chapter  1
13 Pages

‘Les Acquéreurs de Biens Nationaux’

WithRonnie Butler

The sale of ‘biens nationaux’, a question of continuing curiosity to historians, also attracted the attention of nineteenth-century novelists. Le Monde de Balzac is less preoccupied with the quantitative details than with the long-term effects of the transfer of ‘biens nationaux’. The Comedie humaine contains important evidence of the sale of ‘biens nationaux’ which is remarkable in its scope and perceptiveness and for the individuality of its viewpoint. Balzac thus agrees with historians in showing the significant number of large individual fortunes made through the acquisition of ‘biens nationaux’. The account of the sale of ‘biens nationaux’ in the Comedie humaine reveals as much about the political convictions of Balzac as it does of the nature of post-revolutionary society. The points on which Balzac agrees with historians are less numerous and less important than the differences that divide them. Balzac’s discussion of the sale of ‘biens nationaux’, as well as containing one major error, betrays an unresolved ambivalence.