She was not in love with her husband". When the Balzac children returned home, they were kept at a frosty distance from their parents, which affected the author-to-be significantly. His father, seeking to instill the same hardscrabble work ethic which had gained him the esteem of society, intentionally gave little spending money to the boy. This made him the object of ridicule among his much wealthier schoolmates.
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Although his parents had persuaded him to make his profession the law, he announced in that he wanted to become an author. His mother was distraught, but she and his father agreed to give him a small income, on the condition that he dedicate himself to writing, and deliver to them half of his gross income from any published work. Frustrated, he moved back to his family in the suburb of Villeparisis and borrowed money from his parents to pursue his literary ambitions further.
He spent the next several years writing simple potboiler novels, which he published under a variety of pseudonyms. He shared some of his income from these with his parents, but by he still owed them 50, francs. Les Chouans , a novel about royalist forces in Brittany , did not succeed commercially, but it made Balzac known in literary circles. Bolstered by its popularity, he added to his fame by publishing a variety of short stories and essays in the magazines Revue de Paris , La Caricature , and La Mode.
He thus made connections in the publishing industry that later helped him to obtain reviews of his novels. After reigning for six controversial years, King Charles X was forced to abdicate during the July Revolution of The July Monarchy brought an entrenchment of bourgeois attitudes, in which Balzac saw disorganization and weak leadership.
The title La Peau de chagrin first appeared in print on 9 December , as a passing mention in an article Balzac wrote for La Caricature under the pseudonym Alfred Coudreux. Conte oriental. Oriental story. In it, a young man loses his last Napoleon coin at a Parisian gambling house, then continues to the Pont Royal to drown himself.
He referred to it as "a piece of thorough nonsense in the literary sense, but in which [the author] has sought to introduce certain of the situations in this hard life through which men of genius have passed before achieving anything". Balzac delivered the novel in July. During the intervening months, however, he provided glimpses of his erratic progress. Two additional fragments appeared in May, part of a scheme to promote the book before its publication.
Although the three fragments were not connected into a coherent narrative, Balzac was excerpting characters and scenes from his novel-in-progress. Eventually he removed himself from Paris by staying with friends in the suburbs, where he committed himself to finishing the work. In late spring he allowed Sand to read a nearly-finished manuscript; she enjoyed it and predicted it would do well. It was a commercial success, and Balzac used his connections in the world of Parisian periodicals to have it reviewed widely.
This second edition included a series of twelve other stories with fantastic elements, and was released under the title Romans et contes philosophiques Philosophical Novels and Stories. A third edition, rearranged to fill four volumes, appeared in March Arabic writing engraved into the shagreen promises that the owner "shal[l] possess all things". On the way, however, he decides to enter an unusual shop and finds it filled with curiosities from around the world.
The elderly shopkeeper leads him to a piece of shagreen hanging on the wall. It is inscribed with "Oriental" writing; the old man calls it " Sanskrit ", but it is imprecise Arabic.
The shopkeeper is willing to let Valentin take it without charge, but urges him not to accept the offer. He is immediately met by acquaintances who invite him to such an event; they spend hours eating, drinking, and talking. Unable to win her affection, however, he becomes the miserable and destitute man found at the start of "Le Talisman".
Valentin, having used the talisman to secure a large income, finds both the skin and his health dwindling. He tries to break the curse by getting rid of the skin, but fails. The situation causes him to panic, horrified that further desires will hasten the end of his life. He organizes his home to avoid the possibility of wishing for anything: his servant, Jonathan, arranges food, clothing, and visitors with precise regularity.
Events beyond his control cause him to wish for various things, however, and the skin continues to recede. Desperate, the sickly Valentin tries to find some way of stretching the skin, and takes a trip to the spa town of Aix-les-Bains in the hope of recovering his vitality.
With the skin no larger than a periwinkle leaf, he is visited by Pauline in his room; she expresses her love for him. He pounds on the door and declares both his love and his desire to die in her arms.
She, meanwhile, is trying to kill herself to free him from his desire. He breaks down the door, they consummate their love in a fiery moment of passion, and he dies. The skin grants a world of possibility to Valentin, and he uses it to satisfy many desires. He fires without care, and kills the other man instantly.
One critic suggests that "the story would be much the same without it". Whereas he had used fantastic objects and events in earlier works, they were mostly simple plot points or uncomplicated devices for suspense. Have men the power to bring the universe into their brain, or is their brain a talisman with which they abolish the laws of time and space? Realism[ edit ] The novel is widely cited as an important early example of the realism for which Balzac became famous.
Descriptions of Paris are one example: the novel is filled with actual locations, including the Palais Royal and the Notre Dame Cathedral. As he wanders about, he tours the world through the relics of its various epochs: "Every land of earth seemed to have contributed some stray fragment of its learning, some example of its art.
It does not deter him from his goal, however; only when he finds the skin does Valentin decide to abort his suicidal mission. In doing so, he demonstrates humanity favoring ego over divine salvation. This dilemma, he proposes, is directly related to the conflict between will and knowledge indicated by the shopkeeper at the start of the novel.
The roofing fell in a steep slope, and the sky was visible through chinks in the tiles. There was room for a bed, a table, and a few chairs, and beneath the highest point of the roof my piano could stand. Critics agree that the "Woman without a Heart" described in the novel is a composite of other women Balzac knew. Will, he explains, consumes us; power or, in one translation, "to have your will"  destroys us; and knowledge soothes us.
These three concepts form the philosophical foundation of the novel. The shopkeeper tries to warn Valentin that the wisest path lies not in exercising his will or securing power, but in developing the mind. Foedora also serves as a model for resistance to the corruption of will, insofar as she seeks at all times to excite desire in others while never giving in to her own.
In the gambling house, the orgiastic feast, the antique shop, and the discussions with men of science, Balzac examines this dilemma in various contexts. The lust for social status to which Valentin is led by Rastignac is emblematic of this excess; the gorgeous but unattainable Foedora symbolizes the pleasures offered by high society.
In another, a physicist and a chemist admit defeat after employing a range of tactics designed to stretch the skin. All of these scientific approaches lack an understanding of the true crisis, and are therefore doomed to fail. It was the inscrutable glance of helplessness that must perforce consign its desires to the depths of its own heart; or of a miser enjoying in imagination all the pleasures that his money could procure for him, while he declines to lessen his hoard; the look of a bound Prometheus, of the fallen Napoleon of , when he learned at the Elysee the strategical blunder that his enemies had made, and asked for twenty-four hours of command in vain The novel sold out immediately after going on sale, and was reviewed in every major Parisian newspaper and magazine.
In some cases Balzac wrote the reviews himself; using the name "Comte Alex de B—", he announced that the book proved he had achieved "the stature of genius". German writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe declared it a shining example of the "incurable corruption of the French nation". Grandville had to stop everything to read it, because the librarian sent round every half-hour to ask if he had finished. It says so in black and white on page of La Peau de chagrin Publishers fought among themselves to publish his future work, and he became a mainstay on the list of invitation for social functions around Paris.
They married in Intrigued, she ordered copies of his work, and she read them with her cousins and friends around Volhynia.
They were impressed by the understanding he showed toward women in La Physiologie du mariage, but felt that La Peau de chagrin portrayed them in a cruel and unforgiving light.
She did not, but wrote again in November: "Your soul embraces centuries, monsieur; its philosophical concepts appear to be the fruit of long study matured by time; yet I am told you are still young.
I would like to know you, but feel I have no need to do so. When the baron died in , the French author began to pursue the relationship outside the written page. They wed in the town of Berdychiv on 14 March , five months before he died. He did, however, introduce several individuals who resurfaced in later stories. Balzac used the character Foedora in three other stories, but eventually wrote her out of them after deciding on other models for social femininity.
So vividly had the doctor been rendered that Balzac himself called out for Bianchon while lying on his deathbed. It enables a depth of characterization that goes beyond simple narration or dialogue. Detective novelist Arthur Conan Doyle said that he never tried to read Balzac, because he "did not know where to begin". The novel has also been cited as a possible influence on Oscar Wilde for his novel The Picture of Dorian Gray , although this hypothesis is rejected by most scholars.
The protagonist, Dorian Gray, acquires a magical portrait that ages while he remains forever youthful. Edison, Inc. The minute film starred Mabel Trunnelle , Bigelow Cooper , and Everett Butterfield, and diluted the supernatural aspects of the story by revealing it all to be a dream.
George D. Baker directed yet another version of the story, a American silent film called Slave of Desire starring George Walsh and Bessie Love. After re-reading La Peau de chagrin, he said to his doctor: "This was the proper book for me to read; it deals with shrinking and starvation.
Robb writes that his parents supported his new career "quite generously". The exact amount of the fee is disputed: Millott and Robb list 1, francs; Maurois lists 1,; and Gerson writes: "Canel paid him an advance royalty of two thousand francs for the work. Take me. Comparative Literature. Original emphasis.
La Peau de chagrin
Honoré de Balzac