The Muse of the Department

Language: English
Wordcount: 63,450 / 186 pg
Flesch-Kincaid Reading Ease: 43.1
LoC Category: PQ
Downloads: 738
mnybks.net#: 814
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Excerpt

m, which cannot indeed take the place of a love of home-- flourishes triumphantly.

Thus the town of Sancerre is exceedingly proud of having given birth to one of the glories of modern medicine, Horace Bianchon, and to an author of secondary rank, Etienne Lousteau, one of our most successful journalists. The district included under the municipality of Sancerre, distressed at finding itself practically ruled by seven or eight large landowners, the wire-pullers of the elections, tried to shake off the electoral yoke of a creed which had reduced it to a rotten borough. This little conspiracy, plotted by a handful of men whose vanity was provoked, failed through the jealousy which the elevation of one of them, as the inevitable result, roused in the breasts of the others. This result showed the radical defect of the scheme, and the remedy then suggested was to rally round a champion at the next election, in the person of one of the two men who so gloriously represented Sancerre in Paris circles.

This idea wa

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Average Rating of 4 from 1 reviews: ****
2011.03.28
Jim Paris
****.

As I am reading all of Balzac's work with the Yahoo! Balzac group, I want to use this review to discuss the dream life of a Frenchman of the 1830s and 1840s. Like many males in whatever time or place, the French author saw himself -- ideally -- as rich, famous, with occult powers (witness The Thirteen and Louis Lambert), and, above all, admired by beautiful young women who flocked around him and surrendered to his every whim. Just as the Marquis de Sade in the 120 Days of Sodom imagined from his solitary cell in the Bastille an infinite number of masturbatory permutations of the sex act ... and just as Henry Miller in The Tropic of Cancer and The Tropic of Capricorn imagined far more bedmates than he ever enjoyed ... so Balzac wanted to use his work to imagine what it would be like to be King of the Mountain in his dreams.

There were times, however, when Balzac realized the tawdriness of some of his boyhood dreams; and The Muse of the Department is a good example. Journalist Etienne Lousteau visits the provincial city of Sancerre and initiates an affair with a young married woman, Dinah de la Baudraye. Lousteau returns to Paris, but Dinah leaves her husband and follows him, quite pregnant. While Lousteau's career (and relationship) loses some of its luster, Dinah helps Lousteau with his writing and tries to make the relationship work -- but to no avail.

Her husband de la Baudraye has been busy in the meantime getting filthy rich and honored with a title of nobility from the July Monarchy of Louis-Philippe. He offers to accept Dinah back, acknowledge her children as his own, and give up some of his miserly ways -- especially since now he can afford it. So Dinah leaves Lousteau who sinks slowly from his dissipated ways. In the end, she lends him 6,000 francs to pay his debts, but we know that Lousteau will continue to incur new debts because he will never change his ways.

Balzac is not always so mature in his discussion of women. Dinah misses the bohemian life with the journalist, but Lousteau's nostalgie de la boue is too strong for her to stomach.


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