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Passionate and perceptive, the three short novels that make up Balzac's "History of the Thirteen" are concerned in part with the activities of a rich, powerful, sinister and unscrupulous secret society in nineteenth-century France. While the deeds of "The Thirteen" remain frequently in the background, however, the individual novels are concerned with exploring various forms of desire. A tragic love story, Ferragus depicts a marriage destroyed by suspicion, revelation and misunderstanding. The Duchess de Langeais explores the anguish that results when a society coquette tries to seduce a heroic ex-soldier, while "The Girl with the Golden Eyes" offers a frank consideration of desire and sexuality. Together, these works provide a firm and fascinating foundation for Balzac's many later portrayals of Parisian life in his great novel-cycle "The Human Comedy".
Balzac was born in 1799, the son of a civil servant. At the age of thirty - heavily in debt and with an unsucessful past behind him - he started work on the first of what were to become a total of ninety novels and short stories that make up The Human Comedy. He died in 1850.