A Distinguished Provincial at Paris (1839) is the second book in Balzac’s Lost Illusions trilogy, which is part of his sweeping set of novels collectively titled La Comédie Humaine.
The story is set in post-Napoleonic France, when the new bourgeoisie was jostling for position alongside the old aristocracy. In the first volume of the trilogy (Two Poets, 1837), we met Lucien Chardon, an aspiring poet who feels stymied by the pettiness of provincial life. In the present volume, Lucien, now using the more aristocratic-sounding surname "de Rubempré," leaves behind his family in order to seek fame and fortune in the literary world of Paris. He is tested by challenges that are literary, social, financial, and ethical.
In many references parts one and three are combined under the title Lost Illusions and A Distinguished Provincial at Paris is given its individual title. Following this trilogy Lucien's story is continued in another book, Scenes from a Courtesan's Life.
Balzac’s work was hugely influential in the development of realism in fiction. The Lost Illusions trilogy is one of his greatest achievements, and is named in the reference work: 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die. The final volume in the trilogy is Ève and David (1843).
This edition includes an introduction to the Lost Illusions Trilogy by George Saintsbury.
Honoré de Balzac (1799-1850) was a French novelist and playwright. His magnum opus was a sequence of short stories, La Comédie humaine. Many of Balzac's works have been made into or have inspired films, and they are a continuing source of inspiration for writers, filmmakers and critics.
Before and during his career as a writer, he attempted to be a publisher, printer, businessman, critic, and politician; he failed in all of these efforts. La Comédie humaine reflects his real-life difficulties, and includes scenes from his own experience.