Gaudissart the Great by Honoré de Balzac

Les Parisiens en province: L’Illustre Gaudissart

Gaudissart the Great

Also translated as The Illustrious Gaudissart

 

This is a very short story from Balzac’s La Comedie Humaine, and perhaps not one of his best.  It features a commercial traveller as the butt of the author’s scorn: ‘a human pyrotechnic, a juggler hoaxed by himself, an unbelieving priest of mysteries and dogmas, which he expounds all the better for his want of faith’.  He’s a know-all, he’s ‘soaked in vices’ and he purports to be the friend of all.  It’s his job to poke into other people’s affairs and guess their habits, interests and financial status – so that he can sell them products they don’t need. Continue reading