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Louis Lambert Hardcover – July 10, 2002


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Hardcover, July 10, 2002
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 124 pages
  • Publisher: IndyPublish (July 10, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1404314423
  • ISBN-13: 978-1404314429
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.4 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.5 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #11,090,380 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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3.8 out of 5 stars
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By BOB on February 5, 2012
Format: Paperback
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.
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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.
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By Adam C. Dave on October 28, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
A delightful novel about the spiritual quest of a born genius, culminating in enlightenment through union with his beloved. Highly recommend!
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4 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Godspark on December 19, 2005
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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