From Publishers Weekly
This excellent, scholarly edition provides the first English translation of an obscure, early Balzac work (1822). A mix of gothic elements, romance and SF, this disjointed novel is a mishmash of stories set in different time frames, loosely linked by the two characters of the title—the Centenarian father and his illegitimate son Tullius, or General Beringheld. The monstrous, immortal father—who sustains his powers by extracting the life-essence from young people—is the novel's central figure, but Tullius's diaries form the main story. Born centuries after his father was born, Tullius, who later grows up to become a much-decorated general in Napoleon's army, searches for the Centenarian, a quest punctuated with love stories, including that of Tullius and the innocent Marianine. This improbable tale reveals a writer seeking a voice and will appeal to scholarly readers interested in the early history of science fiction and its origins in 19th-century French popular literature. (July)
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"An afterword offers an insightful discussion of the novel as an adumbration of many masterpieces and characters in other of Balzac's acknowledged creations. Perhaps most interesting, the translators make the case that The Centenarian lays the philosophical foundation of Balzac's 'science' (including Mesmer), which brought a number of his geniuses to failure. All of this, along with the excellent translation (with its appropriate footnotes), makes this an enchanting and worthwhile publication. Highly recommended."—Choice
"With the publication of the first English translation of Balzac's disavowed 1822 novel, the Wesleyan 'Early Classics of Science Fiction' series continues to rewrite the history of the genre. The work is...undeniably fascinating both as a luminal science-fiction text occupying the mostly uncharted cusp between supernatural gothicism and 19th-century science and, with a cliff-hanger ending in the catacombs of Paris, as early hack-work by the writer soon to be the leading example of French social realism. ...The translation also includes helpful notes and an afterword that intriguingly suggests how this early novel may presage some of Balzac's later characters and themes."—Library Journal website
"The Centenarian is remarkable in its exploration of then-new scientific concepts and then-current themes (including those common to Gothic novels), and for its anticipation of elements of future SF as well."—INFODAD.COM