Honoré de Balzac was a French writer whose works have been made into films, such as, Cousin Bette (1998) starring Jessica Lange, and television serials, such as, _Cousin Bette (1971 TV mini-series)_, starring Margaret Tyzack and Helen Mirren.
He was born on March 20, 1799, in Tours, France. His father, Bernard Francois Balzac, was a government regional administrator who married a daughter of his boss. The family moved to Paris in 1815. There Balzac went to the Sorbonne, matriculated in jurisprudence and became a clerk for an attorney.
Balzac's efforts at publishing his early novels under a pseudonym and in his own publishing company failed, and he went into debt. His activity as a journalist brought recognition among intellectuals for his political and cultural reviews, which resonated with the mixed social expectations during the Restoration. However, with the 1830 fall of the Bourbon monarchy came the new, "bourgeous" (or capitalist) monarchy, a chimera doomed to fall in the 1848 revolutions that swept Europe. Such was the political background for Balzac's literary works.
Balzac created the idea of a serialized cross-genre web of stories and novels, linked together as a broad historic panorama of lives and events. This idea was implemented in his "La Comedie humane" ("The Human Comedy"). It included about 100 stories, novels and essays, some of them unfinished. Such a vast body of handwriting could not be possible without an obsession. His plans and plots grew constantly and often changed, just to include a new idea based on a fresh gossip. Altogether his works reflected on a mosaic of life in Paris, and France in general, from the 1820s to 1850.
"Les Chouans" (1829) was a prologue to the collection of Balsac's interconnected works, known as the Human Comedy; it really opened with "Scenes de la Vie Privee", six Scenes From a Private Life (1830-1832) and "La Peau de chagrin" (The Goat-skin 1831). Balzac was writing 14 to 18 hours a day and often through the night, constantly doping himself with countless cups of coffee. He draw upon ideas from the works of Walter Scott and William Shakespeare, as in 1835's "Le pere Goriot" ("Father Goriot"), a "King Lear" type of story set in 1820s Paris. He also created many of his own purely original plots and introduced over 2,000 characters through the books of the Human Comedy. The largest "stones" in his pyramid of fiction are "Eugene Grande" (1833), a thousand-page saga; "Les Illusions Perdues" ("Lost Illusions"); "Le cousin Pons" (1847), "La Cousine Bette" (1848). His novel "Eugenia Grande" was translated into Russian in 1844 by the young writer Fyodor Dostoevsky.
One year before his death, being in declining health, Balzac traveled to Poland to see his pen-friend of 15 years, Countess Evelina Hanska. She was a wealthy lady of the Polish nobility. They married in Berdichev, Russian Empire, in 1850, when Balzac had only three months left to live. He died on August 18, 1850, in Paris, and was laid to rest in the cemetery of Père Lachaise.