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This novella, the middle volume in Balzac's History of the Thirteen, is perhaps best thought of as a penny dreadful with a pedigree or a kind of Jim Thompson noir with literary pretensions. It's the melodramatic tale of Henri de Marsay, a physically beautiful but spiritually empty young man who devotes all his time to the pursuit of sensation and sensual pleasure. He develops a burning lust for the inaccessible golden-eyed girl of the title, Paquita Valdes. It's tempting to image that her eye-color is meant to indicate that she's merely an object, but I don't know that we can read that much into Balzac. At any rate, de Marsay does manage to seduce her, but becomes enraged when he realizes that she's the kept pet of a hidden rival, for whom he's something of a stand-in during their lovemaking. He cooks up a plan of revenge but by the time he arrives at the seraglio to effect it, Paquita has been murdered by her original lover, who turns out to be none other than Henri's equally beautiful and heartless half-sister. None of the characters are the least bit sympathetic, but as an indictment of Parisian life and French mores it's enjoyable enough.


Grade: (B)


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French Literature
Honore Balzac Links:

    -Honoré de Balzac (1799-1850) - Original name Honoré Balssa (kirjasto)
    -Honoré de Balzac (May 20, 1799 – August 18, 1850) (Wikipedia)
    -ETEXT ARCHIVES: Balzac, Honoré de, 1799-1850 (Project Gutenberg)
    -ETEXT: The Girl with the Golden Eyes by Honoré de Balzac, translated by Ellen Marriage (Project Gutenburg)
    -ETEXT: Balzac by Frederick Lawton
    -ESSAY: Labour of love: on the passionate revelations of Honoré de Balzac (Lisa Appignanesi, July 10, 2004, The Guardian)
    -ESSAY: The History of Hard-Boiled Detective Fiction (William Marling)
    -REVIEW : of Honoré de Balzac, The Unknown Masterpiece. Translated by Richard Howard (Rhonda Leiberman, Art Forum) FILM:
    -FILMOGRAPHY: Honoré de Balzac (
    -REVIEW: of La Fille Aux Yeux D'Or a k a The Girl With the Golden Eyes (1961) (Bosley Crowther, NY Times)

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