Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Lost Illusions” as Want to Read:
Lost Illusions
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Read Book* *Different edition

Lost Illusions

(La Comédie Humaine #38)

4.17  ·  Rating details ·  8,583 ratings  ·  372 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 Bargeton ...more
Paperback, 704 pages
Published June 24th 1976 by Penguin Classics (first published 1837)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.17  · 
Rating details
 ·  8,583 ratings  ·  372 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Lost Illusions
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 s
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 protagon ...more
The premise consisted of a lot I would like. The printing industry for one, an industry I have been working in for the entire 45 years of my working life. And the literary arts, us Goodreads people love that or we would not be here. That issue of the urbane life of the major city over the provincial snobbery of the small town. Everywhere in all times has this been a divide. And the sheer greed of individuals over the dreamers who trust others no matter what, we all like that in a story don’t we? ...more
Apr 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Some thoughts on the book.

This is such a wow of a novel. I gather that Balzac, in writing the vast book series, of which this is one, wanted it to be a document, as much as work of fiction. And so it is. There is a level of detail about subjects like accounting in early nineteenth century France and the legal system that is hard to believe one could get away with selling in a work of fiction. Then there is the paper industry - the Chinese were to blame then as now, the difficulties of cheap labo
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 o ...more
CONTRACT between the recent reader of Honoré de Balzac's Illusions perdues, hereinafter the party of the first part, and His Satanic Majesty Lucifer, Prince of Darkness and Father of Lies, hereinafter the party of the second part:

WHEREAS it is amply revealed in the aforementioned work of Balzac that Paris during the third decade of the nineteenth century offers unparalleled opportunities for the gifted and unscrupulous reviewer to exploit his skills to commercial and other advantage;

Mar 13, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: france
Lost Illusions tells the story of a good looking young man who lusts after fame in Paris and as a result brings his supportive good-natured provincial family to bankruptcy. It's a rather long-winded novel. In common with many 19th century novelists Balzac does like to give elaborate descriptions of everything he sees. Thus every room is presented to us in meticulous detail - wonderful if you want to research interior design in 19th century France; on the tedious side otherwise; every character's ...more
Lost Illusions is a trilogy, consisting of:
1.Two Poets
( )
2.A Distinguished Provincial at Paris
( )
3.Ève and David
( )
Note: links to the Librivox recordings are in parentheses.

They are to be read in this order. There is little repeat of information as you pass from one book to the next. Originally published separately in 1837, 1839, and 1843, they are nowadays often collect
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 somethin ...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 ce
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
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 books ...more
Steve R
Jun 07, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As one of Balzac’s longer novels, this one exemplifies all of his outstanding strengths: a marvelous ability to delineate characters of variant physical, emotional, intellectual and above all moral natures (just one example: a nefarious lawyer is described as a torpid viper with magpie eyes); his astounding skill in weaving plots so complex yet still understandable, often involving minute financial details and always conflicting elements of personal vanity and ambition; and finally, his setting ...more
Nov 13, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: balzac
Having finished A Harlot High and Low I was keen to read the book that set the scene Lost Illusions, it did not disappoint. Lucien Chardon the main character is poor but his impoverished mother is of aristocratic descent. He lives in the provinces in Angoulême. He is poor, completely spoilt, lazy, impatient, handsome and wants to get ahead. His widowed mother, sister Ève and his best friend, David Séchard all spoil him and support his high opinion of his talents as a poet and writer.

The book is
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
Rick Slane
Jun 18, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Set in early 1820's France, has a lot to do with printing, society, novel and poetry writing, and paper manufacturing. I liked the part in Paris that involved Coralie and Lucien.
Sep 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Balzac sure knows how to make them suffer.

The world was not made for sensitive souls. The way the walls close in in this book is remorseless. Human duplicity and market forces follow their inexorable logic to the end. A train wreck you can't look away from.
Sep 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: europe, 19th-century
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 m
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 Wa ...more
Feb 20, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics
Endlessly fascinating, but what a painful experience it is to read this book. It epitomises Balzac's greatest themes: the provincial trying to make good in Paris, the wreckage in the wake of unbridled ambition, and the complexity and brutality of machinations that few come to understand.
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 muc
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 ba
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
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.
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
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Reading 1001: Lost Illusions by Honore de Balzac 1 8 Dec 17, 2016 05:53AM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • The Charterhouse of Parma
  • La Débâcle
  • Sentimental Education
  • The Red and the Black
  • La Curée
  • La Bête humaine
  • The Masterpiece
  • Nana
  • Bel-Ami
  • The Joy of Life
  • Swann's Way
  • Jacques the Fatalist
  • Time Regained (In Search of Lost Time, #7)
  • Ay Işığı
  • The Ladies' Paradise
  • The Sleepwalkers
  • The Princesse de Clèves
See similar books…
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 found

Other books in the series

La Comédie Humaine (1 - 10 of 89 books)
  • La Maison Du Chat-Qui-Pelote
  • The Ball At Sceaux
  • Letters of Two Brides
  • The Purse
  • Modeste Mignon
  • A Start in Life
  • Albert Savarus
  • Vendetta
  • A Second Home
  • Domestic Peace

News & Interviews

  Tami Charles is a former teacher and the author of picture books, middle grade and young adult novels, and nonfiction. As a teacher, she made...
27 likes · 41 comments
“Where poverty ceases, avarice begins.” 19 likes
“For avarice begins where poverty ends.” 8 likes
More quotes…