment To The Preservation Of Printed Works Worldwide