Image via WikipediaI am not really sure what I thought when I chose to download this title. Well, I do know that I had been pleased with my previous readings of Balzac's work. Thus, I went and plucked a smattering more of titles from Gutenberg.org. Among them was the title, A Prince of Bohemia.
Plot wise, I can't say that I would really want to read this story again. It is a kind of inverted story of the traditional unrequited love story between a man and woman. In this instance, a woman of wealth and distinction, who is also married, falls head-over-heels in love with a Bohemian of questionable value.
This man does not really love her, and seems to wish only to torture her. Perhaps, it is because of a kind of hatred for all the wealth that she has, versus the poverty and lack-of-wealth that he has. It does not explicitly say. However, in his efforts to torture her, he constantly pushes her to become more of the bourgeois than she already was. This, consequently, turns her into the kind of wife who hounds her husband. Where he would have been 'one vaudevillist among five hundred; whereas he is in the House of Peers.' So, his demand that she become a far greater bourgeois is successful.
But, despite his demands being met by her, he still demands more. He demands that she become a part of the king's court. He is aware that he is being, as Balzac puts it, 'pitiless,' and dresses his eyes in tears. Then he takes pity on her and says that he will put her in his will.
Image via WikipediaThen, inexplicably, the tale ends. I am utterly lost as to its conclusion. Why did he put her in his will? As a young man, younger than she is, is he contemplating something such as suicide? Is her ruin destroying him? Is he perhaps caught between trying to get rid of her because he does not love her and not being able to cast her aside at all? Is there some guilt that is robbing his conscience?
Beyond my own inability to penetrate the finale, and despite the fact that the plot is not overly to my liking, Balzac's writing is absolutely gorgeous. The way he paints the canvas that is a page, to illustrate such gorgeous figures of the imagination, is absolutely genius. For all the stuff I don't like about what he writes, his style is magnificent. If for no other reason, I highly recommend this work of fiction.