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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 imagine 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)


See also:

Honore Balzac (2 books reviewed)
French Literature
Honore Balzac Links:

    -WIKIPEDIA: Honoré de Balzac
    -BIO: Honore de Balzac (The Literature Network)
    -BIO: Honoré de Balzac (1799-1850) - Original name Honoré Balssa (Books & Writers)
    -BIO: Honoré de Balzac French author (The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica)
    -BIO: Honore de Balzac (Encyclopedia of World Biography)
    -FILMOGRAPHY: Honre de Balzac (IMDB)
    -BIO: Honore de Balzac (Blue Pete)
    -VIDEO: How Balzac's Uncensored Novels Defined Post-Napoleonic Life (Perspective)
-BOOK SITE: The Wrong Side of Paris By Honoré de Balzac, Introduction by Adam Gopnik, Translated by Jordan Stump, Part of Modern Library Classics (Penguin Random House)
    -WIKIPEDIA: La Comédie humaine
    -ETEXT: The Human Comedy: Introductions and Appendix By Honore De Balzac (Project Gutenberg)
    -EXCERPT: Assaying a Crowd: Balzac gives an introduction to the world of necessary superfluities. (Lapham's Quarterly)
    -STUDY GUIDE: The Atheist's Mass (La Messe de l’athée): A Short Story by Honoré de Balzac (1799-1850) (Cummings Study Guide)
-ESSAY: Balzac: The Man for My Thirties? (Jeffrey Wald, 3/27/22, University Bookman)
    -ESSAY: This Wild and Crazy Summer, Give in to the Chaos of Balzac: Drew Johnson in Praise of a “Disorderly, Conflicted, Brilliant Clod” (Drew Johnson, April 20, 2021, Lit Hub)
    -ESSAY: What Is So Special About Balzac’s Thousands of Characters?: Peter Brooks on the Extraordinary Fictional Lives of the French Master (Peter Brooks, September 23, 2020, Lit Hub)
    -ESSAY: Realism in France (Ernest Boyd, March 21, 1923, New Republic)
    -ESSAY: A Monarchist Marxists Could Love (PETER BROOKS, May 23, 1999, NY Times Book Review)
    -ESSAY: Honoré de Balzac’s Legendary Love Affair With His Anonymous Critic: Or: How to Marry a Famous Writer Emily Temple, March 14, 2019, Lit Hub)
    -ESSAY: If de Tocqueville Predicted Twitter, Balzac Knew Trump Would Use It: Liesl Schillinger on Reading Balzac in the Age of Trump (Liesl Schillinger, February 26, 2019, Lit Hub)
    -ESSAY: Balzac Tried to Buy a Waistcoat for Every Day of the Year (and Other Revelations of Parisian Fashion): On the Absurd and Wonderful Sartorial Habits of a Great Writer (Valerie Steele, September 11, 2017, Lit Hub)
    -ESSAY: Balzac and the Reassembly of France (Jérôme David, April 10, 2019, Paris Review)
    -ESSAY: Honore de Balzac: A Man of Enormous Appetites (Christopher Guerin, 16 Oct 2008, Pop Matters)
    -ESSAY: “Innocent, gullible, and blinded by illusions”: Honoré de Balzac on the misery of interns in 1841 (Philip Maughan, 29 September 2014, New Statesman)
    -ESSAY: Balzac’s Paris: History & Modern Walking Tour (Thierry Picot, Aug 9, 2011, Bonjour Paris)
    -ESSAY: Honore de Balzac and the "Genius" of Walter Scott: Debt and Denial (Edward C. Smith, November 1999, Comparative Literature Studies)
    -ESSAY: Trousers That Are Not Trousers: The Primacy of Materiality in Balzac’s Paris (Michael Breger, 6/9/19, Stanford University)
    -"INTERVIEW": An Interview with Influential French Author Honoré de Balzac (ed Newman, July 26, 2014, Ennyman's Territory)
    -REVIEW: of The Wrong Side of Paris By Honoré de Balzac    -REVIEW: of Wrong Side of Paris (LA Times)
    -REVIEW: of Wrong Side of Paris (Stuart Mitchner, Princeton weekly: Town Topics)
    -REVIEW: of Lost Illusions (Complete Review)
    -REVIEW: of The Human Comedy: Selected Stories by Honoré de Balzac, edited and with an introduction by Peter Brooks, and translated from the French by Linda Asher, Carol Cosman, and Jordan Stump (Geoffrey O’Brien, NY Review of Books)
    -REVIEW: of The Human Comedy: Selected Stories (Nicholas Lezard, The Guardian)
    -REVIEW: of Old Goriot by Honoré de Balzac (Richard McCarthy, The Ooh Tray)
    -REVIEW: of The Black Sheep by Honoré de Balzac (The Complete Review)
    -REVIEW: of The Memoirs of Two Young Wives by Honore de Balzac (Morris Dickstein, NY Review of Books)
    -REVIEW: of The Memoirs of Two Young Wives (Ashlee Paxton-Turner, Cleaver)
    -REVIEW: of The Memoirs of Two Young Wives (Polly Dickson, Times Literary Supplement)
    -REVIEW: of Treatise on Modern Stimulants by Honoré de Balzac (The Complete Review)
    -REVIEW: of A Harlot High and Low by Honoré de Balzac (The Complete Review)
    -REVIEW: of Colonel Chabert by Honoré de Balzac (The Complete Review)
    -REVIEW: of Gillette by Honore de Balzac (Christopher Prendergast, LRB)
    -REVIEW: Louloup and minou: An edited review by Mary Duclaux of Ferdinand Brunetière’s edition of Balzac’s Lettres à l’étrangère 1842–44 (first published in the TLS on May 18, 1906)
    -REVIEW: of Balzac by Graham Robb (John Sturrock, London Review of Books)
    -REVIEW: of Balzac: A Biography by Graham Robb (PHIL SHANNON, green Left)
    -ESSAY: On the History of Stefan Zweig’s Balzac (Beauty Is a Sleeping Cat, 3/15/11)
    -REVIEW: of Balzac by Stefan Zweig (Kirkus)
    -REVIEW: of The World of Yesterday by Stefan Zweig (Michael Hoffman, LRB)
    -REVIEW: of The Royal Game by Stefan Zweig (Ruth Franklin, LRB)
    -REVIEW: of OSTEND: STEFAN ZWEIG, JOSEPH ROTH, AND THE SUMMER BEFORE THE DARK by Volker Weidermann (Michelle Fost, Cleaver)

OLD LINKS (2005):

    -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)
    -REVIEW: of Balzac's Lives by Peter Brooks (Adrian Nathan West, Washington Examiner)
    -REVIEW: of Honoré de Balzac by Peter Brooks (Complete Review)
    - FILM:
-FILMOGRAPHY: Honoré de Balzac (
    -ESSAY: How to Fit Balzac’s Magnificent Universe Onto the Big Screen?: Drew Johnson on Lost Illusions (1843) and Lost Illusions (2021) (Drew Johnson, June 13, 2022, LitHub)
    -REVIEW: of La Fille Aux Yeux D'Or a k a The Girl With the Golden Eyes (1961) (Bosley Crowther, NY Times)
    -FILM REVIEW: Lost Illusions (Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian)

Book-related and General Links: