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Balzac   By:

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In Frederick Lawton's compelling biography, readers are invited to delve into the world of one of France's most iconic literary figures, Honoré de Balzac. Balzac is a comprehensive portrait of the enigmatic writer, offering a balanced exploration of his life, works, and the broader cultural context in which he thrived.

Lawton's meticulous research is evident throughout the book, providing readers with a wealth of historical and literary insights. He skillfully traces Balzac's early life, including his tumultuous childhood and formative years as a struggling writer. With clarity and expertise, Lawton guides us through Balzac's remarkable evolution as an author, illuminating the factors that influenced his groundbreaking novels, plays, and short stories.

What sets this biography apart is Lawton's willingness to confront Balzac's flaws and contradictions. While Balzac's literary genius is undeniable, Lawton does not shy away from exploring the less admirable aspects of his subject's personality. By presenting a nuanced and multidimensional portrayal of Balzac, Lawton allows readers to form their own opinions about this complex and intriguing figure.

Furthermore, Balzac captures the vibrant social and cultural milieu of 19th century France. Lawton deftly intertwines Balzac's personal life with the broader historical context, providing readers with a richer understanding of the forces that shaped his writings. From the political unrest of the July Revolution to the rise of industrialization, Lawton captures the spirit of the times and convincingly argues for Balzac's enduring relevance.

Additionally, Lawton's writing style is both accessible and engaging. He masterfully blends storytelling with analysis, making Balzac an absorbing read for both scholars and general readers. Whether delving into Balzac's monumental series, La Comédie Humaine, or exploring the intricate web of his personal relationships, Lawton's prose remains insightful and engaging from start to finish.

If there is one quibble with Balzac, it would be the occasional moments where the narrative loses momentum. While Lawton's attention to detail is commendable, there are instances where the abundance of historical facts and figures distract from the overall flow of the story. However, these instances are few and far between, and do not significantly detract from the overall quality of the book.

In conclusion, Frederick Lawton's Balzac is an impressive and comprehensive biography that succeeds in capturing the essence of this literary giant. Through meticulous research and engaging prose, Lawton transports readers to 19th century France, where they can witness the rise and fall of a truly remarkable author. Balzac is a must-read for anyone seeking a deeper understanding of the man behind the masterpieces.

First Page:





In remembrance of many pleasant and instructive hours spent in his society, to the sculptor


whose statue of Balzac, with its fine, synthetic portraiture, first tempted the author to write this book.



Excusing himself for not undertaking to write a life of Balzac, Monsieur Brunetiere, in his study of the novelist published shortly before his death, refused somewhat disdainfully to admit that acquaintance with a celebrated man's biography has necessarily any value. "What do we know of the life of Shakespeare?" he says, "and of the circumstances in which Hamlet or Othello was produced? If these circumstances were better known to us, is it to be believed and will it be seriously asserted that our admiration for one or the other play would be augmented?" In penning this quirk, the eminent critic would seem to have wilfully overlooked the fact that a writer's life may have much or may have little to do with his works. In the case of Shakespeare it was comparatively little and yet we should be glad to learn more of this little... Continue reading book >>

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