Histoire de la grandeur et de la décadence de César Birotteau or César Birotteau, is a 1837 novel by Honoré de Balzac as part of his series La Comédie humaine. Its main character is a Parisian perfumier who achieves success in the cosmetics business, but becomes bankrupt due to property speculation. The novel is a partly satirical, partly sympathetic portrayal of the Parisian middle class. Balzac writes "..may the present history be the poem of those vicissitudes of bourgeois life that no voice has thought to sing, so much are they denuded of grandeur, though by the same token immense: what we speak of here is not a single man, but a whole nation of suffering." The world of high finance is also explored through César's visits to the bankers du Tillet, the Kellers, Nucingen and Gigonnet during the second half of the book. Chapter 14 is titled "A General History of Bankruptcy", and here Balzac explains the bankruptcy laws as they existed in his time, and how they were frequently abused by dishonest businessmen who wanted to escape their debts. César is shown to be an exception in that he chooses to honour all of his debts.