Skip to Main Content (Press Enter) Toggle side nav
Balzac's Lives by Peter Brooks
Add Balzac's Lives to bookshelf
Add to Bookshelf
Balzac's Lives by Peter Brooks
Paperback $18.95
Oct 06, 2020 | ISBN 9781681374499

Buy from Other Retailers:

See All Formats (1) +
  • Oct 06, 2020 | ISBN 9781681374499

    Buy from Other Retailers:

  • Oct 06, 2020 | ISBN 9781681374505

    Buy from Other Retailers:

Product Details


“At the heart of Peter Brooks’s new book on Balzac lies an intense competition between two opposite kinds of writing: Criticism and the Novel. The author’s goal—to show us how Balzac’s Human Comedy makes sense of human and social nature—belongs to Criticism, but his means—writing biographies of Balzac’s characters, mere figments of imagination—are pure Novel. Though these twice-told tales are amply interleaved with critical and social context, narrative analysis and psychoanalytic insight, the contest between critical reading and novelistic telling hardly ends in a draw. Brooks not only likes a good story, he knows how to tell one, expert in retracing even the most tortuous paths of Balzac’s human comedians. The inordinate, almost fierce energy that animates every line here is the passion of a storyteller—that primal passion for staging twists and turns of plot, for entering and projecting into imaginary lives, for using these lives to reflect on love, sex, money, power, identity. Small wonder Peter Brooks teaches us so much in Balzac’s Lives; he’s learned Balzac’s lesson.” —D. A. Miller

Balzac’s Lives is, among other things, an attempt to rectify the benign neglect from which Balzac currently suffers. Brooks’s book is not about any one work, or even any one theme. It is about the human dimension of the vast Balzacian universe. . . . A literary study that reads like a novel and whose unabashed aim is to get its readers to read more Balzac once they’ve finished.” —Elena Comay del Junco, Los Angeles Review of Books

“Peter Brooks’s entire body of work has been devoted to finding a way of talking about literature that is analytically rigorous but lucid, eloquent, ‘useful’ (one of his favorite words), and—in the best sense—social. Balzac’s Lives is the brilliant culmination of his approach. I found this world-besotted book—especially now, self-quarantined as we are—immensely moving.” —David Shields

“Anyone interested in Balzac should pounce on this book, at once erudite and wonderfully readable, and keep it close at hand. Peter Brooks displays in these pages a dizzying knowledge of his work. Through the life of various characters, he leads the reader towards an unusual biography of the novelist for whom the world he invented was more real than life. It takes a steady hand to guide one into Balzac’s vast and complicated world and make sense of a passionate and complex man. Peter Brooks provides it with ease and elegance.” —Anka Muhlstein

“As I read the book, I enjoyed Brooks’s sharp insights, which suggest the ways in which Balzac’s proto-modern world is not so different from our own. But I also felt a more basic, visceral pleasure.” —Naomi Fry, The New Yorker

Looking for More Great Reads?
21 Books You’ve Been Meaning to Read
Get the latest updates from Peter Brooks
And go from well-read to best read with book recs, deals and more in your inbox every week.
And go from well-read to best read with book recs, deals and more in your inbox every week.
By clicking SIGN UP, I acknowledge that I have read and agree to Penguin Random House’s Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.
Something awesome is on its way.
Back to Top