I want to portray every situation in life, every type of physiognomy, every kind of male and female character, every way of living, every profession, every social stratum, every French province, childhood, the prime of life and old age, politics, law and war—nothing is to be omitted. When this has been done and the story of the human heart revealed thread by thread, social history displayed in all its branches, the foundations will have been laid. I have no wish to describe episodes that have their springs in the imagination. My theme is that which actually happens everywhere.
—Honoré Balzac, quoted in Stefan Zweig’s Balzac (translated by Willam and Dorothy Rose, Viking Press, 1946)