Hypercreativity in Stendhal and Balzac

Both Stendhal and Balzac frequently write not only the novel in hand, but also incidental accounts of what would have transpired, had matters been different: hypercreativity resulting in "para-stories," which enrich the novel beyond its normal compass. While each author sometimes writes in the vein of the other, Stendhal tends to write para-stories relating what would have occurred if a character had been in some way other; Balzac tends in his to consider the results of a change in circumstances. Many of Stendhal's para-stories are brief, single suggestions, but certain sequences of para-stories throughout the novel depend upon a recurring, identical change in the psychology of a character, e.g., what would have happened had Julien Sorel been more naive or, alternatively, more hypocritical. Hence the reader knows, not one but three, Juliens. These additional possibilities enrich the reader's experience of the novel. Balzac's more frequently used device, the para-story recounting what would have occurred if circumstances had been other, enriches his novels by presenting the character in situations the reader could not otherwise know. As an example, the opening of Le Curé de Tours proves to be a succession of para-stories. (BFB)

Bart, Benjamin F
Volume 1974-1975 Fall-Winter; 3(1-2): 18-39.