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Venduto e spedito da IBS
Endeavoring to settle a lawsuit which it appears he is about to lose, the provincial is taken on a tour to meet a series of various Parisian types: a journalist, a haberdasher, a money lender, a detective, a doorman, a financial agent, a hairdresser, an artist, a government minister, two politicians, a chiropodist, an actress and a courtesan. Aghast at the rampant speculation, greed, duplicity and unbridled self interest he sees, he concludes that while 'the poor country district is... an honest girl, the Parisian is a prostitute, rapacious, deceitful, artificial.' After all, as the omniscient narrator observes, the Parisian's two eternal strings [are] Self interest and Vanity'.
Of course, the sightseeing novice becomes entranced with the actress, with somewhat predictable by also strange consequences to both his past and present financial difficulties, all of which are resolved in a manner which made me laugh out loud.
Unlike a lot of Balzac's rather heavy handed depictions in his longer novels of the sordid and immoral treatment of good people, this work had a lightness and a joise-de-vivre quality showing that while he was appalled at the nefariousness of most Parisian practices, especially the financial ones, Balzac really loved his fellow citizens.