By Hubert June
in literary magazine n° 120
It is to Mrs Hanska that Balzac very entrusted. The "Letters" which were restored to us, in 1976, by Roger Pierrot form most invaluable of the comments to "the human Comedy"
What there is astonishing of and applicant in the world by the library, it is that the authors most notably known reserve surprises, and that one does not come from there, finally, never with end. I want to say that these surprises are serious and call into question numbers established concepts. As well Balzac was done various as to gather them all together one would attend a ball dressed up (and masked) the most succeeded of.
So that it is necessary, fortunately, to recover some to the patient work from the editors. One of most important, for our matter, publishes the final edition of one of the beautiful books of Balzac, which is a correspondence. The editor, it is Roger Pierrot. The book: "Letters with Mrs Hanska" (editions of the Delta). It is of other key to this book only the reading: I do not know anything, for my part, of also enthralling, and I want to say why. With the risk to shock, I affirm that Balzac attracts the prigs as much as honey the flies: one is Balzac by mood, which arranges all (at least this is there what one believes commonly). In reality, all is contrary: if Balzac is not a temptation, it is that it is nothing! See: the thickness of work is made of an exceptional transparency. It is a paradox, but which touches finger: between Balzac and its work the distance is carefully maintained. One said for Balzac - which from this point of view does not say anything - that Balzac was not nowhere, whereas it is enough to read it, with a natural transport, to understand that it is everywhere. When I walk in the lanes of high-Angouleme, I am Balzac in fact, and drawn out of Angouleme to be returned, all, in Balzac. "the lost Illusions", it is not a veil, but on the contrary, a tear. I included/understood that in the place that I said, in a time when I was obstinated not to include/understand the "Balzac ones" (it is as that which should be said), because the geographical place who is Angouleme is split like fig even or open nut (it is a fruit which comes to Charente) to allow M.de Balzac, a cane with the hand, to appear. I had sworn that one would not take to me more there.
And here me is captive. With new. And, again, I see under work the man. I know value of criticism of today, and that it is necessary to distract the work from the alibis that the criticism of yesterday gave him, which was, as well, to speak only about the entours. I include/understand the advantage of a scientific step of pace. But finally, these combined headlights that are Balzac, and Stendhal, they seen are reduced with écirture alone? And can that be conceived? They have curious passion to exist. Stendhal is polygraph before being a novelist. Balzac is supplier with the sheet. It is enough to say that they are summarized only in them. In fact complicated machines are located in the first ranks of these named bats, by the old authors and Alexandre Vialatte, men. They teach quality, which must return to us modest.
What it is necessary to initially say of the "Letters for Mrs Hanska", it is that they make a work in margin of the general correspondence. It is what Pierrot showed by separating these letters from the others, that it publishes in addition (Traditional Garnier). When the two sets appear, we will undoubtedly not see Balzac differently, but will see we it better. Although I come from there to doubt that, so much the letters with Polonaise teach Balzac with those who saw it badly, and inform the others about the capacities of this wretched fellow. It is that it is necessary to take these letters in the tread of the great period of creation (at least for the second volume, which rameute 112 missives written from March 1841 to June 1845), then, generally, in a relationship with the works in progress: one seizes, here, which it is that the memory of Balzac. It is movement, not arrangement. It is dynamic and creative. Balzac, it is an eye - and a dream.
Better: with good lira the letters of this man who did without newspaper or notes, and with which Mrs Hanska, literally, was used as crib - still that it did not keep of doubles, nor did not redemandait its mail to him: it was enough for him, once and for all, to write -, I imagine that one will découvira what Proust, in his "Against Sainte-Beuve", said being "the admirable invention of Balzac, to have kept the same characters in all its novels". It well here is perceived: it is that the universe of Balzac does not extend in latitude and longitude, but increases in gravity and depth. It is not spread out, this world, it thickens. The memory of the writer resembles more one madrepore than with a land register: sedimentations occur, which weigh down the vision. And it is wonder, suddenly, to perceive the large man in the center of his theatre, character among his characters (what "the human Comedy" gives, at the bottom, little with entendre).Barbey of Aurevilly, which said by political dandyism some stupid things about it, was not mistaken while writing: "Balzac did not need to be invented romantic. Naturally, it was - and perhaps most romantic for it of all the heroes of novel which it had invented!"
Beautiful and rich
In such way that the beginning of the relations with Mrs Hanska is due narrowly to the romantic one. In Odessa, in February 1832, a woman who signs "Foreign" the address a letter with Balzac via the Gosselin editor. This message was to be of an extremely remarkable interest, since we see Balzac showing of it reception by the way of the small advertisements, in the Gazette of France initially, and in the Daily one then. It is into 1833 that "the Foreign one" will take figure in its eyes: it meets it in Neufchâtel, then in Geneva. Balzac, which is prompt to ignite, ignites at once. Mrs Hanska, born countess Rzewuska, fore-mentioned Eve, wife of U noble Polish, belongs to an old family. She is beautiful, undoubtedly, but she is rich. Then the most extraordinary ballet of the world starts. It will finish only in March 1850, by a marriage, a few months before the death of the writer.
One said much evil of Mrs Hanska and undoubtedly deserves it this fate. But one said, on this subject, much of evil of Balzac, reproaching him a little heavy consents which it made, writing to close relations that it was going to marry a situation and a fortune, and not so much a woman. Andre Wurmser, in his masterly book ("Balzac visionary", éd.Seuil), joined, from this point of view, which said Marcel Proust to his mother: that Balzac missed delicacy. It is necessary to see, seems to me it, the things differently: Balzac amourache in 1832 on the faith of some letters, is impassioned in 1833 with the first meeting, is caught of a sharp hope in 1842 when Venceslas Hanski dies, but it marries only in 1850 with the day before to die. Add to that of the many races through Europe: Switzerland, Italy, Germany, Russia... Constancy - at least - y is. And more still: it is to Mrs Hanska that Balzac entrusts all, and initially what is due to him to the body: its work. The Letters, such as they are restored to us by Roger Pierrot, form most invaluable of the comments to "the human Comedy" which can be imagined.
All that was mysterious or secret, the reason of transitory characters who hardly appear on the scene for disappearing at once, the roots, it is here that one will find of them most surely the keys. Better: it is in the comparison that the reader can make between the anecdote delivered by the Letters and the savour of the novel published, that the reader precisely will measure the creative power of Balzac. Albert Béguin said: Balzac the visionary. Yes! of a matter of living room, it makes an unforgettable character. Of a circumstance even, a considerable romantic event. Not that the Letters with Mrs Hanska are a laboratory: on the contrary, one sees there the novelist in the noise of the life.
Balzac is thus...
There are amusing things. Balzac was not a ladies' man (like one says), but it was a man who loved the women (what is better) in these ways of engagement which is stretched over eighteen years, there are connections. Acrobatics which it makes to dissimulate them with the remote beloved are not to be believed: it is a swaying walk penaud.
Of course, the question arises: Was Balzac in love? One would have - now (thanks to the Letters) - bad thanks to denying it: it is only to see in which state the met its passion, and how it is deluded with hope to fall at once into the darkest discouragement. That it has seen - in the same time - beautiful party that it could to make, and there that it was possible good to sit a fortune which had been unceasingly staggering, it is undeniable. Balzac is thus, it is necessary to put up with it. It devours all in the time even where its work devours it. In the last months of its life, when it is made collector, it is itself that it will put at the museum (but it will be it his). It has the vanity of the large workers.
When he dies, Eve will deliver to the public only one handle of letters: she will claim that the others were destroyed in Moscow. it should be waited until in its turn she disappears to find them, and it is eminent Balzac Charles de Spoelberch de Lovenjour who, at the end of last century, was at the origin of the version until today only known. This edition did not go without defects (Roger Pierrot gives the precise reasons of them, and it is necessary to refer to its foreword): there were mutilations due to the propriety authorized to the people still in life (or with their direct heirs), and especially the dating of the missives was - in the ignorance of a true Balzac "calendar" - whimsical. The 35 letters delivered to the public by Mrs Hanska into 1876 become four large volumes joining together more than 400 letters, but ausi one of the most astonishing works of Balzac, and the essential comment with the reading of "the human Comedy".