Book Review: Farewell by Honore de Balzac
Philip, a colonel in the military, lost his love Genevieve in Siberia when retreating from the Russians. Years later, he randomly stumbles upon her in a country house with her uncle, having lost her mind from her horrible experiences in Siberia with the military after they lost each other. She is only capable of saying one word. “Farewell.”
I decided to read a Balzac work due to a reference in the musical The Music Man. The elderly ladies of the town think the librarian is scandalous because she keeps works of Balzac in the library. Clearly I needed to know what all the fuss was about, so I decided to see for myself.
My first instinct is that this classic work of tragedy shouldn’t actually be that scandlous, which perhaps was the point in The Music Man. These elderly ladies are *so* ridiculous to object to Balzac. In any case, however, in retrospect I can see what is so shocking. The incredible weakness of mind and character demonstrated by both Philip and Genevieve are both irritating and depressing. I’m not sure what point Balzac was trying to make, but all I could think was that both of them needed to man up.
That’s not to say the book isn’t well-written though. The translation is lovely, and I’m sure in the original French it is even prettier. Just imagining Genevieve only being able to say “Adieu” sounds prettier than “Farewell.” The scenes are vividly described, and the reader is certainly engaged.
Overall, it is a well-told tragedy that suffers a bit from weak characterization. I recommend it to fans of tragedies and classic French literature.
3.5 out of 5
Source: Audible app for the iPod touch, iPhone, and iPad