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Lost Illusions Kindle 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.
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
Sechard had been a journeyman printer, a "bear", according to compositor's slang. The movement to and fro, like that of a bear in a cage, of the printers coming and going from the ink-table to the press, from the press to the table, no doubt suggested the name. In revenge, the "bears" used to call the compositors "monkeys keys", because of those gentlemen's constant employment in picking out letters from the hundred and fifty-two compartments of the type cases. In the disastrous year of 1793 Sechard, who was about fifty at the time and a married man, was passed over in the great conscription which swept the bulk of the workmen of France into the army. The old pressman was the only hand left in the printing-house when the master (otherwise known as "the boss") died, leaving a widow but no children, The business seemed on the point of closing down altogether. The single-handed bear could not transform himself into a monkey, for, in his capacity as pressman, he had never learned to read or write. But, regardless of his incapacities, a Representative of the People who was in a hurry to spread the good tidings of the Decrees of the Convention issued a master-printer's licence to Sechard and requistioned the press. Citizen Sechard accepted this dangerous patent, compensated his master's widow by giving her his wife's savings, and bought up the press at half its value. But that was only the beginning; he was faced with the problem of printing, quickly and without mistakes, the Decrees of the Republic. In this dilemma, Jerome-Nicolas Sechard had the good luck to meet a nobleman from Marseilles who did not want to emigrate and lose his estate, nor, on the other hand, to be discovered and lose his head, and who in consequence had no alternative but to earn a living in in some kind of manual work. M. le Comte de Maucombe accordingly donned the jacket of a provicincial prtiner and set up read, and corrected, single-handed, he decrees that forbade citizens to harbour nobles, on pain of death. The "ber:, now "the boss", printed them off and had them posted up, so that both of them were safe and sound. By 1795 the mad fit of the Terror was over, and Nicolas Secahrd had to look for another jack-of-all trades for the job of compositor, proofreader, and foreman; and an Abbe (he became a bishop after the Restoration),who refused to take the Oath, succeeded M. Le Comte de Maucombe until the day when the First consul restored the Catholic religion. The Count and the Bishop met later when both were sitting on the same bench in the House of Peers.
Jerome-Nicolas Sechard could read no better in 1802 than he could in 1793; but by allowing a god margin for "materials" in his estimates he was able to pay a foreman. Their onetime easy-going mate had become a terror to his monkeys and bears. For avarice beings where poverty ends. From the day the printer saw the possibility of making a fortune sulfites brought out in him a covetous, suspicious, keen-eyed practical aptitude for business. His methods disdained theory. He had learned by experience to estimate at a glance the cost per page of per sheet, in every kind of type. He used to prove to his illiterate customers that big letters cost more to move than small; or if they wanted small type, that small letters were more difficult to handle. Compositing was the process in printing about which he knew nothing, and he was so frightened of cheating himself over that item that he always piled on the price. If his compositors were paid by the hour, he never took his eyes off them. If he knew that a manufacturer was in difficulties, he would buy up his paper stocks cheap and store them. He owned, besides, by this time, the premises in which the printing office had been housed from time immemorial.
From the Trade Paperback edition. --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: #441,117 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.