Books: Money, Magic & Love

PROMETHEUS: THE LIFE OF BALZAC by AndréMaurois. 573 pages. Harper & Row. $10.

Honoré de Balzac did not look or act like a writer, and the literary assessors of his time declined to treat him as one. He was short, fat, gap-toothed, messy, and, according to one contemporary, had "the face of a pantler, the general look of a cobbler, the girth of a barrelmaker, the manners of a hatter." Estimates of his work were hardly more flattering: Sainte-Beuve dismissed his style as "prolix and formless, slack." The author of La Comédie Humaine, that panorama of post-revolutionary France, died up to his...

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