- Publisher: PENGUIN CLASSICS
- Format: Paperback | 720 pages
- Dimensions: 129mm x 198mm x 30mm | 490g
- Publication date: 28 October 1976
- Publication City/Country: London
- ISBN 10: 0140442510
- ISBN 13: 9780140442519
- Sales rank: 53,393
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.
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Balzac was born in 1799, the son of a civil servant. At the age of thirty - heavily in debt and with an unsucessful past behind him - he started work on the first of what were to become a total of ninety novels and short stories that make up The Human Comedy. He died in 1850. Herbert J. Hunt has been a Fellow at St. Edmund Hall, Oxford, Professor of French Language and Literature at London University, and Senior Fellow at Warwick University. He published books on literature and thought in nineteenth-century France, and was the author of a biography of Balzac. he died in 1973.
`Balzac [was] the master unequalled in the art of painting humanity as it exists in modern society,` wrote George Sand. `He searched and dared everything.` 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.` This Modern Library edition presents the translation by Kathleen Raine.