Author(s): Honore de Balzac
One of Honore de Balzac's most celebrated tales, The Unknown Masterpiece is the story of a painter who, depending on one's perspective, is either an abject failure or a transcendental genius-or both. The story, which has served as an inspiration to artists as various as Cezanne, Henry James, Picasso, and New Wave director Jacques Rivette, is, in critic Dore Ashton's words, a "fable of modern art."
Honore De Balzac (1799-1850) is generally credited as the inventor of the modern realistic novel. In more than ninety novels, he set forth French society and life as he saw it. He created a cast of over two thousand individual and identifiable characters, some of whom reappear in different novels. He organized his works into his masterpiece, La Comedie Humaine, which was the final result of his attempt to grasp the whole of society and experience into one varied but unified work. RICHARD HOWARD is the author of seventeen volumes of poetry and has published more than one hundred fifty translations from the French, including, for NYRB, Marc Fumaroli's When the World Spoke French, Balzac's Unknown Masterpiece, and Maupassant's Alien Hearts. He has received a National Book Award for his translation of Les Fleurs du Mal and a Pulitzer Prize for Untitled Subjects, a collection of poetry. His most recent book of poems, inspired by his own schooling in Ohio, is A Progressive Education (2014).