sábado, 3 de enero de 2015

Eugénie Grandet - Honoré de Balzac


A tragedy in disguise.

This story takes place in the town of Saumur. That is where Eugénie and her normal family live. Her father is a miserly former cooper who hides his fortune from her wife and daughter and forces them to live in an old and frozen house, which he doesn't want to repair because, well, money must be spent and that is exactly what he tries to avoid. Reading this novel made me chuckle several times because let's face it, we have all met a Felix Grandet in real life, at least once. A person who accumulates money simply to see its splendor on the table. He needs to know money is there so he can feel safe. He doesn't have a coat to cope with a freezing afternoon but he sure feels secure while contemplating a pile of money somewhere under his roof. The way those people think it is truly remarkable. They want to make a lot of money, they don't want to spend a dime and before they realize, their lives are over. They merely existed, for they have never lived. Unfortunately, they can't take their wealth to the grave — or wherever we go after we part from this world. If there is such a place. From a practical point of view, only the heirs might be grateful for that kind of life. 

Well, I don't know what I was talking about exactly, but it seems like a good time to say that Balzac described places, situations and characters to the last detail, dexterously escaping from tedium, most of the times. His vivid writing allowed me to feel as if I were there, living in an ancient house, sharing moments with poor Eugénie, chatting about how every man who approaches her has an agenda. For that is the other side of this story: people being around other people only to see what profit they might find, since life is a business transaction. Some young men were sent to visit Eugénie as to transmit their marriage proposals, because their families knew about her wealth. Naturally, such thoughtful and hypocrite maneuvers are not something that only appear in the upper class, just as real friendship might be found in every social sphere. 
In the end, Eugénie's kindness and noble spirit had to coexist with the avarice of her father, with the materialism of her world. Regardless of the selfish atmosphere in which she had to breathe, she learned that another source of happiness lies in the act of helping others.

This wonderful novel discloses many interesting aspects of our nature. The impact of money on people and their relationships. The superficiality it often helps to attain. The constant search for love in a world of possessions.

Prisoner, tell me
'I thought I could outdo everybody in the world in wealth and power, and I amassed in my own treasure-house the money due to my king. When sleep overcame me I lay upon the bed that was for my lord, and on waking up I found I was prisoner in my own treasure-house.'
Gitanjali or Song Offerings: Introduced by W. B. Yeats, Rabindranath Tagore

* Edited on March 2017

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