Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Speaking of Balzac

Tim posted amazingly about Raymond Chandler and so inspired me to write on little pieces of paper that I fiddled with the printer then promptly gave up.

Another writer besides Chandler who also inspires me - a scene in my next book takes place in his old rented quarters - is Honore de Balzac. I'm speaking now of the man's sheer volume of work and writing ethic.

This a bronze cast of his hand. He wrote every day, all day. Sometimes all night
at this simple desk.

The window you see behind his desk leads to the back lane where Balzac would escape when he was broke and his creditors pounded on the front door. He wrote as fast as he could to try and pay his bills.
But no hack writer, as you can see from Monsieur Balzac's extensive copyediting

Balzac himself even made a geneaology tree for his characters in his almost one hundred books.

But to write so much he drank about fifty cups of coffee a day. From this pot.
He died at fifty. But a man who wrote classics and defined a part of French literature, even today we refer to things as Balzacian, from this simple wood desk in this small room with only coffee and a quill pen gives me hope. We've got it easy.

But in a less Balzacian mood caught in Minneapolis the other night - that's our Stan and me muscling Kent Krueger in between us to get him to guest blog about his Cork series in Minnesota with the Ojibwe tribe. He promised in September.

Cara - Tuesday


  1. Wow, I never knew anything about Balzac. Fascinating.

    Did he die of a caffeine overdose?

  2. Might have Gary. Here's what I found
    "Balzac's work habits are legendary – he did not work quickly, but toiled with an incredible focus and dedication. His preferred method was to eat a light meal at five or six in the afternoon, then sleep until midnight. He then rose and wrote for many hours, fueled by innumerable cups of black coffee. He would often work for fifteen hours or more at a stretch; he claimed to have once worked for 48 hours with only three hours of rest in the middle.
    He revised obsessively, covering printer's proofs with changes and additions to be reset. Balzac sometimes repeated this process during the publication of a book, causing significant expense for both himself and the publisher."

  3. What a wonderful post about one of the world's indispensable writers (for me, anyway). I had no idea he'd done that big relationships chart for The Human Comedy.

    He wrote about coffee, which is also indispensable to me, and here's a snippet: As Brillat-Savarin has correctly observed, coffee sets the blood in motion and stimulates the muscles; it accelerates the digestive processes, chases away sleep, and gives us the capacity to engage a little longer in the exercise of our intellects."

    I'm sure it does for many of us, but not to the extent it did Balzac.

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