This introductory chapter begins with a discussion of the purpose of this book, which is to explore Balzac's short stories in the light of their genesis, as individual fictional entities, in relation to others, and in the context of his work's overall development. Short stories make up over half La Comédie humaine, in addition to the thirty published Contes drolatiques, and scores of other narratives and newspaper articles. Balzac's writing career began with short fiction — the first trace of narrative in his work is an anecdote — and ended with it, to all intents and purposes, in what are vastly expanded stories, Le Cousin Pons and La Cousine Bette.
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