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LOST ILLUSIONS [NOOK Book]

LOST ILLUSIONS

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Overview

LOST ILLUSIONS



INTRODUCTION



The longest, without exception, of Balzac's books, and one which
contains hardly any passage that is not very nearly of his best,
_Illusions Perdues_ suffers, I think, a little in point of composition
from the mixture of the Angouleme scenes of its first and third parts
with the purely Parisian interest of _Un Grand Homme de Province_. It
is hardly possible to exaggerate the gain in distinctness and lucidity
of arrangement derived from putting _Les Deux Poetes_ and _Eve et
David_ (a much better title than that which has been preferred in the
_Edition Definitive_) together in one volume, and reserving the
greatness and decadence of Lucien de Rubempre for another. It is
distinctly awkward that this should be divided, as it is itself an
enormous episode, a sort of Herodotean parenthesis, rather than an
integral part of the story. And, as a matter of fact, it joins on much
more to the _Splendeurs et Miseres des Courtisanes_ than to its actual
companions. In fact, it is an instance of the somewhat haphazard and
arbitrary way in which the actual division of the _Comedie_ has
worked, that it should, dealing as it does wholly and solely with
Parisian life, be put in the _Scenes de la Vie de Province_, and
should be separated from its natural conclusion not merely as a matter
of volumes, but as a matter of divisions. In making the arrangement,
however, it is necessary to remember Balzac's own scheme, especially
as the connection of the three parts in other ways is too close to
permit the wrenching of them asunder altogether and finally. This
caution given, all that is necessary can be done by devoting the first
part of the introduction entirely to the first and third or Angouleme
parts, and by consecrating the latter part to the egregious Lucien by
himself.

There is a double gain in doing this, for, independently of the
connection as above referred to, Lucien has little to do except as an
opportunity for the display of virtue by his sister and David Sechard;
and the parts in which they appear are among the most interesting of
Balzac's work. The "Idyllic" charm of this marriage for love, combined
as it is with exhibitions of the author's power in more than one of
the ways in which he loved best to show it, has never escaped
attention from Balzac's most competent critics. He himself had
speculated in print and paper before David Sechard was conceived; he
himself had for all "maniacs," all men of one idea, the fraternal
enthusiasm of a fellow-victim. He could never touch a miser without a
sort of shudder of interest; and that singular fancy of his for
describing complicated legal and commercial undertakings came in too.
Nor did he spare, in this wide-ranging book, to bring in other
favorite matters of his, the _hobereau_--or squireen--aristocracy, the
tittle-tattle of the country town and so forth.

The result is a book of multifarious interest, not hampered, as some
of its fellows are, by an uncertainty on the author's part as to what
particular hare he is coursing. Part of the interest, after the
description of the printing office and of old Sechard's swindling of
his son, is a doubling, it is true, upon that of _La muse du
Departement_, and is perhaps a little less amusingly done; but it is
blended with better matters. Sixte du Chatelet is a considerable
addition to Balzac's gallery of the aristocracy in transition--of the
Bonaparte _parvenus_ whom perhaps he understood even better than the
old nobility, for they were already in his time becoming adulterated
and alloyed; or than the new folk of business and finance, for they
were but in their earliest stages. Nor is the rest of the society of
Madame de Bargeton inferior.

But the real interest both of _Les Deux Poetes_, and still more of
_Eve et David_, between which two, be it always remembered, comes in
the _Distinguished Provincial_, lies in the characters who gave their
name to the last part. In David, the man of one idea, who yet has room
for an honest love and an all-deserved friendship, Balzac could not go
wrong. David Sechard takes a place by himself among the sheep of the
_Comedie_. Some may indeed say that this phrase is unfortunate, that
Balzac's sheep have more qualities of the mutton than innocence. It is
not quite to be denied. But David is very far indeed from being a good
imbecile, like Cesar Birotteau, or a man intoxicated out of
common-sense by a passion respectable in itself, like Goriot. His
sacrifice of his mania in time is something--nay, it is very much; and
his disinterested devotion to his brother-in-law does not quite pass
the limits of sense.
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Product Details

  • BN ID: 2940012363190
  • Publisher: SAP
  • Publication date: 4/17/2011
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • File size: 657 KB

Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 12 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 6, 2011

    Panoramic post-Napoleonic Frnace

    This fat novel was written in 3 different sections at 3 different periods by Balzac, but holds together well as a look at early-19th century society and life in post-Napoleonic France. The characters cover the usual panorama of the struggling bourgeoisie up through the lesser nobility, both at home in the provinces and in the metropolis. Characters are drawn with some insight and subtlety (if few surprises), in appreciative but ironic prose. I'd only read "Cousin Bette" years ago, and wasn't impressed with Balzac; this one better displays his skill and reach. Admirers of Stendahl shouldn't expect the same intensity of feeling as the author's relationship to his characters feels more detached, though still moved by their motives, acts and fates. Fans of Dickens or even Trollope should feel at home.

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