Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Cousin Bette

Another masterpiece from the Master of Society Honore de Balzac, and the book named COUSIN BETTE. I have read many of his books either in English or other languages, but so far this novel has captivated my mind and my soul with his wittiness and sophistication regarding the human condition in the society. Are women really that devilishly clever and strong survivors; are men really so weak and totally depended on their sexual needs???

“Hortense was the wife and Valerie was the mistress. Many men want to have these two editions of the same work, although it is a clear proof of inferiority in a man if he is unable to make his wife his mistress. The need for variety in this respect is a sign of inadequacy.

Fidelity will always be the essence of love, the indication of an enormous power, the power that makes the poet. A man should find all women in his wife, as the starveling poets of the seventeenth century made Irises and Chloes of their Manons.”

“Only her knowledge of the law and of the world enabled her to control that the natural quickness of temper with which country people, like savages, pass from feeling to action.

And that, perhaps, is the whole difference between natural man and civilized men. The savage has feeling only, the civilized men has feelings and ideas. Moreover, the savage’s brain receives, as it were, few impressions. He is than entirely at the mercy of the feeling that pervades him, while in the civilized man ideas descent into the heart, which they transform. The civilized man has a thousand interests, several feelings, while the savage accepts only one idea at a time. That is the cause of the momentary advantage of a child over his parents, and advantage which is no longer there once his desire is satisfied. In man in a state of nature, however, the cause persists.”

“The moralist cannot deny that, generally, well-bred, very dissolute people are much more agreeable than the virtuous. Having crimes to compensate for, they seek indulgence in advance by being lenient with their judges’ failings and have the reputation of being delightful. Although there are charming people amongst the virtuous, virtue thinks itself fine enough on its own, so that it can dispense with making any special effort. And than the genuinely virtuous (for we must except hypocrites) are nearly always a little unsure of their position. They think they have been cheated in the great market of life and they speak a little sharply, like people who claim to be misunderstood.”

“A man of the Empire, accustomed to the style of the Empire, Hulot could know nothing of the ways of the modern love, the new scruples, the different modes of conversation invented since 1830, in which the poor, weak woman succeeds in being considered the victim of her lover’s desire, a kind of sister of charity tending wounds, a self-sacrificing angel.

This new art of love uses an enormous number of pious words to do the devil’s work. Passion is a martyrdom. Love aspires to the ideal, to the infinite, and both parties want to become better through love. All these fine phrases are a pretext for being even more ardent in practice, more frenzied in the final surrender, than in the past. This hypocrisy, characteristic of our age, has debased the art of love. Love claims to be two angels but they behave like two devils if they have the chance.”

Enjoy the rest of the book :)

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