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The Alkahest: The Quest of the Absolute (La Comédie Humaine)

3.88  ·  Rating Details  ·  248 Ratings  ·  17 Reviews
In Balzac's classic study of obsession, a chance meeting changes Balthazar Claes' life as it introduces him to alchemy and initiates his quest of the absolute. Throughout, our sympathy is equally divided between Balthazar's single-minded determination to push back the frontiers of knowledge, and the ruin of his family.
Paperback, 200 pages
Published March 28th 2006 by Dodo Press (first published 1834)
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Ben Dutton
Feb 07, 2012 Ben Dutton rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“La Recherche de l’Absolu is, as has been said, a novel in itself. Taking minor points only, it is a masterpiece.” So said George Saintsbury in his introduction to the Complete La Comédie Humaine. After reading this short but powerful novel it is not hard to agree – contained in this story is the essence of Balzac, the purest of his writing, some of his most powerful. I had heard La Recherche de l’Absolu called his finest novel and it indeed maybe which makes it all the more surprising that ther ...more
Feb 12, 2014 Yves rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: xixe-siècle, france
Ce roman de Balzac raconte l'histoire d'un homme qui délaisse sa femme et ses enfants pour une passion particulière : la science. Balthazar Claës mènera sa famille dans la misère durant sa recherche de l'absolu.

À la fin de ce livre, j'ai eu l'impression d,avoir lu une histoire sur un homme qui était accros à l'héroïne. La passion de Claës devient pour lui l'équivalent d'une drogue dure dont il est presque impossible de se défaire. On ne peut qu'éprouver de la tristesse pour sa famille qui est in
Also included in the ForgottenBooks edition of Seraphita that I recently read was another of Balzac's Comedie Humaine novellas, The Alkahest. Set in Flemish Belgium, the story concerns a well-heeled family who are driven to the brink of poverty when the father develops an all-consuming passion for chemistry, specifically alchemy. Perpetually convinced that he is at the threshold of a discovery to bring glory and untold riches to his family, he squanders generations of accumulated wealth and poss ...more
The Quest of the Absolute (La Recherche de l'Absolut) is a masterful study of a man's obsession and the effect it has, not only on him, but on his family. The title also been translated as The Alkahest. M. Claes has an extremely happy home life with his wife and four children until something grabs his imagination and he begins to study chemistry. Suddenly, even though he is physically at home, in his lab, his family feels almost abandoned.
Steve Gordon
Oct 06, 2011 Steve Gordon rated it it was amazing
Brilliant Balzac as always. This story in a modern reading feels much more like the experiences of a family being ripped apart not by a scientist immersed in his genius, but by an addict laying waste for his high.
Jan 26, 2011 Lisa rated it liked it
Recommended to Lisa by: Balzac Yahoo Reading Group
Shelves: kindle, c19th, france
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Vittorio Ducoli
Apr 21, 2013 Vittorio Ducoli rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Quando la rovina viene dalla chimica

Rispetto a quelli contenuti nei precedenti volumi da me letti, questo romanzo di Balzac è meno incentrato sugli aspetti sociali e politici della Francia dell'inizio del XIX secolo, e apparentemente si focalizza più su tematiche personali e familiari.
Nella Fiandra francese l'antica famiglia dei Van Claës è una delle più stimate della cittadina di Douai, ed unisce alle solide tradizioni borghesi della regione il lustro di apparentamenti con l'aristocrazia spagno
Aug 04, 2012 Biblionomicon rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

"Wer immer strebend sich bemüht, den wollen wir erlösen", so singt es der Chor der Engel am Ende von Goethes Faust. Auch wenn wir nicht zum Ziel gelangen, so ist es doch unser Streben nach dem höheren Ziele hin, das alleine schon zu lobpreisen ist. Der Weg ist das Ziel. So ist denn auch dieSuche nach Wissen, meist konotiert mit dem edlen und guten Verlangen des Strebens nach Erkenntnis, ein Unterfangen, das kein festes, greifbares Ziel umfasst. Die Frage nach dem "warum?" lässt immer noch Raum
Feb 09, 2014 Kassie rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
ENFIN fini ! Je n'aimerai jamais Balzac. C'est juste pas possible...
Oct 16, 2011 David rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
There really is a reason why some of Balzac's novels are his well known works and others are not. He wrote some brilliant books. However, this is not one of those. He wrote some awful ones too, and this is not one of those either. This one is just mediocre. It's an overdone story with fairly flat characters. Mostly, it's hack work. Still, it's better than "Seraphita."
Read this one a while before we read it on Classics Corner -- I loved it both times -- it added to the enjoyment that we were living in Belgie when I first read this and was familiar with many of the places where the story is set.
آلاء  بن سلمان
قد تكون الرواية جميلة في ذاتها وبها مايستحق ، لكني كرهتها ، كرهت ما أراد قوله ، كرهت مثالية شخصياته الحمقاء ، ومثالية الأحداث ، وتوصيفه الذي يبدي به سهولة الحصول على حياة مثالية .
ظننت أني سأحب بلزاك وخاب ظني وأضعت وقتي
Jun 05, 2012 afaf rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
رواية جيدة ،عن أسرة استقراطية فرنسية تعاني من تولع الأب بعلم الكيمياء ونذره لنفسه وماله في سبيل كشف المطلق فيه.

هذه تجربتي الأولى مع بلزاك ،وكان العمل مذهلا لولا تخييم مشاعر الحب والرحمة على أجواء الرواية على الطريقة الرومانطقية الحالمة والتي لا تروق لي بتاتا.
Dec 01, 2013 John rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own
I am starting to like the style of Balzac's writing. This work did have some good characters but the story was a repeat of the same thing over and over, 5 times I think. A story of addiction. to science of all things.
Sep 28, 2013 Alia rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Story is very interesting, I love the themes but the drama was extremely slow with maybe too much description over and over.
Lucy Traves
Jun 20, 2013 Lucy Traves rated it it was amazing
A chilling tale of monomania, heartbreaking as it moves to its inevitable conclusion.
Jun 21, 2014 Marta rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It's a Page turner!
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Honoré de Balzac was a nineteenth-century French novelist and playwright. His magnum opus was a sequence of almost 100 novels and plays collectively entitled La Comédie humaine, which presents a panorama of French life in the years after the fall of Napoléon Bonaparte in 1815.

Due to his keen observation of detail and unfiltered representation of society, Balzac is regarded as one of the founders o
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Other Books in the Series

La Comédie Humaine (1 - 10 of 88 books)
  • La Maison du Chat-qui-pelote
  • The Ball At Sceaux
  • Letters of Two Brides
  • The Purse
  • Modeste Mignon
  • A Start in Life (Dodo Press)
  • Albert Savarus
  • Vendetta
  • A Second Home
  • Domestic Peace

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