From the Inside Flap
Written between 1837 and 1843, Lost Illusions reveals, perhaps better than any other of Balzac's ninety-two novels, the nature and scope of his genius. The story of Lucien Chardon, a young poet from Angouleme who tries desperately to make a name for himself in Paris, is a brilliantly realistic and boldly satirical portrait of provincial manners and aristocratic life. Handsome and ambitious but naive, Lucien is patronized by the beau monde as represented by Madame de Bargeton and her cousin, the formidable Marquise d'Espard, only to be duped by them. Denied the social rank he thought would be his, Lucien discards his poetic aspirations and turns to hack journalism; his descent into Parisian low life ultimately leads to his own death.
"Balzac was both a greedy child and an indefatigable observer of a greedy age, at once a fantastic and a genius, yet possessing a simple core of common sense," noted V. S. Pritchett, one of his several biographers. Another, Andre Maurois, concluded: "Balzac was by turns a saint, a criminal, an honest judge, a corrupt judge, a minister, a fob, a harlot, a duchess, and always a genius."
About the Author
George Saintsbury (1845-1933) was a journalist, reviewer, critic, editor, and Professor of Literature at the University of Edinburgh. Thomas Pinney is Professor of English Emeritus at Pomona College. Among other books, he is author of "A History of Wine in America "(in two volumes from UC Press).