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The Short List: A Passion in the Desert, Honoré de Balzac

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The Short List is a collection of reviews and critical responses to short fiction. All titles reviewed are suggested for a quick, quality read. Looking for quick but fulfilling reads? Start your search here.

A Passion in the Desert, Honoré de Balzac

One of the most prolific of novelists, Honoré de Balzac was born in Tours, France in 1799. His writing pursued a panorama of then-modern French society, and he is credited with transforming fiction into a comprehensive literary form through realism and precise documentation.

In A Passion in the Desert, Balzac dramatizes the mystery of man’s inner self; we begin with a Frenchman, taken captive as a prisoner of war, whose only thought is escape. As we follow his trek through the deserts of Egypt, we are simultaneously trudging the windswept sands of the mind. Hope fades quickly away, and the cavalcade of emotional states reaches each end of the human spectrum. Balzac moves us gracefully through the devastation of a defeated man, and the Frenchman’s newly formed friendship strives to illuminate the deeper functions of the human psyche.

Aptly titled, Balzac’s Passion is a love story of sorts, finding its strength in brevity and the author’s refined form. An intellectually stimulating read, and a classic.

Find it here.

Have you read this? Can you explain Balzac's description of the desert as "God without mankind"? What do you think the purpose of this story is?