The Wrong Side of Paris, the final novel in Balzac’s The Human Comedy, is the compelling story of Godefroid, an abject failure at thirty, who seeks refuge from materialism by moving into a monastery-like lodging house in the shadows of Notre-Dame. Presided over by Madame de La Chanterie, a noblewoman with a tragic past, the house is inhabited by a remarkable band of men—all scarred by the tumultuous aftermath of the French Revolution—who have devoted their lives to performing anonymous acts of charity. Intrigued by the Order of the Brotherhood of Consolation and their uplifting dedication to virtuous living, Godefroid strives to follow their example. He agrees to travel—incognito—to a Parisian slum to save a noble family from ruin. There he meets a beautiful, ailing Polish woman who lives in great luxury, unaware that just outside her bedroom door her own father and son are suffering in dire poverty. By proving himself worthy of the Brotherhood, Godefroid finds his own spiritual redemption.
This vivid portrait of the underbelly of nineteenth-century Paris, exuberantly rendered by Jordan Stump, is the first major translation in more than a century of Balzac’s forgotten masterpiece L’Envers de l’histoire contemporaine. Featuring an illuminating Introduction by Adam Gopnik, this original Modern Library edition also includes explanatory notes.
From the Hardcover edition.
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|Title of Religion eBook: The Wrong Side of Paris|
|Release Date: 12-30-2003|
|Allowed Countries (hover)|
|Publisher: Random House Publishing Group|
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The Wrong Side of Paris
Madame de La Chanterie
One fine September evening in the year 1836, a man of about thirty stood hunched over the parapet of a quay by the Seine. Facing upstream, he could survey the riverbanks from the Jardin des Plantes to Notre-Dame; downstream, his gaze followed the water’s majestic course all the way to the Louvre. There is not another such prospect in all the Capital of Ideas. Standing here on the Île de la Cité, one imagines oneself in the stern of some sea vessel grown to colossal proportions. The view summons up dreams of Paris, the Paris of the Romans and the Franks, of the Normans and the Burgundians; the Paris of the Middle Ages, the Valois, Henri IV and Louis XIV, Napoleon and Louis-Philippe. Each of these regimes has left some mark or monument hereabouts, insistently recalling its creators to the observer’s mind. Sainte Geneviève watches over the Latin Quarter, spread out beneath her dome. Behind you rises the magnificent apse of the cathedral. The Hôtel de Ville speaks to you of Paris’s many upheavals, the Hôtel-Dieu of her many miseries. From here you can glimpse the splendors of the Louvre; now take two steps and you will have before you that wretched huddle of houses between the Quai de la Tournelle and the Hôtel-Dieu, toward whose disappearance the city fathers are working even now.
Another edifying sight graced that wondrous tableau in those days: between the cathedral and the Parisian at his parapet, the Terrain, for such was the name of that deserted plot of land in times past, was still strewn with the ruins of the archbishop’s palace. Standing where the Parisian now stood, c