Peter Brooks’ Balzac’s Lives is a vivid and searching portrait of a great novelist as revealed through the fictional lives he imagined.
Balzac, more than anyone, invented the nineteenth-century novel, and Oscar Wilde went so far as to say that Balzac had invented the nineteenth century. But it was through the wonderful, unforgettable, extravagant characters that Balzac dreamed up and made flesh – entrepreneurs, bankers, inventors, industrialists, poets, artists, bohemians of both sexes, journalists, aristocrats, politicians, sex workers – that he brought to life the dynamic forces of an era that ushered in our own.
Peter Brooks has been teaching and writing about Honoré de Balzac for many years. Among his books are the nonfiction volumes The Melodramatic Imagination, Reading for the Plot, Psychoanalysis and Storytelling, Troubling Confessions, Realist Vision, Henry James Goes to Paris, and Flaubert in the Ruins of Paris, as well as two novels, World Elsewhere and The Emperor’s Body. In 2014 Brooks edited a collection of Balzac’s stories for New York Review Books, The Human Comedy: Selected Stories. He is the Sterling Professor Emeritus of Comparative Literature at Yale.