Balzac's La Comédie humaine: the Archival Rival

Profound affinities exist between Balzac's La Comédie humaine and the emergent état civil archive. Through Balzac's meticulous representation and monitoring of characters' identities, La Comédie humaine functions as a "disciplinary" archive, and prodigious textual machine for fabricating individual identities. Le Colonel Chabert (1832) provides a keen reflection on the new ontological order in which human existence becomes predicated upon bureaucratic documentation. A paradigmatic postrevolutionary man, Chabert rises out of, and returns to official non-existence; fabricated, his identity can also be revoked. The vicissitudes of his "Napoleonic" destiny dramatize the fundamental precariousness of human existence in the modern world. (MDG)
Garval, Michael D
Volume 1996-1997 Fall-Winter; 25(1-2): 30-40