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Books with obsolete cultural norms
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I had a similar experience this very week with Balzac. Balzac is a French writer from the mid-XIXth century that people have to study in school and generally hate for that. You learn at school that he was paid by the page because his novels were prepublished in magazines, so you have dozens of pages of descriptions that are as beautiful as they bore students to death, while not moving the action a bit. He still has an amazing style and Proust had in-depth discussions about him with his mom, so I could never entirely discard the guy, but I kept that negative image I got from being forced to read his books without the proper tools and maturity to understand what he was talking about. He also has a very Bourgois relationship with money and how life should be led, which make giving a crap even more difficult. I somehow ended with an interesting English study about [URL=https://read.dukeupress.edu/books/book/826/The-Misfit-of-the-FamilyBalzac-and-the-Social]the social forms of sexuality in Balzac[/URL], and I've been learning a lot. One of the interesting things in the book is how Balzac was studying society through the prism of the brand new civil code of Napoleon, and how law shaped and destroyed families and relationships, especially how it affected women (the XIXth century was probably the worst time to be a woman in Europe, and most of the misogynistic ideas we're still fighting against now originate from that bullshit century). For this and many other reasons, he was particularly popular amongst women (to the point that he was not considered a serious writer at the time, since he was popular with women who famously didn't understand anything to arts). Most female characters of his novels end up unhappy (to be honest most of his males do as well), but the novels make a strong point to highlight society's structured strategies through its laws, especially inheritance laws, to keep women away from independence, happiness, and emancipation. With that in mind, you would expect him to be a proto-feminist author, or at least appear sympathetic to his female characters. But he actually does the exact opposite, and sometimes go out of the blue into weird rants on how woman are melancholic before marriage because they're unfulfilled, how they remain useless and childish until maternity makes them adult, how irrational they are by nature, and so on. And then the next sentence he goes back to discussing inheritance laws and how they destroy women's lives, hopes and and potential by trapping them in loveless marriage and robbing them of their autonomy. It's so weird.
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