A rare exhibition featuring the work of the prolific French novelist Honore de Balzac will open at National Museum of Taiwan Literature (NMTL) in Tainan on Wednesday next week.
The exhibition comprises more than 300 items borrowed from public and private collections around the world in the largest ever Balzac display outside of France, according to one of the organizers, Maison Balzac director Yves Gagneux.
It will be a very visual experience, for it not only displays many original manuscripts written by Balzac, but also brings under a single roof a number of paintings, sculptures, pictures, sketches and woodcuts created in tribute to the famous 19th century writer. It also reveals much about his life, Gagneux said.
Manuscripts by authors from the same period as Balzac, including George Sand, Eugene Sue, Victor Hugo and Alexandre Dumas, will also be on display.
Gagneux said Balzac, who wrote more than 120 novels before his death at the age of 51, was an accomplished craftsman in his field.
“To really understand Balzac, one has to understand the ideas of tradition and innovation, because Balzac’s work is a combination of the two,” the director said.
Balzac’s ability to blend realistic details, acute observation and visionary imagination made him unrivaled in his time, he added.
One of the items on display is the manuscript of Illusions perdues, written by Balzac between 1837 and 1843, with a preface by Hugo.
Gagneux said Balzac and Hugo had a cat-and-dog friendship. Balzac was fond of Hugo’s poems and theatrical works, but thought Hugo’s novels were “not worth mentioning,” he said.
The Balzac exhibition will run until Feb. 15 next year, followed by a showing at National Taiwan Museum in Taipei from March 3 to April 5 next year.