Publishers Weekly - Publisher's WeeklyThe Balzac we meet in British scholar Robb's extraordinary biography is a mass of contradictions. A ``rational mystic,'' the founder of the modern documentary novel embraced superstitions and scorned science as a glorified form of cataloguing. Chronicler of the urban proletariat, Honore Balzac (1799-1850) snobbishly added the ``de'' to his name, claiming wholly improbable descent from nobility. Defender of the family, he had at least one illegitimate child and many erotic adventures. Just five months before his death, he married Polish countess Eveline Hanska, whom he courted by correspondence for 15 years. We meet Balzac the bankrupt printer-publisher, blaming his ruin on his hated creditor--his mother; the treasure hunter seeking ancient silver mines in Sardinia; the sufferer from temporary insanity and aphasia. Without resorting to psychobiography, Robb elucidates the seething inner life of a titan and gives us a Balzac for our time who seems presciently modern in his attempt to remake reality through his fiction. Unfortunately, the work is only lightly sprinkled with commentary on Balzac's writing. Photos not seen by PW. (Aug.)
Library JournalBalzac's life was more cause for incredulity than anything he wrote, and Robb compellingly sets out the documentable facts against and within the world Balzac created from them. Robb harmonizes the extensive Balzac critical corpus, pursuing every recorded person in Balzac's life. The result is nearly a novel, although Robb does not fictionalize with re-created dialogs and hypothetical events. He has in fact produced an extensive traditional biography like Francine Du Plessix Gray's Rage and Fire (on Louise Colet, LJ 1/94), not a critical reassessment like Sartre's The Family Idiot (on Flaubert, LJ 11/1/93). Enjoyable for readers from high school to postgraduate school, this is the best English-language biography of Balzac in the last quarter century, and it is probably definitive.-Marilyn Gaddis Rose, SUNY-Binghamton
New York Times Books of the Century...Robb...confidently negotiates the vast expanses of Balzac's life in an unusually witty biography that reads somewhat like a detective story...
- Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
- Publication date:
- Edition description:
- 1st American ed
- Product dimensions:
- 6.47(w) x 9.56(h) x 1.69(d)
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