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Lost Illusions

(La Comédie Humaine #38)

4.16  ·  Rating details ·  8,024 ratings  ·  318 reviews
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 ...more
Paperback, 704 pages
Published June 24th 1976 by Penguin Classics (first published 1837)
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Jeffrey Keeten
Sep 03, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: the-french
"No man should marry until he has studied anatomy and dissected at least one woman."

When I left the farm at the age of 18 and jerry rigged my battered Camaro into a sputtering, but functional machine that could, by the grace of all that is holy, get me to Phoenix. I might have bore resemblance to Lucien de Rubempre the hero of Lost Illusions. Well, okay, there were some differences. I did not look like a Greek God. I did not have David Sechard as a best friend who lent me his last 1,000 francs
Ahmad Sharabiani
912. Illusions perdues = Lost Illusions (The Human Comedy, 1799–1850), Honoré de Balzac
Illusions is a serial novel, written by the French writer, Honoré de Balzac, between 1837 and 1843. It consists of three parts, starting in provincial France, thereafter moving to Paris, and finally returning to the provinces. Thus it resembles another of Balzac’s greatest novels, The Black Sheep, 1842, in that it is set partly in Paris and partly in the provinces. It is, however, unique among the novels and
Luís C.
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. Honoré de Balzac, in his book Lost Illusions tells us the whole trajectory of the newspaper since its ...more
Michael Finocchiaro
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 ...more
Joselito Honestly and Brilliantly
Honore de Balzac wasn't finished writing yet when he died on 18 August 1850. Yet at the time of his death he had already written a good number of journal articles and some 90 novels. The literary characters he had created are estimated to be between 2,000 to 3,000. Was he sick? Did he have some sort of a mania for writing on and on? No. The secret of his prolificness, I guess, was in his favorite drink. It was said that at one time he wrote for 18 straight hours, without sleep, subsisting only ...more
David Lentz
Jun 19, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Apr 03, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: bitchin
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. The more of myself I ...more
Alexander Santiago
Mar 26, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Yes
Of all of Balzac's novel, "Lost Illusions" is my absolute fave (I've reread it about 5 times). The story of a young man, the preternaturally beautiful Lucien Chardon (de Rubempre), a fledgling poet who wants to escape his provincial life in the town of Angouleme, and dreams of literary success and hobknobbing with the beau monde, the wealthy, and the literati in the grand salons in the big city of Paris (much like any of us who grew up in small towns and cities and dreamt of leaving for ...more
Lost Illusions [1837 – 1843/1971] –

“...he was living in one of those golden dreams in which young people, cantering along on their ifs, leap over all barriers” [Balzac/Hunt, 1837/1971: 113]. “It’s hard…to keep one’s illusions about anything in Paris. Everything is taxed, everything is sold, everything is manufactured, even success” [Balzac/Hunt, 1837/1971: 387].

Translated from the French by Herbert J. Hunt, Lost Illusions by Honoré de Balzac is part of his La Comedie Humaine series, and centres
Sep 27, 2011 rated it really liked it
As a young man from the provinces, I do so enjoy a "young man from the provinces" novel - that being said, this might be the mother of all such works, primarily because of Balzac's unrelenting attention to detail. Like many a novelist who pretends to traffic in moral opposition (literature good, journalism bad!) Balzac saves his juiciest and most loving description for the baddies - the description of the pestilent Wooden Galleries where literary fortunes are bought and sold in shanty-town ...more
Megan Chance
Aug 02, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I thought I was cynical before this, but Balzac has made me see that I suffer from a severe lack of imagination. My God! Lost Illusions could not be a more apt title for this book. The milk of human kindness is seldom in evidence here, and when it is, it is annihilated by self interest, jealousy and malice. I have rarely read a book that had me more tense, uncertain whether to pray for a character’s deliverance (usually a pointless exercise in French lit), bang his/her head against the wall, or ...more
Jul 15, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels-french
Interesting, long, archaic... reading Braudel simultaneously illuminates many of the details of a work that stands at the start of the process of the modernization and embourgeoisement of Europe. As for theme, I have myself met more than a few who, flattered by powerful people, fell in love with their own myth -- only, in real life, most of them have flourished and flourished quite well. It is those with conscience and scruple, more often than not, who have suffered. But maybe that is a sign of ...more
May 08, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Illusions! Lost ones! Where are they? Joking about it now, 'lost illusions' is a really sad thought, you can never get them back! The notion of illusion in fiction is something really interesting to me, and I think I dwell on it quite a bit in my reviews either consciously or unconsciously. I mean, is there anyone really without illusions? I hope not, it seems like an awfully sad life to live without illusions. Whenever I think of illusionment or disillusionment, my mind always floats away to ...more
Sep 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 19th-century, europe
This isn't so much a Bildungsroman as it is an exploration of a young man's failure to mature. Balzac and Dickens are two sides of a coin - Dickens is 'the English Balzac' and Balzac 'the French Dickens'. Of Dickens I've only read The Pickwick Papers, a gentle comedy, and Hard Times, one of his minor works, so I can't be sure whose side to declaim, but Balzac certainly seems more hard-hearted. Since I'm not fluent in French, I presume his characters' names are less silly, at least.

This has the
I am really surprised how much I enjoyed reading it
Henry Martin
Balzac's Lost Illusions is a massive literary undertaking, and an attempt to delve deep into the world of humanity with all its great deeds and basest desires. Yet, taking the entire volume of Balzac's Human Comedy into perspective, Lost Illusions is nothing but a small piece of the enormous mosaic this author created in the short span of a decade.

Like with all his works I read to date, Lost Illusions offers its readers spectacular writing, well developed characters, just enough but not too
Lost Illusions (Illusions Perdues) is a trilogy of three novels which should be read in order:
The Two Poets (Les Deux Poetes)
A Distinguished Provincial at Paris/A Great Man of the Provinces in Paris (Un Grand homme de province a Paris)
Eve and David/The Trials of the Inventor (Le Souffrances de l'inventeur)

The story continues in a fourth novel:
Scenes from a Courtesan's Life/A Harlot High and Low (Splendeurs et Miseres des Courtisanes)

See the individual titles for more information.
Jan 19, 2011 rated it it was amazing
While there were issues with the structure of the novel, the disparate scenarios involving Lucien and David are removed from one another to a cumbersome degree. Compounding this, the tragedy which envelops David and Eve is soaked and blurred in jargon and legal asides. I sense that Balzac was thinking long-term and indifferent to these quibbles. That said, Lost Illusions is a narrative triumph and one i will treasure.
Gabrielle Dubois
Oct 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 19th-century
Balzac said about his Lost Illusions that they were "the main work in the work". It's a novel about the functioning of the "literature machine".
Lucien, a young poet from Angoulême, local but not very big fame, is taken to Paris by his protector Mme de Bargenton. In Paris, all the illusions are allowed to him, which doesn’t mean that they will necessarily become realities.

Balzac, work and money.
To make a fortune was the eternal thought of Balzac. He ran after gold and money while creditors and
Elizabeth (Alaska)
This is a trilogy, consisting of:

Two Poets
A Distinguished Provincial at Paris and
Eve and David

Originally published separately in 1837, 1839, and 1843, they are now usually combined in one volume under the title of Lost Illusions. However, if you find them separately, be sure to read them in that order.

This starts very slowly. Had I not read other Balzac, I might not have continued past the first 40-50 pages. Soon, however, the story begins to reveal itself, and I could not help myself. There are
Justin Evans
Jan 02, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
At the risk of sounding self-aggrandizing, I read this while holidaying in Paris, and that was a great choice. It's only my second Balzac, and already I'm pretty sure what I'm going to get: straight plot, semi-mythical characters, and not a whole lot of style. This isn't really my kind of thing, but Balzac is just so all-in that it's hard not to get pulled along in his wake. And anyway, he's so explicitly writing about great abstractions (here: Art, Media, Capitalism, Class, Love) that I'll ...more
Mar 20, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Another example of a fantastically engaging yet encyclopedic in nature Balzac's novels. From the French province Balzac follows his main character, beautiful and feminine Lucien de Rubempré, to Paris and then back to Angoulême, observing as he, as if accidentally, keeps betraying everybody who loves him. Together with Lucien we learn about Paris high society, publishing and journalist businesses, whereas the misadventures of his friend David Séchard reveal a lot about paper-making and legal ...more
Oct 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Lost Illusions was published serially from 1837-43, towards the end of the half century of Balzac's output known collectively as the The Human Comedy. It's one of the half dozen (of the 91 total) works usually cited as those you ought to have read (assuming you care to ready any).
The timeless theme of the inadvisable personal and professional decisions made by an aspiring artist from the provinces upon reaching the big city combines with a great deal of very specific period detail. Presumably
It's a long haul, for sure, and it's very much a 19th Century novel, but if you're up for a 700-page book about a provincial youth corrupted by the evils of city life, it's worth it -- especially in the middle sections, as Lucien is taken in by the world of Paris, and the weird dialogue with the Spanish priest towards the end. Anyone who has ever written for a living has a little Lucien in them -- we all make our pacts with the devil, whether that devil is a corrupt official or a copywriting gig ...more
Aug 22, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
André Carreira
Sep 25, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: francophone
In this review I summarize part of the plot that revolves around Lucien Chardon, or Lucien de Rubempré; to avoid spoilers, please move on to the general considerations part that begins after the second (-------------------).

In Les Illusions Perdues , Balzac brings to our attention the story of a very ambitious young man, his more modest friend, and his sister, whom his friend marries in the beggining of the narrative.
Lucien Chardon (whose surname means "thistle") is an example of the typical
Sep 13, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
To write a review of Lost Illusions as a work in and of itself is a bit like critiquing a rock album based on a single track. After all, Rather than a novel, in many ways it makes more sense to regard this book as a single episode in Balzac's insanely ambitious life-long project, La Comedie Humaine.

Consisting of 95 finished works (and around 50 more unfinished volumes), La Comedie Humaine was intended to be something like a a sociological encyclopedia of Restoration-era France. Balzac viewed
Jim Coughenour
Dec 23, 2011 rated it liked it
Fans of Oscar Wilde may remember his epigram: “One of the greatest tragedies of my life is the death of Lucien de Rubempré.” Lucien doesn't die in Lost Illusions – although he comes close to suicide, only to be saved in the nick of time by the arch-criminal Vautrin (first encountered in Père Goriot ), who is one of literature's great wicked homosexuals avant la lettre. In this book, Vautrin may or may not seduce Lucien with a cigar; back in 1997 there was a mildly comical exchange on this point ...more
Monty Milne
Nov 15, 2015 rated it really liked it
I took this book in my pocket on a recent trip to a party in north London (Hampstead), which although it only took me an hour to get there is a world away from the unfashionable hidden corner of rural England which I generally inhabit. I was struck by the same dichotomy in Balzac's novel - the city, metropolitan, glittering, exciting but corrupt - contrasted with the countryside - authentic, good, peaceful, but dull. The narrative is utterly gripping from start to finish...and yet, I find myself ...more
This is a serial novel written by the French writer Honoré de Balzac between 1837 and 1843. It consists of three parts, starting in provincial France, thereafter moving to Paris, and finally returning to the provinces. Thus it resembles another of Balzac’s greatest novels, La Rabouilleuse (The Black Sheep, 1842), in that it is set partly in Paris and partly in the provinces. It is, however, unique among the novels and short stories of La Comédie humaine (The Human Comedy, 1799–1850) by virtue of ...more
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Reading 1001: Lost Illusions by Honore de Balzac 1 6 Dec 17, 2016 05:53AM  

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Honoré de Balzac was a nineteenth-century French novelist and playwright. His magnum opus was a sequence of almost 100 novels and plays collectively entitled La Comédie humaine, which presents a panorama of French life in the years after the fall of Napoléon Bonaparte in 1815.

Due to his keen observation of fine detail and unfiltered representation of society, Balzac is regarded as one of the

Other books in the series

La Comédie Humaine (1 - 10 of 90 books)
  • La Maison Du Chat-Qui-Pelote
  • The Ball At Sceaux
  • The Purse
  • Vendetta
  • Madame Firmiani
  • A Second Home
  • Domestic Peace
  • The Imaginary Mistress
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  • Albert Savarus
“Where poverty ceases, avarice begins.” 18 likes
“For avarice begins where poverty ends.” 6 likes
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