Avatar
The Elixir of Life Paperback
by Honoré de Balzac. Edition Date:: 12/02/2013
At the very outset of the writer's literary career, a friend, long since dead, gave him the subject of this Study. Later on he found the same story in a collection published about the beginning of the present century. To the best of his belief, it is some stray fancy of the brain of Hoffmann of Berlin; probably it appeared in some German almanac, and was omitted in the published editions of his collected works. The Comedie Humaine is sufficiently rich in original creations for the author to own to this innocent piece of plagiarism; when, like the worthy La Fontaine, he has told unwittingly, and after his own fashion, a tale already related by another. This is not one of the hoaxes in vogue in the year 1830, when every author wrote his "tale of horror" for the amusement of young ladies. When you have read the account of Don Juan's decorous parricide, try to picture to yourself the part which would be played under very similar circumstances by honest folk who, in this nineteenth century, will take a man's money and undertake to pay him a life annuity on the faith of a chill, or let a house to an ancient lady for the term of her natural life! Would they be for resuscitating their clients? I should dearly like a connoisseur in consciences to consider how far there is a resemblance between a Don Juan and fathers who marry their children to great expectations.
About the Author

The story is introduced by a mini-essay in which Balzac asserts that at some time or another we all hope to profit from someone’s death, whether it’s in anticipation of acquiring inherited wealth or in longing for the cessation of a financial burden. In the story that follows, the main character exemplifies this shameful truth. Don Juan Belvidero is the son of a Spanish nobleman. Though he is spoiled to the fullest extent by his indulgent father, he can’t wait for the elder’s demise so he can claim the family wealth and title for himself. When the longed-for moment arrives, and he is called to his father’s death bed, he dutifully professes his filial love. His father then unexpectedly informs him that he is in possession of a vial of a magic, death-defying potion. If the son will only rub the liquid on his dead body, the father will come back to life. Don Juan assures his father that he will resurrect him, but will he keep his promise or leave his old man in the lurch?

  • Share Facebook
  • Share Twitter
  • Share GooglePlus
  • Share Blogger
  • Send to a Buddy
back to top
Stickers Smileys