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Lost Illusions (Modern Library Classics) Paperback – November 13, 2001

4.1 out of 5 stars 125 ratings

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Editorial Reviews

From the Inside Flap

"Balzac [was] the master unequalled in the art of painting humanity as it exists in modern society," wrote George Sand. "He searched and dared everything."

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.

From the Back Cover

"Balzac [was] the master unequalled in the art of painting humanity as it exists in modern society," wrote George Sand. "He searched and dared everything."
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 Angouleme 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 naive, 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, Andre 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."

Product details

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Modern Library; New edition (November 13, 2001)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 752 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 0375757902
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-0375757907
  • Item Weight ‏ : ‎ 1.35 pounds
  • Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 5.27 x 1.62 x 8.01 inches
  • Customer Reviews:
    4.1 out of 5 stars 125 ratings

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Honoré de Balzac (/ˈbɔːlzæk, ˈbæl-/; French: [ɔ.nɔ.ʁe d(ə) bal.zak], born Honoré Balzac, 20 May 1799 – 18 August 1850) was a French novelist and playwright. His magnum opus was a sequence of short stories and novels collectively entitled La Comédie Humaine, which presents a panorama of French life in the years after the 1815 Fall of Napoleon Bonaparte.

Owing to his keen observation of detail and unfiltered representation of society, Balzac is regarded as one of the founders of realism in European literature. He is renowned for his multi-faceted characters; even his lesser characters are complex, morally ambiguous and fully human. Inanimate objects are imbued with character as well; the city of Paris, a backdrop for much of his writing, takes on many human qualities. His writing influenced many famous writers, including the novelists Émile Zola, Charles Dickens, Gustave Flaubert, Jack Kerouac and Henry James, as well as important philosophers such as Friedrich Engels. Many of Balzac's works have been made into films, and they continue to inspire other writers.

An enthusiastic reader and independent thinker as a child, Balzac had trouble adapting to the teaching style of his grammar school. His willful nature caused trouble throughout his life and frustrated his ambitions to succeed in the world of business. When he finished school, Balzac was apprenticed in a law office, but he turned his back on the study of law after wearying of its inhumanity and banal routine. Before and during his career as a writer, he attempted to be a publisher, printer, businessman, critic, and politician; he failed in all of these efforts. La Comédie Humaine reflects his real-life difficulties, and includes scenes from his own experience.

Balzac suffered from health problems throughout his life, possibly due to his intense writing schedule. His relationship with his family was often strained by financial and personal drama, and he lost more than one friend over critical reviews. In 1850, Balzac married Ewelina Hańska, a Polish aristocrat and his longtime love; he died in Paris five months later.

Bio from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Photo by Louis-Auguste Bisson [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

Customer reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
4.1 out of 5
125 global ratings

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Top reviews from other countries

R J Fergusson
1.0 out of 5 stars This edition is unreadable! It's as though it was written by someone with no knowledge of English!
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on November 19, 2020
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Will Stanford
3.0 out of 5 stars Difficult
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on May 27, 2013
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7 people found this helpful
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David Bisset
5.0 out of 5 stars Quintessential Balzac
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on May 7, 2021
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michael hammett
5.0 out of 5 stars A great French classic.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on July 24, 2019
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Connors Keep ,Waterlooville
5.0 out of 5 stars a great
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on November 29, 2018
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