A posthumous publication, this biography of Balzao was intended to be Stefan Zweig's magnum opus, and is a slzeable, spacious portrait of one of the great French men of letters- the man, rather than the writer. Zweig's reputation, the choice of this by the Book of the Month Club, assures this a critical and popular reception-even though Balzac, exuberant, excessive, with an energy which is overpowering rather than attractive, is a gross-figure- rarely sympathetic. This is the story of his prodigal, prolific, promiscuous life- the years of writing as a hack before he achieved success under his own name; the liaisons with various older women who were to replace-partially -- the mother who had rejected him; the long pursuit of Polish Mme. de Hanska, who, even when free to marry him at the death of her husband, delayed and evaded him with heartless insincerity until her acquiescence when she knew that he was dying. A substantial piece of work, conscientious, considered, with perhaps a certain heaviness to the writing, and on occasion- a repetitious emphasis.