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Old 09-13-2007, 05:15 PM   #1
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Balzac, Honoré de: The Physiology of Marriage, v1, 13 Sept 2007.

Honoré de Balzac: The Physiology of Marriage
(Physiologie du Mariage)
or
The Musings of an Eclectic Philosopher on the Happiness and Unhappiness of Married Life

Translators: Anonymous.

This predates Balzac’s Comédie Humaine. It is a treatise on marriage, written by a bachelor; and consists of thirty Meditations, sprinkled with aphorisms and illustrated with anecdotes. The Dedication says that women should not read the work, which naturally makes it irresistible (as Balzac, no doubt intended.)

There are discussions of vital topics such as the bed (twin, double or separate rooms?); the art of coming home unexpectedly; and various strategies for ensuring marital fidelity (or how husbands may avoid acquiring horns – or being ‘minotaurized’ as Balzac puts it). These subjects are treated with Balzac’s usual exuberance.

Translation Issues:
1. The PG translation is extremely coy, even opaque in places. One aphorism: ‘Do not begin marriage with a violation of law’ is ridiculously ambiguous. I have tweaked the translation in a number of places, so as to make it more literal.
2. The anonymous translator omitted some passages, so I have restored them: most notably a flowery passage in Meditation VIII, and a later story in Meditation XXI where a duchess gives a powerful emetic to her daughter-in-law’s lover, then shuts the pair in an empty room. I translated some passages myself; others were typed in from another anonymous 1932 translation, which I have in a paper version.
3. This came from a PG text file, so I have restored accents and italics.


It is a pity that Stendhal’s ‘De l’Amour’ is not available online in an English translation, because it covers similar ground in a less flippant way.
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