Is there a chart or guide for navigating Balzac's Human Comedy? I've just burned through NYRB's selection and I'm eager for more.
Also, what are you personal favorite stories from Balzac?
Can any French readers let me know if I'd be missing out on his meaning by reading a translation?
I guess I'm asking if his genius depends on his language. I've always been wary of reading translations for this reason.
Everyone has a limited amount of time to spend reading. I'd rather spend that time reading an original rather than a translation because there wasn't another, separate human getting in the way of the text.
It's fine for writers that depend moreso on the content, the narrative, that sort of thing. But could you imagine reading a translation of Joyce? The language games are confined to the English tradition.
People who speak English think differently than people who speak French who speak differently than people who speak Mandarin, etc. And I don't think you can translate a way of thinking.
As a french, i can say you are not missing anything. The four pillars of the french literature are Stendhal, Balzac, Flaubert and Zola. Stendhal and Flaubert for their style. Balzac and Zola for their imagination. So it's fine to read Balzac in english.