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Tales of the Napoleonic Era: 2

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Tales of the Napoleonic Era: 2
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Author(s): Honoré de Balzac
Date Published: 2010/04
Page Count: 400
Softcover ISBN-13: 978-0-85706-011-2
Hardcover ISBN-13: 978-0-85706-012-9

Seven more excursions into the Napoleonic world through the pen of a master

Honore de Balzac was quite literally a child of the Napoleonic age. Born in 1799 he grew to be one of the most highly regarded French writers of any age and his works are acknowledged influences on several authors of renown who followed him including Zola, Flaubert, Henry James and even Jack Kerouac! His most frequently referenced writer in the English language was, however, Charles Dickens. Those who are familiar with Balzac's work need no introduction to it here, but for those less familiar with it, this favourable comparison reveals that here was one who knew how to tell a good story filled with real, well crafted, rounded characters who are authentic to their age. This collection of Balzac's fiction contains only those stories which are set in the Napoleonic era itself. Having grown up in this period and having about him a plethora of living reference sources in the form of those who took an active part in it, these highly entertaining tales, combined with Balzac's own genius can be nothing other than pure reading pleasure. Several of Balzac's pieces have been filmed including some of those collected here.
This second volume of Balzac's Napoleonic stories begins with 'An Historical Mystery,' beginning in1806 it is a satisfying tale of the abduction of a senator of the Empire, of detection, trial and punishment. The second tale, 'Farewell,' draws the reader to the disastrous Russian campaign, its retreat through winter and the crossing of the Berezina by the shattered remnants of the Grand Army. 'A Second Home' is followed by 'The Recruit' and 'A Passion in the Desert,' a brilliantly memorable story of Napoleon's invasion of Egypt. 'El Verdugo' moves the scene back to Europe and the war in the Iberian peninsula before the volume concludes with 'Colonel Chabert,' the bizarre account of brave soldier's return from among the dead of the Battle of Eylau.
Available in soft cover and good quality hard back with dust jacket for collectors.

The hour of doom had come. The Russian cannon announced the day. The Russians were in possession of Studzianka, and thence were raking the plain with grapeshot; and by the first dim light of the dawn the major saw two columns moving and forming above the heights. Then a cry of horror went up from the crowd, and in a moment every one sprang to his feet. Each instinctively felt his danger, and all made a rush for the bridge, surging towards it like a wave. <br>
Then the Russians came down upon them, swift as a conflagration. Men, women, children, and horses all crowded towards the river. Luckily for the major and the Countess, they were still at some distance from the bank. General Eblé had just set fire to the bridge on the other side; but in spite of all the warnings given to those who rushed towards the chance of salvation, not one among them could or would draw back. The overladen bridge gave way, and not only so, the impetus of the frantic living wave towards that fatal bank was such that a dense crowd of human beings was thrust into the water as if by an avalanche. The sound of a single human cry could not be distinguished; there was a dull crash as if an enormous stone had fallen into the water—and the Beresina was covered with corpses.<br>
The violent recoil of those in front, striving to escape this death, brought them into hideous collision with those behind then, who were pressing towards the bank, and many were suffocated and crushed. The Comte and Comtesse de Vandières owed their lives to the carriage. The horses that had trampled and crushed so many dying men were crushed and trampled to death in their turn by the human maelstrom which eddied from the bank. Sheer physical strength saved the major and the grenadier. They killed others in self-defence. That wild sea of human faces and living bodies, surging to and fro as by one impulse, left the bank of the Beresina clear for a few moments. The multitude had hurled themselves back on the plain. Some few men sprang down from the banks of the river, not so much with any hope of reaching the opposite shore, which for them meant France, as from dread of the wastes of Siberia. For some bold spirits despair became a panoply. An officer leaped from hummock to hummock of ice, and reached the other shore; one of the soldiers scrambled over miraculously on the piles of dead bodies and drift ice. But the immense multitude left behind saw at last that the Russians would not slaughter twenty thousand unarmed men, too numb with the cold to attempt to resist them, and each awaited his fate with dreadful apathy.