Polemics & Exchanges

Not a Pro

There was a remarkable oversight in the otherwise wonderful piece by Eugene Girin (“Elena Chudinova: Telling the Truth,” Vital Signs, June) on the work of the Russian novelist, when the author states that Madam Chudinova wrote her royalist novel to counteract the “pro-Jacobin novels of Victor Hugo and Honoré de Balzac.”  Balzac never wrote any pro-Jacobin novels.  In the repertoire of the 2,472 characters that populate his Comédie humaine (which purports to be nothing less than a scientific depiction of the whole of French society) there are plenty of characters who were on the Jacobin side at some point in their lives, as most of the work is set within the five decades subsequent to the Revolution.  But Balzac’s own political beliefs were notoriously reactionary, following the inspiration of his oft-admitted heroes, De Bonald and De Maistre (as well expressed in the author’s own preface to his Comédie).  Indeed, the very first novel published under his own name, Les Chouans, featured a sympathetic view of the Vendée counterrevolution.  And his royalist sympathies are elsewhere evident in many characters and storylines throughout his massive work (particularly Le Cabinet des antiquités, Un Épisode sous la Terreur, Une Ténébreuse...

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