Honoré de Balzac, born on May 20, 1799 in Tours, is one of France’s most important writers and dramatists. Together with Stendhal and Gustave Flaubert, he is one of the significant French realists. His major work is considered to be his unfinished cycle "La Comédie humaine" with about 90 titles, offering a portrayal of the morals and customs of French life after the fall of Napoleon.
Balzac‘s father came from a farming family and successfully worked his way up in the period before and during the French Revolution; beginning in 1803, he added the aristocratic de to his name. Balzac’s mother, considerably younger than the father, was the daughter of a bourgeois family. Balzac did not have a happy childhood, which he worked through time and again in his later works. When father Balzac accepted a new position in Paris, the family moved to the capital in 1814. This is where Balzac began studying law in 1816. However, he broke it off shortly thereafter and dedicated himself to his career as a writer with his father’s support but without his approval.
He wrote various texts, which also included novels starting in 1821 that were published under a pseudonym. Balzac earned enough to keep a certain standard of living, but he did not achieve a breakthrough as a writer. Even later, his early work was not valued as particularly important. After an unsuccessful interlude as a publisher, Balzac finally experienced the desired success in 1829 with the historic novel "Les Chouans, ou La Bretagne en 1799". This was the first work that he published under his own name. An eventful life began for him. Balzac went on my journeys and had many affairs, usually with married aristocratic ladies. In 1832, he made the acquaintance of the Ukrainian Countess Evelina Hanska, who he also married shortly before his death in 1850 and appointed as his sole heiress. Despite his constantly increasing debts, he cultivated a luxurious lifestyle as a man about town.
At the same time, Balzac often wrote in excess of 15 hours a day and developed a coffee consumption that has become legendary. He also proved to be a good businessman in the process: Many of his stories and novels appeared as continuing series in magazines before they were published as books. In addition, he often marketed several printed works a second time under a group title.
Starting in 1834, Balzac developed complex figures with typical human strengths and weaknesses that appeared in his works time and again; in the course of his life, the writer created more than 2,000 characters. These texts become a portrayal of the customs and morals of the times. In 1842, Balzac wrote the first volumes of "La Comédie humaine", which was designed to be the complete edition of his existing and planned works. However, he only completed 91 texts of the planned 137 novels and stories of his life’s work. His realistic style is characterized by precise powers of observation and an unfiltered reproduction of social circumstances. Balzac’s work became a role model for many other writers. Because of his lifestyle, Balzac had major health problems beginning in 1843. Honoré de Balzac died on the way back from the Ukraine to Paris on August 18, 1850 and was buried in the Paris cemetery Père-Lachaise. The eulogy was held by Victor Hugo.