CAFE BALZAC would be a nice name for a coffee shop The different brews offered there could be named after his novels Pere Goriot, Louis Lambert, Cousin Bette, Cousin Pons, Eugenie Grandet, etc Lost Illusions would be in a monster of a cup Having it should be like endlessly sipping an ocean of coffee Black, with enough caffeine to shock one s nerves and make him want to write to calm himself.
This is the story of Lucien Chardon a cake in the coffee shop could be named after him, lucien sounds luscious , a young, handsome poet, well intentioned but vain and stupid Living in a provincial town, he dreams of getting rich and famous He catches the fancy of the aristocratic Madame de Bagerton, married but a real hot mama Thinking that they are in love with each other, they go to gay Paris There, they promptly lose their illusion about this love They part ways, bitterly.
Destitute and hungry, Lucien befriends fellow poets, writers and artists who although similarly poor like him value personal and creative integrity above all else But he also stumbles upon characters, including journalists, who value money above all else He is sucked into this life of double dealing, journalistic blackmail, corruption and dishonesty, enjoying it for the money, fame and sex it brings He is again disillusioned but likes the compensation.
This new society he has embraced, however, does not embrace him back He is betrayed and rejected Thus he loses another illusion and comes back to his hometown like a beaten dog with his tail between his legs.
But alas It seems his town considers him a hero of sorts with the fleeting fame and momentary wealth he had acquired before So he struts his feathers onceand attempts to save his loved ones his mother, sister and her husband David who is also his best friend from the ruin he has brought them into This, however, proves to be illusory once .
He now walks alone, planning to drown himself But he meets a 48 year old Spanish priest Hey, I said to myself, a happy ending after all A man of God shall be an instrument to Lucien s redemption But no It was my turn to lose an illusion This priest s advice to Lucien sounds like it is based on Machiavelli s The Prince than on the Holy Bible He may even be harboring sexy thoughts because after giving Lucien money and promising him a job as his secretary he kissed him on the forehead, tenderly , Balzac however took care to point out , alluding to the profound friendship of man to man whichmakes woman of no account The descriptions here of characters, places, legal proceedings, the printing business, paper making, parties, the theater, intrigues and what not are so lush that reading them is like wading through the foliage of thejungle during the time of the dinosaurs For its dialogues, the characters often throw full length essays against each other thoughts and recollections were sometimes like treatises and characters are so numerous they swarm like ants on a pool of molasses.
Six hundred thirty pages excluding endnotes, the introduction, Balzac s brief biographical outline and comments on him and his works by various authors You ll need a lot of coffee to get through this But it s all worth it, may I add.
In the mid eighteenth century, in France, the media, like the newspaper, had its emergence As of this date there was a revolution in the media by means of this mass information vehicle that would only be surpassed centuries later with the invention of the remaining media radio, television, satellite communication and that will culminate with the interfaces of hypermedia, that is, the computer Honor de Balzac, in his book Lost Illusions tells us the whole trajectory of the newspaper since its inception, comparing it with Literature The work makes us understand that with the appearance of the newspaper, good literature has fallen into the background once writers have abandoned their ivory towers to dedicate themselves professionally to this new medium of communication, eaten by disposable information, that in which the reader bends over a coffee table, digests the reading, and then tosses the newspaper into the nearest wastebasket With this, the media of which we speak here the Literature has lost ground giving now space for a new apparatus conveyed by a new type of individual who is neither politician nor literate the journalist He, like a leech, came to earn his living through the misfortune of others, since his livelihood was driven by the interests and blessings of the new media, which was not and is not at the service of truth , in the first conception of the word, but of bringing to the public knowledge what is of interest to the news media it is understood from the interest of the media the question of sensationalism, what causes discussion, what causes the circularity and then returns to the initial point Let us not forget, too, that it was through the Journal that the Critique emerged a personal point of view that adds nothing to the novel on the contrary, it serves both to construct and to destroy a kind of intellectual production whatever it depends on interest of the one in charge of the news It is possible to say, without fear of effective contradiction, that with the appearance of the Journal, we have a fragmented type of reader, light years away from the one who spent hours, weeks and months to apprehend literary knowledge Anyway, the newspaper we read this morning does not mean anything at night when we turn off the light and fall asleep Literature is immortal, as long as there is room for the imaginary, it is present with us Balzac tries to translate, in his own way, the portrait of the newspaper at the time and tells us that it would become the future our present.
Unfortunately for most French people, they were forced to read Balzac in school and were not given the real time or context to fully appreciate his work Plus they mostly only get the highly moralistic Peau de Chagrin and, fed up, finish their book report and never seek out Balzac again That is quite unfortunate particularly when it comes to this particular masterpiece In Illusions perdues, we have one of French literatures greatest bildungsroman ever with the coming of age of the two protagonists I will absolutely not spoil the story here because it must be read and enjoyed And please do not forget to read the wonderful sequel, Splendeurs et Mis res des Courtesans which is every bit as real and gripping and beautiful as this one.
For me there are a great many things that contribute to a rewarding reading experience, an almost ineffable series of qualities that a novel must possess for me to be able to enjoy it Indeed, these things are what I am looking for when I am sat on my bed losing my mind for days on end, surrounded by shaky towers of books Yet there is perhaps a single, fairly straightforward thing that elevates my favourites above the others, which is that I see something of myself in them Theof myself I see, theI cherish the book I imagine most people feel that way There is, however, one book that feels almost as though the author was possessed of the ability to see into the future, to fasten onto some kid from northern England and follow his progress, or deterioration, over the space of around twelve months That book is Lost Illusions by Honore de Balzac.
I don t, of course, want to make the entire review about me again , but I find it impossible to think or write about Lost Illusions without referencing my experiences, without putting my gushing into some context,so because the book is certainly flawed if I view it dispassionately, so let me tell a little story and get it all out let my story serve as a kind of introduction When I was nineteen I met and fell for a model who lived in London Until I met her I was pretty uninterested in girls I mean obviously I liked them and all, but I wasn t crazy about them Coming from where I come from, I didn t really know that girls could be as elegant and beautiful as this particular girl TheI liked her, thetime I spent in London until I was pretty much living there For a while I enjoyed myself immensely the girl was on the cusp of success and took me to lots of parties and events I adored London I was starstruck If you re a working class kid from Sheffield and you have this gorgeous girlfriend who is fawned over everywhere, and you yourself, for being with her, are fawned over also it is difficult to maintain perspective.
However, after a while things started to go awry I began to notice that the people around her, and around me, who I had trusted were actually only looking out for themselves Almost one by one I realised this The scales falling from my eyes was a painful process, so much so that I almost went down with them It was, I came to understand, impossible to have friends in London, or in those kinds of fashionable circles anyway, that the people who smiled at you were likely plotting to stab you in the back Slowly I started to pick up their habits, to become cynical and two faced and manipulative, because I thought that the only way to survive Before too long I was living in a moral vacuum, where cheap sex, drugs and social climbing were the norm It wasn t until I returned home, back to Sheffield, that I came to understand how much I had changed I lost something in London, something that, I guess, everyone loses at some point in their life What had I lost My illusions.
Lucien Chardon s story arc is eerily similar to mine He is a provincial poet, who moves to Paris, thinking that he will find fame and fortune What he finds, instead, is that people in a big city will happily crawl over your carcass in the pursuit of their own wants and desires He finds that everything, and everyone, in Paris is false, even if they appear absolutely to be the opposite Lucien, like myself, is green and in the end Paris swallows him up Of course, this kind of story is not particular to me, or Lucien, but you have to credit Balzac for nailing it It shouldn t, but still does, amaze me that human beings have changed so little over hundreds of years The funny thing is that at the start of Lost Illusions I scoffed at Lucien Chardon I inwardly belittled him, judged him harshly, and, quite literally at times, rolled my eyes at him I suppose the reason for that is that not only was his story like mine, but his character also, and that embarrassed me I even put the book down two or three times, actually abandoned it, because, I realised later, I wanted to distance myself from Lucien Chardon is psychologically, emotionally, at war with himself Part of him is thoughtful, artistic, sensitive, and another part is ruthless and ambitious and self serving This is what makes Lucien human to the reader he knows what the right thing is, and feels drawn to that course of action, and yet, because he is so self obsessed, is able to convince himself that what ultimately serves his own desires is the right thing and will, in the end, produce the best results for everyone, even if he has to trample on them in the meantime This is, I would guess, why Balzac chose to call his protagonist a name that resembles the most seriously fallen, the most humanly flawed character in literature Lucifer.
Structurally Lost Illusions is really clever In the beginning, Lucien plays court to Madame de Bargeton, the fashionable matriarch of Angouleme, and thinks, when he wins her, that he has done all the hard work, has won the finest victory, has raised himself to the top, only to find when they move to Paris that his victory is worthless, is nothing, and that there is a much greater,difficult, war to fight the fight to bring Paris under his heel It s a little bit like when playing a computer game and you destroy what you think is the end of level boss bad guy, only to find that actually it was just some minion and the real boss is waiting for you around the next corner and he is fucking huge What unravels after the opening section is, as noted, a tale of treachery and double dealing of Shakespearean proportions, but I do not want to linger over all that It s great, of course, but I have written plenty about it already and anywould lead to serious spoilers There are, however, numerous other fascinating ideas and themes present in the book.
Perhaps the most obvious concern is that of money indeed it was Balzac s most persistent theme, the one that found its way into nearly all his work Lucien is of low birth, and so has barely a franc to his name Yet his ambitions require capital One needs money to make money One needs money to grease wheels one needs it to convince others of your worth So it goes As well as Lucien s story Balzac gives some space to David Sechard, Lucien s brother in law David enters the novel as the son of old Sechard, the bear, who is engaged in selling his printing press to his progeny for an exorbitant price David agrees, even though he knows the press isn t worth what his old man is asking for it, and ultimately ends up in a dire financial predicament Balzac, it seems to me, was torn between trying to show the evils of money, while showcasing its absolute necessity Many of the characters in Lost Illusions do horrendous things for it, yet the most kindhearted, most sympathetic suffer horribly from want of it Related to what the author has to say about money is the idea that there is a tension between art and commerce Lucien at one point in the novel has a choice to make between being an artist or journalist One will require hard work, but will lead to artistic fulfilment and perhaps fame and fortune eventually , the other will lead to quick and easy gains but artistic bankruptcy The author appears to be suggesting that it is near impossible to be an artist in a world so obsessed with money, that the lure of money will lead genius astray.
The most interesting aspect of the novel, for me, is what Balzac has to say about old and new approaches In discussion of the paper business and journalism, he makes the point numerous times that things are becoming cheaper, of lesser quality Indeed, David is an inventor and he embarks on experiments in order to create a cheaper, lighter kind of paper It s not just paper either, but, Balzac points out, clothes and furniture are not as well made as they once were, will not last as long Even artwork is being downsized, madereadily available It is a kind of cheapening in step with the times, in step with the moral character of the people Even professions are not what they once were, with journalism being derided as a fully corrupt occupation, when it could, in fact, be a noble form of employment Once again, I laud Balzac s insight, his prescience, because isn t this exactly how the world is these days Everything is plastic, crap, will fall apart after a couple of days and everything is up for sale And aren t the press a bunch of talentless hyenas, who praise and condemn with one eye on their own purse As i am sure is obvious by now I passionately love Lost Illusions, but, as I mentioned earlier, it is not without flaws David, for example, is excruciating He s a complete nincompoop No matter what Lucien does he stands by him, like the craziest kind of put upon girlfriend It s fucking infuriating No one, unless sex is in the mix somewhere, is that bloody gormless, that forgiving Balzac took Dickens saintly women archetype and furnished it with a penis and even less good sense Secondly, this being a novel written in the 1800 s, and it being Balzac in particular, Lost Illusions is a melodrama So, if people constantly wringing their hands and bursting into tears every two pages over absolutely nothing grinds your gears then you might want to re think reading it The melodrama didn t bother me though, it never really does Shakespeare is melodrama too, let s not forget Finally, Lucien, we are led to believe, is a potentially great poet, even potentially a man of genius, and, well, what little of his poetry is presented to us is, uh, shit That s a bit of a problem I did wonder if Balzac was portraying Lucien as a great poet in jest, bearing in mind much of his novel is concerned with falsehood and how the least talented often prosper which Lucien did at one stage However, having read around the book a little, it does not seem as though that is the case, that Honore was in earnest about Lucien s greatness and talent, even though to my mind it would have been better had he been intentionally rubbish In any case, none of that compromised my enjoyment too much For a novel concerned with writing, with talent and greatness, it is quite apt that it is itself a work of genius.
As much as I enjoyed Pere Goriot, Lost Illusions is the kind of a literary work that lets you peer into the soul of a great mind and dwell there Just as Lucien was Balzac, the lost poet, David Sechard, the printer, is also Balzac the craftsman in real life he bought a print shop in Paris to print his own novels Sechard is much like the scientist in the Quest of the Absolute, except that David ultimately finds himself through his invention and the inventor in The Quest becomes lost to his own monomania As Balzac wrote of Lucien He s not a poet, this young man he s a serial novel And so it s time to find out what happens to Lucien after this novel in his return to Paris The characters of his novels keep reappearing in scenes from one novel to the next, which is wonderful However, they seem to change as one sees them through different eyes Delightful young Rastignac in Pere Goriot becomes a rather unscrupulous mean spirited character in Lost Illusions Balzac has built an entire society of his characters and as varied as they are, they are all also him and show the great diversity and depth of his personality and sensitivity Like Galsworthy, Balzac wanted to build an interconnected society of characters who are so human that it s easy to understand why they behave as they do The realism is striking and magnificent and always rings true Balzac works hard despite the realism to spin out of every hardship a redemption and out of every malignity a comic side that s all too human The comedy and irony are rich in Balzac in his passionate account of life in Paris in high society and the challenges that it thrusts upon every ideal This is the best work of Balzac that I have read so far out of four novels of his It s such great writing, and the energy of the translator can make a difference, that Balzac keeps one coming back forBut the writing and wit and wisdom are so extraordinary, I am happy to accommodate him Anyone who has ever aspired to write and publish prose in New York will identify with Blazac s Lucien Lost Illusions is a novel that aspiring writers especially may find intriguing.
Recomendo vivamente a leitura de Ilus es Perdidas que narra as aventuras e desventuras de Lucien du Rubempr , um jovem e belo poeta que troca a fam lia e a vida pacata de Angouleme para experimentar o luxo, os prazeres, as virtudes mas tamb m os v cios de uma Paris aristocr tica encerrada nos seus pr prios costumes e que ostraciza, segrega e condena, por interven o do destino ou de uma qualquer divindade, os denominados arrivistas com quem n o se identifica uma obra bela, enternecedora, muito por for a da capacidade narrativa, criativa e de interpreta o dos costumes da sociedade coeva por parte de um dos g nios maiores da literatura mundial.
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