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Louis Lambert [Paperback]

Honore De Balzac

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Book Description

Feb. 1 2008
Honora de Balzac is the narrator of this novel about Louis Lambert, a child prodigy. Balzac and Lambert are portrayed as students in Paris. They are both social outcasts who develop a love of philosophy. After a psychic dream, Lambert writes a metaphysical treatise that is later destroyed by a teacher. Lambert and Balzac have conflicting views and Lambert moves to Paris for further study. Lambert ultimately moves to the country to live with his uncle, falls in love, and gradually goes insane.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 108 pages
  • Publisher: Book Jungle (Feb. 1 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1605970948
  • ISBN-13: 978-1605970943
  • Product Dimensions: 23.5 x 19 x 0.6 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 222 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #913,669 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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First Sentence
Louis Lambert was born at Montoire, a little town in the Vendomois, where his father owned a tannery of no great magnitude, and intended that his son should succeed him; but his precocious bent for study modified the paternal decision. Read the first page
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Amazon.com: 3.3 out of 5 stars  3 reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The tale of a man who flew too close to the angels Feb. 5 2012
By BOB - Published on Amazon.com
I first became intrigued by this relatively obscure philosophical novel by Balzac when I found that Henry James had named the protagonist of his great novel The Ambassadors, Louis Lambert Strether, after the title character. The novel has been difficult to find in a print edition; now I have it in a complete ebook collection of Balzac's work.
Balzac incorporated many autobiographical elements in this tale of a boy genius whom the narrator meets when they are both students at a school in Vendome, as Balzac himself was. The character of Lambert writes an essay, which Balzac also wrote, called "Treatise on the Will." Lambert is heavily influenced by the philosophy of Emmanuel Swedenborg; he investigates with obsessive depth the relation between Thought and Will. This obsessive dedication leads ultimately to madness and death.
There is little plot in the novel to speak of. The boys meet at school, become close friends, become kindred spirits and unite in a shared experience of social ostracism and part when the narrator, identified as Balzac himself, suffers an illness and is forced to leave the school. After graduation, Louis moves to his uncle's home in Blois, meets a woman named Pauline, falls in love with her and on the eve of their wedding suffers a mental breakdown, leaving him in a comatose state much of the time. Pauline devotes herself to his care. By chance, the narrator encounters Louis' uncle, finds out what has become of him and visits him. Louis never seems to recognize his friend. With the help of Pauline, the narrator reconstructs some of Louis' philosophical musing. These philosophical passages comprise a large portion of the novel. Later, Louis dies at the age of twenty-eight.
Balzac is both himself and Louis Lambert. Louis is a mouthpiece for Balzac's own philosophical concerns. This novel falls outside the scope of the majority of Balzac's entries in his `Human Comedy,' most of which are concerned with various strata of French society in the first half of the nineteenth century. The novel possesses neither the structural unity of a novel such as the masterpiece Old Goriot nor the anthropological insight into multiple specimens of French society that his best work provides. In the context of his work, it is a curiosity, worth reading more for the insight it sheds on the intellectual life of its creator than its value as a work of fiction. I would only recommend this novel to someone who is already interested in Balzac and wants to explore some of his more obscure novels. The reader that is curious to sample a representative novel would be better served by reading Old Goriot, Cousin Bette, Eugenie Grandet or any of several other great novels by this great writer.
2.0 out of 5 stars A strange fiction/philosophy hybrid Jan. 27 2012
By Karl Janssen - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition
Prior to the twentieth century, philosophy was the driving force behind all literature. Authors used the novel as a means to communicate their ideas on man's purpose and his place in the universe. With Louis Lambert, however, Balzac takes the idea of the philosophical novel a little too far in giving us this odd, chimerical mashup of philosophical treatise and coming-of-age novel.

Louis Lambert is a boy of modest means, born in Vendôme. At a very young age he develops a passion for reading and soon begins to exhibit signs of a genius intelligence. He captures the attention of the writer Madame de Staël, who offers to finance his education at the Collège Vendôme, a boarding school run by the Catholic order of the Oratorians. There he develops a close friendship with the narrator of the novel, presumably Balzac himself. Lambert's intellectual development is profoundly affected by the work of Emanuel Swedenborg, a Swedish philosopher who proposed a dualistic philosophy in which man is composed of an animal body and an angelic spirit, a person's nature being determined by the preponderance of one or the other of these independent influences. Eventually Lambert goes on to develop his own more materialistic version of Swedenborg's philosophy, though it's still a quite mystical, dualistic form of materialism. In Lambert's view, the universe is created of one substance which resembles an electrical energy. Ideas are like living things inhabiting the internal world of the mind, which coalesce to form the Will, through which man is able to affect the external world. At about the age of 15, Lambert consolidates these ideas into an essay entitled The Treatise on the Will, much to the chagrin of his educators, who abruptly confiscate the manuscript.

Though Louis Lambert was published in 1832, Balzac displays an almost modernistic experimentation with form and style. The first quarter of the book is a straightforward narrative of Lambert's youth and his time spent at the Collège, which is mostly based on Balzac's own educational experiences. This is the most intelligible and enjoyable portion of the book. The second quarter of the book concentrates on the contents of the Treatise, mostly related through Lambert's ecstatic, confusing disclosures to his friend. This is followed by three-eighths of the book comprised of love letters from Lambert to a woman he adored. While these epistles are eloquent and lyrical expressions of love, they do little to move the story forward or shed light on Lambert's philosophical thought. The final eighth of the book consists of a couple laundry lists of philosophical postulates, arranged and enumerated with the intention of resembling the Euclidian order of Spinoza's Ethics, but much more illogically constructed.

There is some validity to Balzac's ideas on metaphysics and epistemology. This novel has value in that it does give the reader some insight into the philosophical thought of this great man of letters. The medium used to express that thought, however, is less than satisfying. Balzac could have conveyed these ideas far more successfully in a series of essays, or even a memoir of his own intellectual development. Instead, the book is too philosophical to be good literature, and too literary to be good philosophy. Failing on both counts, Louis Lambert is a book best skipped by all but the most enthusiastic of Balzac's admirers.
4 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Appealing Dec 19 2005
By Godspark - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Balzac guided European fiction away from the overriding influence of Walter Scott and the Gothic school, by showing that modern life could be recounted as vividly as Scott recounted his historical tales, and that mystery and intrigue did not need ghosts and crumbling castles for props. Maupassant, Flaubert and Zola were writers of the next generation who were directly influenced by him, and Marcel Proust (that other weaver of a great tapestry) acknowledged his influence.

He is worth reading for pleasure as well as for his influence on European literature.

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