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Prometheus: The Life of Balzac by André…

Prometheus: The Life of Balzac

by André Maurois

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I learned little about the life of Maurois, because after reading the preface in this volume, I got straight into the biographies themselves. Focusing on the five subjects instead, I learned ample detail about mainstays of the French novel of the 19th Century.
This will be part of my rereading project, as I have forgotten most of what I read in 1993. But now just holding the book in my hand and skimming through the pages, some of it is coming back. Not shown in the abbreviated title above, this book also covers Victor Hugo. Next, a third work covering three generations of the same family, Alexandre Dumas père, Alexandre Dumas fils, and the father of the first and grandfather of the second, the General Dumas.

Here is the link to the publisher website to get more details about this omnibus edition:

http://www.bouquins.tm.fr/livre.asp?code=2-221-07145-X ( )
  libraryhermit | Feb 28, 2010 |
Maurois seems to be closer to his subjects than most biographers, and in his biography of Balzac he nearly absorbs Balzac whole, in order to put him on the page. The obsession with finance evident in the novels is mirrored and explained throughout the book - at every turn, we learn what new disaster Honorê had brought upon himself. Balzac's novels frequently turn on the relationships of family and lovers, and sure enough his own familial and amorous relations are presented in all their glory, thanks to the surviving letters.
Less successful is Maurois' attempt to include direct analysis of the literary output of this font of ink. They neither explicate the work for those unfamiliar with it, nor reveal anything new for those who have read the novels. And since Balzac's life consisted almost entirely of writing, dodging creditors, buying trinkets, and pursuing women, it will come across as fairly repetitive, since these activities come up regularly. Prices, hiding places, and contracts appear on most pages.
Worth reading, though, for those interested in French life after Napoleon. Politics is almost entirely left out of this book, which makes it an interesting contrast to political histories of the period for a reader already familiar with the events of the time. ( )
1 vote kiparsky | Sep 2, 2007 |
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