Monday, December 03, 2007

History of the Thirteen

Honore de Balzac is said to have died from drinking too much coffee. Perhaps there is a lesson in that for all of us. He had only recently married his lover, to perish five months later.
His working style was unique. Balzac ate a light meal in the early evening, retired until midnight, then rose to write for periods of up to fifteen hours straight. He kept this routine for most of his life, and we can see the benefit in his epic catalog.
The Balzac legacy is intimidating; over a hundred works compose his study of Parisian life, La Comédie Humaine. The author, no stranger to ambition, proclaimed that in fact all of his writings could be lumped under the banner of the Human Comedy. Without Balzac, it is arguable that Marcel Proust, no stranger to cathedral-like prose, would have lacked the necessary precedent in literature.
Balzac was influential in various institutions, not least among them philosophy. Frederich Engels said of him, "I have learned more [from Balzac] than from all the professional historians, economists and statisticians put together."
The last person to see him alive was Victor Hugo, another promethean of letters, though it is not extant whether Hugo shared Balzac's taste for the bean.
As a former barista, I suppose it's only fitting that I read this author. If I start keeping weird hours, you'll know why.

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