A flashback: ‘Prometheus: the Life of Balzac’ by André Maurois

While reading ‘Lost Illusions’ my mind jumped back to an interesting biography of Balzac I once read. There do seem to be autobiographical elements in the novel. While a biography reveals as much about a biographer as its ostensible topic, there are usually some features of a biography which make one think.

Maurois was a writer himself and his imagination coloured his creative account of Balzac’s life. Nonetheless, there was a grandeur about Balzac’s life. This was especially evident with regard to his phenomenal productivity. It is also a fact that Balzac was really generous towards Stendhal.

Although he could be cynical in his depiction of society, Balzac had a kindly spirit when it came to the writing of Stendhal. He seems to have been struck favourably by ‘The Charterhouse of Parma.’ When it was initially neglected by the literary world, Balzac backed the novel with considerable enthusiasm. He claimed to have read the fine novel on three occasions.

Balzac wrote: “In an age when noble themes are rarely found, after writing perhaps twenty extremely clever books he has produced a work which can only be appreciated by persons of true discrimination.”

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