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Lost Illusions Kindle Edition
From the Inside Flap
Written between 1837 and 1843, Lost Illusions reveals, perhaps better than any other of Balzac's ninety-two novels, the nature and scope of his genius. The story of Lucien Chardon, a young poet from Angoulême who tries desperately to make a name for himself in Paris, is a brilliantly realistic and boldly satirical portrait of provincial manners and aristocratic life. Handsome and ambitious but naïve, Lucien is patronized by the beau monde as represented by Madame de Bargeton and her cousin, the formidable Marquise d'Espard, only to be duped by them. Denied the social rank he thought would be his, Lucien discards his poetic aspirations and turns to hack journalism; his descent into Parisian low life ultimately leads to his own death.
"Balzac was both a greedy child and an indefatigable observer of a greedy age, at once a fantastic and a genius, yet possessing a simple core of common sense," noted V. S. Pritchett, one of his several biographers. Another, André Maurois, concluded: "Balzac was by turns a saint, a criminal, an honest judge, a corrupt judge, a minister, a fob, a harlot, a duchess, and always a genius."
This Modern Library edition presents the translation by Kathleen Raine. --This text refers to an alternate kindle_edition edition.
"Whether or not Lost Illusions counts as the greatest novel ever written, as the literary scholar Franco Moretti claims, it’s a pretty magnificent one. You can read it for its combination of social scope and psychological insight, and for its cinematically vivid portraits of faces . . . and many fine phrases. . . . And then you can read Lost Illusions, as Marx read Balzac, for its account of the double-edged nature of early capitalism."—Benjamin Kunkel, Salon.com--This text refers to an alternate kindle_edition edition.
- ASIN : B003TSEEM0
- Publisher : Neeland Media LLC (June 24, 2010)
- Publication date : June 24, 2010
- Language : English
- File size : 1674 KB
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Screen Reader : Supported
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Not Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Print length : 390 pages
- Lending : Enabled
- Best Sellers Rank: #214,735 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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The translation by Kathleen Raine is also outstanding, preferable to the Penguin version by Hunt, even though he was a Balzac specialist. Possibly this is because Raine was a poet as well as a translator. And it is of interest that she chose (or was chosen?) to do the translation.
Also well worth reading is her translation of COUSIN BETTE.
Lost Illusions is a long and sometimes tedious novel about a young poet from the provinces whose name is Lucien Chardan. He is fatuous and relatively talented as a minor poet and historical novelist. He engages in a platonic affair with the wealthy Madame Bargeton resulting in the couple's flight from the village to Paris. There they are soon separated by boredom and disillusion with one another.
Lucien has an amorous affair with the showgirl Coralie who is beautiful but dumb. He becomes a newspaper reporter. Balzac shows us all the details involved in the publishing and literary world of Paris. We meet many interesting characters who populate this environment. It is clear than Lucien is like his creator for Balzac knew well the literary life in Paris. Lucien is disillusioned by the cynicism and the quest for the god MONEY which is worshipped by his friends. Art is forced to take a backseat to the pursuit of pelf. Doublecrosses, blackmail and deceit rule the Parisian desert.
Lucien's sweet sister Eve marries David Sechart. Sechart is a printer who believes he has invented a new way to produce paper cheaply. He is involved in convoluted schemes to keep the business afloat and stay out of debtor's prison.
Lucien is not an admirable figure. He is foolish and vain seeking glory and fame. Balzac continues his downfall story in later books in the Human Comedy series.
Balzac is a great writer but takes getting used to. Many of his pages are devoted to explaining complex money matters and who is cheating whom. He is wonderful on describing a scene in detail and was first class in his microscopic examination of French rural and urban society in mid nineteenth century life. Balzac does not make moral judgments on the actions of his flawed characters leaving that to the reader. In the pantheon of nineteenth century French novelists he stands alone with Victor Hugo and Gustave Flaubert at the top of the list.
Top reviews from other countries
At least look at an example of this and some of the other versions before buying!
I came to this book with a great deal of anticipation, having read and adored Old Goriot as part of my degree course and a few short stories afterwards. But I don't think that this one has translated across the years as well. It's just too caught up in the intricacies of nineteenth century life: how book publishing works, how journalism works, how legal proceedings for debt work, etc etc. This isn't particularly interesting to today's reader, and is pretty hard to follow also. And this book is much more about these events than the characters; the vividly drawn characters that were thrown together in Old Goriot were my favourite aspect of the novel, and those found in Lost Illusions are nowhere near as memorable.
This is not a bad book, and worth ploughing through as part of the series - but don't expect to be drawn in as in some of Balzac's other works, and I personally would not recommend this as the first of his novels to explore. My hope is that A Harlot High and Low (a direct sequel to this novel) will see a return of the more lively and intense characteristics of Old Goriot; the return of a certain character at the end of this novel (whose secrecy is, it must be pointed out, completely ruined by a careless footnote in this edition) certainly leads me to hope as much.