Item description for Le Colonel Chabert by Honore de Balzac...
The story of a French military hero of the Napoleonic Wars, long assumed to be dead, tries to recover his fortune and former wife through the help of a famous Parisian lawyer. Colonel Chabert, a Napoleonic War hero supposedly killed in the Battle of Eylau, returns to Paris after a long convalescence to find his wife remarried, and his pension gone. He employs a young, well-known lawyer to at least reclaim his pension. It is a game of wits: first to convince the lawyer that he is who he says he is; secondly to get his wife to admit to his identity and thereby give up some of her wealth. Once the lawyer believes Chabert's story, the wife must be made to part with his pension...
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Honore De Balzac (1799-1850) is generally credited as the inventor of the modern realistic novel. In more than ninety novels, he set forth French society and life as he saw it. He created a cast of over two thousand individual and identifiable characters, some of whom reappear in different novels. He organized his works into his masterpiece, La Comedie Humaine, which was the final result of his attempt to grasp the whole of society and experience into one varied but unified work. Richard Howard was born in Cleveland in 1929. He is the author of fourteen volumes of poetry and has published more than one hundred fifty translations from the French, including works by Gide, Stendhal, de Beauvoir, Baudelaire, and de Gaulle. Howard received a National Book Award for his translation of Fleurs du mal and a Pulitzer Prize for Untitled Subjects, a collection of poetry. Arthur C. Danto (1924-2013) was the Johnsonian Professor of Philosophy at Columbia University, art critic for The Nation, and author of many books about art and philosophy. He coined the term "artworld."
Honore De Balzac was born in 1799 and died in 1850.
Honore De Balzac has published or released items in the following series...
Reviews - What do customers think about Le Colonel Chabert?
An Honorable Veteran Jan 26, 2008
"Colonel Chabert" is one of Honore de Balzac's volumes from his omnibus work, "The Human Comedy." The Colonel is a comic figure in and old military great coat and a wig who is ridiculed by young legal workers at the beginning of the novel. But, the joke is on the clerks, because Chabert is a war hero of the Napoleonic era who was given up for dead on a battlefield at Eylau. This translation from the French by Carol Grosman tells the story of the old soldier's resurrection in contemporary jargon. The novel is relevant today considering the service of soldiers in many wars continuing in our world. What happens to these heroes when wars end, or more accurately, shift to new fronts? Balzac paints the portrait of one old colonel who remains honorable and as a consequence seals his fate. The translation is very readable and the short novel is brief "scene from private life." The work will stimulate further interest in the monumental work of Balzac who had a relatively short life (1799-1850).
The best translation... May 10, 2004
...of a great Balzac novella. Ms. Cosman captures the rigorous, logical quality of Balzac's prose - most translators get lost in unidiomatic wordiness. This 100 page novella showcases the Master's comfort with legal matters, his profound understanding of "the fang and the claw" and features at its center the incomparable Derville, Balzac's great, recurring lawyer character. I usually recommend Pere Goriot for first-time Balzac readers because of the rich connections between that novel and many other Balzac works - but I am hard pressed to imagine a better one-course meal than this rendering of Colonel Chabert by Ms. Cosman. I certainly plan to read her version of The Girl with the Golden Eyes.
TRAGEDY DISTILLED Oct 8, 2003
One of the greatest novelists of all time, Balzac was most at home in the Paris of Post-Napoleonic Paris. In a time when the middle class was showing its strength and starting to reach towards the aristocracy, Balzac shows just how selfish and grubby and greedy humans can be in attaining and how treacherous they can be in keeping their all important upward mobility.
Colonel Chabert is a man disfigured in the Napoleonic Wars who was left for dead on a battlefield. After digging his way out of a mass grave, he finds that he has no legal right to his title or his massive estate. Nobody will believe his true identity. For ten longe years he goes about trying to communicate his plight to anyone who will listen. They only see a crazy bum, and his wife rebuffs his letters. She already has a new husband and kids. Finally Chabert is able to convince a lawyer named Dervilles to accept his case, namely that of reclaiming his title, lands, and wife. The problem is that noone is really interested in his life being resurrected. Most people would rather that he remained dead. So begins the ludicrous battle of a man against the law to prove his own existence.
This short but great novel, or novella, is a tragic take on the world's thirst for social status and the judgement by visuals that our society is only too guilty of to this day. If it walks like a bum, talks like a bum, it must be a bum. Colonel Chabert has such a hard time convincing people of his identity because of how they perceive him. It sounds echoes of Frankenstein in that a good man is reduced to a monster when all he really needs is love. The fact that even his wife wishes he were dead just drives home the isolated suffering of the book. As in all Balzac novels, you feel a world moving under the mantle of the book. The Human Comedy of Balzac is one of the crowning achievements of literature and ranks right up there with Shakespeare and Thomas Hardy.
Dead Men Do Tell Tales May 26, 2002
Balzac, one of the greatest writers who ever lived, did not trip up with this one. I read it with great pleasure and conclude, as people so often say, that the movie based on the story did not equal the original. Ever the cynic (some might say 'the realist') Balzac portrays here the efforts of a noble-minded soldier, who rose from an orphanage to serve his country under Napoleon in Egypt and eastern Europe, only to reap the all-too-common fate of dedicated and true warriors---to be forgotten and ignored. Death (which he accepted) might have seized him, but he found a living death, a denial of his sanity and identity, as the reward of his service. Reported killed at the battle of Eylau, against the Russians, after a heroic action, the soldier literally crawls from his grave to a kind of shadowy survival. In his earlier life, Colonel Chabert had raised a woman to his own status, but now finds that she is unwilling to let others learn of her origins and does not want to recognize that he is, in fact, her long lost husband. Honestly thinking she was widowed, she married a highborn aristocrat who knew nothing of her humble beginnings.
The tale is one of greed, intrigue, loyalty and disloyalty. As usual, Balzac manages to cast a light, pitiless and bright, on every rotten corner of the human condition, while offering a few inspiring examples in contrast. Every detail of a lawyer's life in 19th century Paris is scrutinized, every glimpse of urban dairyman or elite country squirehood rings true. No wonder I admire him so much, no wonder I have no hesitation in urging you to read COLONEL CHABERT and any other volume of Balzac you can lay your hands on.
An Excellent Translation of a Masterful Story! Nov 28, 2001
Carol Cosman's translation of Balzac's French 'Colonel Chabert' into the English has been very effective here- she does not input her own interpretations and seems to have a good handle on Balzac's natural, concise wording style.
The story itself is fascinating. In a nutshell, it focuses on a military man who is essentially erased from society, and the tribulations and insights he has from this 'non-existant' state as he tries to re-establish himself. Not only is this a witty and profound social commentary, but an entertaining twist which just keeps twisting.
In reading other's reviews of this short masterpiece, it seems as if many people have missed the meaning of the finale. While it is indeed a very enigmatic ending, it is not as lugubrious or fatalistic as most believe. What happens is that Colonel Chabert, in essentially having his old identity annihilated, becomes enlighted. In the ultimate destruction of his ego he becomes free. This is the magic finale which Balzac labors so hard, and so majestically, to set up in the plot.
This tome is very impressive, and relatively short (just over 100 pages) for those new to Balzac who want a nice, piquant appetizer. Balzac is one of the most brilliant French fiction writers of all time! He is a giant, and in 'Colonel Chabert', he weaves another illustrious stitch into his tapestry the Comedie Humaine.