Z. Marcas is an 1840 novelette by French author Honoré de Balzac. Set
in contemporary Paris, it describes the rise and fall of a brilliant
political strategist who is abandoned by the politicians he helps into
power. Destitute and forgotten, he befriends a pair of students who
live next door to him in a boarding-house. The story follows their many
discussions about the political situation in France. Balzac was
inspired to write the story after he spotted the name "Z. Marcas" on a
sign for a tailor's shop in Paris. It was published in July 1840, in
the Revue Parisienne, a magazine he had founded that year. One year
later it appeared in a collection from various authors under the title
La Mort d'un ambitieux ("The Death of an Ambitious Man"). Balzac later
placed it in the Scènes de la vie politique section of his vast novel
sequence La Comédie humaine. Although Z. Marcas features characters
from other Balzac stories and elements of literary realism – both
hallmarks of Balzac's style – it is remembered primarily for its
political themes. Balzac, a legitimist, believed that France's lack of
bold leadership had led to mediocrity and ruin, and that men of quality
were being ignored or worse. He maintained that the youth of France
were in danger of being abandoned by the government, and predicted
unrest in the years to come. The story also explores Balzac's
conviction that a person's name is a powerful indicator of his or her
destiny, an idea he drew from the work of Laurence Sterne. The title
character, with his keen intellect, is based on Balzac's conception of
himself: a visionary genius who fails to achieve his true potential
because of less talented individuals with more social power.
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Today's selected anniversaries:
Byzantine-Arab Wars: Under the future Emperor Nicephorus Phocas,
Byzantine troops stormed the city of Aleppo, recovering the tattered
tunic of John the Baptist.
Construction of the Plymouth Colony, an English colonial venture in
what is today Plymouth, Massachusetts, USA, began two days after the
first landing party arrived at the site.
A Visit from St. Nicholas, also known as The Night Before Christmas,
was first published anonymously. Authorship was later attributed to
Clement Clarke Moore.
During a bout of mental illness, Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh
stalked his friend French painter Paul Gauguin with a razor, and then
afterwards infamously cut off the lower part of his own left ear and
gave it to a prostitute.
The Nicaraguan capital of Managua was struck by a 6.5 magnitude
earthquake, killing more than 10,000 people.
Piloted by Dick Rutan and Jeana Yeager, Voyager became the first
aircraft to fly around the world without stopping or refueling, landing
in California's Edwards Air Force Base after a nine-day trip.
Wiktionary's word of the day:
A seaweed of a reddish-brown color (Palmaria palmata) which is
Wikiquote quote of the day:
Working together, we can build a world in which the rule of law — not
the rule of force — governs relations between states. A world in which
leaders respect the rights of their people, and nations seek peace, not
destruction or domination. And neither we nor anyone else should live
in fear ever again.
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