Balzac on paper

It’s far too early for me to review ‘Lost Illusions’ by Honoré de Balzac because I haven’t finished it yet. Nonetheless, it is already a fascinating read. Apart from the interesting sociological analysis, the sharp wit, the realistic characters, and the absorbing style, there is evidence of the author’s ability to digress without losing the reader.

The section which has captured my imagination the most is about paper and the book. Balzac had clearly given the topic a great deal of thought. He underlined the different substances involved in paper manufacture. He also referenced low labour costs in China. He considered the difficulties of storing books. He predicted that cheap books would not last due to their poor quality.

I am fortunate to be reading Balzac on paper. If I was reading ‘Lost Illusions’ in a different format, I would not have the ironic pleasure of reading this used hard copy. It is too early to say what will happen to cheap paper books, but I am glad that they have survived this long after Balzac’s gloomy reflections. This is a book to be enjoyed slowly.


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