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Old 09-14-2007, 09:24 PM   #1
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Balzac, Honoré de: Seraphita, v1, 15 Sept 2007.

Honoré de Balzac: Seraphita
(Séraphita)
Translated by Katharine Prescott Wormeley

A novel about an androgynous angelic being, set in Norway. The characters all spend a lot of time discussing Swedenborg’s mysticism and the novel ends with a vision of the divine. The story goes that Balzac’s fiancée, Madame du Hanska, demanded an idealistic, uplifting book, without any smut. This is it.

Hunt’s commentary says of Seraphita:
‘This strange creature is androgynous, and appears to the Promethean wanderer Wilfrid as a beautiful and desirable woman, Seraphita; whereas for the ingenuous and docile Minna, daughter of Becker, the local pastor, ‘Seraphita’ is ‘Seraphitus’, the incarnation of manly wisdom and strength. Both of these young mortals are in love with Seraphita-Seraphitus, but she has passed beyond earthly love, and her role is to reveal to the human couple the ‘chemin pour alle au ciel.’ [the road to the sky].’ (Hunt, 52)

Skiing
One claim to fame is that this is the first French novel to mention skiing, though the equipment used seems unusual:

‘The person whom Minna had addressed as Seraphitus threw his weight upon his right heel, arresting the plank—six and a half feet long and narrow as the foot of a child—which was fastened to his boot by a double thong of leather. This plank, two inches thick, was covered with reindeer skin, which bristled against the snow when the foot was raised, and served to stop the wearer. Seraphitus drew in his left foot, furnished with another “skee,” which was only two feet long, turned swiftly where he stood, caught his timid companion in his arms, lifted her in spite of the long boards on her feet, and placed her on a projecting rock from which he brushed the snow with his pelisse.’


I have added a TOC, a picture, reformatted and restored accents. However, following other English translators, I have left ‘Seraphita’ and ‘Seraphitus’ without accents, rather than restoring them to ‘Séraphita’ and ‘Séraphitüs’.
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