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Lost Illusions by Honoré de Balzac

Lost Illusions

by Honoré de Balzac

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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1,783195,962 (4.14)1 / 112

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English (15)  French (4)  All languages (19)
Showing 1-5 of 15 (next | show all)
Tu seras journaliste, lui criait sa conscience, comme la sorcière criait à Macbeth : Tu seras roi. Être journaliste, c'est devenir proconsul dans la République des lettres. avoir tous les pouvoirs. L'ambition dévoiera Lucien Chardon. Ses poèmes ont séduit la noblesse de province. Il monte à Paris, prend le nom de sa mère, de Rubempré, et s'introduit avec succès dans la presse et les milieux littéraires. Enivré de gloire, c'est un dandy avec tilbury et canne à pommeau d'argent. Qu'importe s'il a ruiné sa sœur et David, l'imprimeur d’Angoulême, s'il a perdu son âme pour réussir.
Cette fresque tirée des Scènes de la vie de province est prodigieuse. La caricature des journalistes et des libraires-éditeurs est féroce. Chaque personnage de cette Comédie humaine déborde d'énergie, celle dont Balzac était plein. Mais, semblent nous dire les Illusions perdues, consacrer cette énergie à se pousser dans la société c'est rater la vie et ses vraies richesses.
  Haijavivi | Jun 9, 2019 |
While there were issues with the structure of the novel, the disparate scenarios involving Lucien and David are removed from one another to a cumbersome degree. Compounding this, the tragedy which envelops David and Eve is soaked and blurred in jargon and legal asides. I sense that Balzac was thinking long-term and indifferent to these quibbles. That said, Lost Illusions is a narrative triumph and one i will treasure. ( )
  jonfaith | Feb 22, 2019 |
Illusions perdues, written intermittently over a period of nearly ten years in the late thirties and early forties, draws mostly on Balzac's time as a struggling writer in the Paris of 1821-22 (unlike other novelists of the time, he never seems to be shy of pinning himself to the calendar), but also brings in material from his legal training and his time as a printer, papermaker and publisher (clearly, nothing was ever wasted!).

It's pretty clear from the title where Balzac wants the plot to go: provincial poet Lucien dreams of literary glory and his friend David dreams of making his family's fortune by a radical improvement to the paper-making process that will slash the cost of printing. We know from the start that the author is going to dangle the prospect of success in front of both of them, only to whip it savagely away at the last minute. But he takes his time about it, and obviously changed his mind a few times along the way about just how he is going to get there. Lucien is slapped down and humiliated multiple times, both in his native Angoulême and in Paris, but keeps bouncing up to try again in a new direction, without ever reflecting that his enemies will remember him from last time. Meanwhile (the stories are concurrent and interlinked, even though Balzac obviously wrote them several years apart) David is caught in a ludicrously complex plot involving multiple competing parties all trying to steal his invention and/or force him to sign it over for a fraction of what it's worth.

There's a huge amount going on, and it never gets even remotely dull, even if it is occasionally difficult to remember who is supposed to be on which side. And a wealth of fascinating, cynical comment on the literary and commercial world and the people who make their money out of it in more or less (usually less) legal and ethical ways. Glorious moments like the incident of the publisher who comes to see Lucien in his Paris lodgings to buy his novel - the advance he's intending to offer starts off at a thousand francs, but the sight of the squalid street Lucien lives in already makes him knock a couple of hundred off, and by the time he's got to the fourth floor he's under two hundred. And insights into the way the press uses its power to blackmail producers, publishers and public figures - if the editors aren't paid off, the papers will attack with negative reviews or - much worse - ignore the items concerned altogether. There are a couple of lovely scenes where an experienced journalist explains to Lucien how to write a lethal review of a good novel (simply attack it for not being something other than what it is) or a favourable review of a terrible play. Very often you get the feeling that Balzac would have been right at home in the era of social media and "fake" news. Plus ça change,...

There's a great bit of Balzac chutzpah in the magnificent but quite irrelevant scene towards the end of the book, where he spends twenty pages introducing a major character we've been vaguely expecting to turn up, but have forgotten all about by the time we've read 600 pages. Wasted space as far as the plot is concerned, but it does somehow give you an irresistible urge to find out what happens by reading the next book in the sequence! ( )
2 vote thorold | Sep 6, 2018 |
This book is the reason I learned french. more later. ( )
  jmilloy | Nov 8, 2017 |
Balzac explore le monde du journalisme parisien. ( )
  Joe56 | May 25, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 15 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (72 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Balzac, Honoré deprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Citron, PierreEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Howard, RichardIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hunt, Herbert J.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Marriage, EllenTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mezzanotte, GabriellaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mosley, FrancisIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Noiray, JacquesPrefacesecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Raine, KathleenTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Selvatico Estense, DianellaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wolf, UdoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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A l'époque ou commence cette histoire, la presse de Stanhope et les rouleaux à distribuer l'encre ne fonctionnaient pas encore dans les petites imprimeries de provinces.
At the period when this history begins, Stanhope's press and cylinders for the distribution of ink were unknown to provincial printing-houses.
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"Les romantiques se composent de jeunes gens, et les classiques sont des perruques".

"C'est comme si tu ne disais rien, on dit cela de tous les livres".

"Si vous avez l'esprit de le deviner, vous aurez celui de vous taire".
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0140442510, Paperback)

Handsome would-be poet Lucien Chardon is poor and naive, but highly ambitious. Failing to make his name in his dull provincial hometown, he is taken up by a patroness, the captivating married woman Madame de Bargeton, and prepares to forge his way in the glamorous beau monde of Paris. But Lucien has entered a world far more dangerous than he realized, as Madame de Bargeton's reputation becomes compromised and the fickle, venomous denizens of the courts and salons conspire to keep him out of their ranks. Lucien eventually learns that, wherever he goes, talent counts for nothing in comparison to money, intrigue and unscrupulousness. Lost Illusions is one of the greatest novels in the rich procession of the Comedie humaine, Balzac's panoramic social and moral history of his times.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:17:46 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Lucien Chardon, an aspiring young author, leaves his small provincial hometown and attempts to succeed in Parisian literary circles of the early nineteenth century.

» see all 4 descriptions

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An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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