Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Monday, October 20, 2014

Louis Lambert by Honore de Balzac (1832 - a novel - a component of TheHuman Comedy)

Louis Lambert, a short novel, is considered in part an account of Balzac's school years and an exposition of the ideas of the once highly regarded  Swedish philosopher Emanuel Swendenborg, whose ideas influenced Balzac.  The novel is set in a school for boys.  Louis Lambert, the son of a tanner, was a very bright boy.  The account of his very early age reading of dictionaries as well as anything else he could get his hands on was very interesting.  The story is told in the voice of another boy.  Each was the other's only true friend.  Madame de Stael paid for the schooling of Louis.  The other boy, who narrates the story, is revealed to be Balzac.  

Louis wrote a philosophical treatise based on Swendenborg's ideas.  The professors thought it rubbish but the narrator exposits it in detail as a work of transcendent brilliance.  The exposition is extended and those not into the history of ideas or philosophy may find this tedious or may see it as the product of a too self absorbed overheated bright intellectual youth.  There is a plot over and above the retelling of Louis's school experiences.  It is pretty much straight out of the romantic play book, troubled youth dies to early driven to  madness by his genius and understood only by the woman he loves close.

I will next read what promises to be a very interesting albeit a bit odd novella set in Norway 
centering on an androgynous figure.  

I am hoping to read all of The Human Comedy by year end 2015.  I am for now more or less reading at random.  I will continue on with my other reading but will try to always be reading a Balzac work among my others.  

Breakdown of The Human Comedy 91 components

Novels. 40

Short Stories 31

Novellas 20

20 completed, 71 to go


scott g.f.bailey said...

Henry James named the protagonist of The Ambassadors Louis Lambert Strether. At one point early on, Strether tells his name to an Englishwoman he meets in Paris. She recognizes the name from the Balzac novel. "Oh, but it's a bad novel," Strether cries. "I know," the woman says. I keep meaning to read the Balzac, just to see. James must've read it, to steal the name for his character, right?

It really does sound like a by-the-book romantic genius tale. For which, I'll bet, Henry James had a secret weakness.

Amateur Reader (Tom) said...

It is pretty bad. The "boys in boarding school" part is pretty good, but then it turns into squishy philosophizing - always the result when Swedenborg is involved.

Having said that, as a source for a clear statement of Balzac's more esoteric ideas, there is no alternative.

Louis Lambert Strether, no kidding. The character, Balzac's Lambert, I mean, returns in ""Un Drame au bord de la mer," a more traditional kind of fiction.

Mel u said...

Scott g. f. Bailey. Very interesting observation on the Ambassadors

Amateur Reader (Tom). It is important to see the philosophy underlying Balzac's thinking.