Honore de Balzac’s Sarrasine is quite the story. A petulant, passionate young sculptor is taken with the beauty of the singer, La Zambinella only to find that she is a he, and he is killed by her/his protectors. But this story is embedded within another, for it is told by one party guest to another to explain the presence of a very odd old man at the events held by a wealthy and worldly family who seem to protect him and keep him away from their guests. There is a question as well–in the beginning–of exactly how this family came into their money and status–although status is easily explained by their money alone.
Overly dramatic (I can never understand the crying, moaning, pain of the lovers of this era) and flowery, it is of course, well written and intriguing and carries the reader along in its imagery and mystery. It was a delight to read, and I did enjoy it, though not making too much more of the story than what it presented, and it’s telling of society and history and the nature of mankind.
It will be interesting now to see what Barthes makes of it.