One of the founders of literary realism and the serial novel, Honoré de Balzac (1799–1850) was a prolific writer who produced more than a hundred novels, plays and short stories during his career. With its dramatic plots and memorable characters, Balzac’s fiction has enthralled generations of readers. ‘La Comédie humaine’, the vast collection of works in which he strove to document every aspect of nineteenth-century French society, has influenced writers from Flaubert, Zola and Proust to Dostoevsky and Oscar Wilde. This Companion provides a critical reappraisal of Balzac, combining studies of his major novels with guidance on the key narrative and thematic features of his writing. Twelve chapters by world-leading specialists encompass a wide spectrum of topics such as the representation of history, philosophy and religion, the plight of the struggling artist, gender and sexuality, and Balzac’s depiction of the creative process itself.