Customer Review

Reviewed in the United States on February 25, 2002
As much as I enjoyed Pere Goriot, Lost Illusions is the kind of a literary work that lets you peer into the soul of a great mind and dwell there. Just as Lucien was Balzac, the lost poet, David Sechard, the printer, is also Balzac the craftsman in real life: he bought a print shop in Paris to print his own novels. Sechard is much like the scientist in the Quest of the Absolute, except that David ultimately finds himself through his invention and the inventor in The Quest becomes lost to his own monomania. As Balzac wrote of Lucien: "He's not a poet, this young man: he's a serial novel." And so it's time to find out what happens to Lucien after this novel in his return to Paris. The characters of his novels keep reappearing in scenes from one novel to the next, which is wonderful. However, they seem to change as one sees them through different eyes. Delightful young Rastignac in Pere Goriot becomes a rather unscrupulous mean-spirited character in Lost Illusions. Balzac has built an entire society of his characters and as varied as they are, they are all also him and show the great diversity and depth of his personality and sensitivity. Like Galsworthy, Balzac wanted to build an interconnected society of characters who are so human that it's easy to understand why they behave as they do. The realism is striking and magnificent and always rings true. Balzac works hard despite the realism to spin out of every hardship a redemption and out of every malignity a comic side that's all too human. The comedy and irony are rich in Balzac in his passionate account of life in Paris in high society and the challenges that it thrusts upon every ideal. This is the best work of Balzac that I have read so far out of four novels of his. It's such great writing, and the energy of the translator can make a difference, that Balzac keeps one coming back for more. But the writing and wit and wisdom are so extraordinary, I am happy to accommodate him. Anyone who has ever aspired to write and publish prose in New York will identify with Balzac's Lucien: Lost Illusions is a novel that aspiring writers especially may find intriguing.
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