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Balzac: A Biography

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Overview

“Honoré de Balzac was one of the greatest storytellers who ever lived, and now at last he has a biography that tells his story in a way Balzac himself would have loved—with all the ambiguities, the flaws, the illusions and myths, the realities of street and salon, the loves and affairs, and above all the imperishable stories that still have the power to make us laugh out loud in one minute and weep in the next. Robb has given us a splendid tale, meticulously researched, lovingly put together, and beautifully told. Those who know Balzac will not ...

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Overview

“Honoré de Balzac was one of the greatest storytellers who ever lived, and now at last he has a biography that tells his story in a way Balzac himself would have loved—with all the ambiguities, the flaws, the illusions and myths, the realities of street and salon, the loves and affairs, and above all the imperishable stories that still have the power to make us laugh out loud in one minute and weep in the next. Robb has given us a splendid tale, meticulously researched, lovingly put together, and beautifully told. Those who know Balzac will not be able to put his book down; those who don’t know him will rush from this biography to the literary treasures created by the writer Robb describes for us in prose that does justice to its subject.” —Richard Marius, author of Thomas More: A Biography
In the first major English biography of Honore de Balzac for over fifty years, Graham Robb has produced a compelling portrait of the great French novelist whose powers of creation were matched only by his self-destructive tendencies. As colorful as the world he described, Balzac is the perfect subject for biography: a relentless seducer whose successes were as spectacular as his catastrophes; a passionate collector, inventor, explorer, and political campaigner; a mesmerizing storyteller with the power to make his fantasies come true. Balzac's early life was a struggle against literary disappointment and poverty, and he learned his trade by writing a series of lurid commercial novels. Robb shows how Balzac's craving for wealth, fame, and happiness produced a series of hare-brained entrepreneurial schemes which took him to the remotest parts of Europe and into a love affair with a Polish countess whom he courted for fifteen years by correspondence. Out of these experiences emerged some of the finest novels in the Realist tradition. Skillfully interweaving the life with the novels, Robb presents Balzac as one of the great tragi-comic heroes of the nineteenth century, a man whose influence both in and outside his native France has been, and still is, immense.

In the first major English biography of Honore de Balzac in over 50 years, Graham Robb has produced a compelling portrait of the great French novelist whose powers of creation were matched only by his self-destructive tendencies. Robb presents Balzac as a man whose influence both in and outside his native France has been, and is still, immense.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
British critic Robb's biography reveals the mass of contradictions and excesses at the heart of one of the great French novelists. (Dec.)
Library Journal
Balzac'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
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393313871
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 1/28/1996
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 576
  • Lexile: 1360L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 1.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Graham Robb is the author of three prize-winning biographies, each one selected as New York Times Best Books. His most recent works, The Discovery of France and Parisians, have earned several awards and much acclaim between them. He lives on the Anglo-Scottish border.

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