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La Peau de Chagrin (The Magic Skin/The Talisman)
by Honoré de Balzac

La Peau de chagrin (The Magic Skin) is an 1831 novel that belongs Philosophical Studies (Études philosophiques) subseries of La Comédie humaine. Set in early 19th-century Paris, it tells the story of a young man who finds a magic piece of shagreen that promises to fulfill every desire. The catch is that for each wish granted, the skin shrinks and consumes a portion of his physical energy.

Before the book was completed, Balzac created excitement about it by publishing a series of articles and story fragments in several Parisian journals. Although he was five months late in delivering the manuscript, he succeeded in generating sufficient interest that the novel sold out instantly upon its publication. A second edition was released one month later.

Although the novel uses fantastic elements, its main focus is a realistic portrayal of the excesses of bourgeois materialism. Balzac's renowned attention to detail is used to describe a gambling house, an antique shop, a royal banquet, and other locales. He also includes details from his own life as a struggling writer, placing the main character in a home similar to the one he occupied at the start of his literary career.

The central theme of La Peau de chagrin is the conflict between desire and longevity. The magic skin represents the owner's life-force, which is depleted through every expression of will, especially when it is employed for the acquisition of power. Ignoring a caution from the shopkeeper who offers him the skin, the protagonist greedily surrounds himself with wealth, only to find himself miserable and decrepit at the story's end.

La Peau de chagrin firmly established Balzac as a writer of significance in France. His social circle widened significantly, and he was sought eagerly by publishers for future projects.

Title Details

Year:1831
Translator:A. R. Waller
Number of words:189,868
Print Length:542 pages
Price:$4.99

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All Titles by Honoré de Balzac


Eugénie Grandet - I (Volume 1 of 2)

Le Père Goriot (Father Goriot) - Vol 1 (of 2)

Le Colonel Chabert (Colonel Chabert)

Le Père Goriot (Father Goriot) - Vol 2 (of 2)

La Peau de Chagrin (The Magic Skin/The Talisman)

Short Stories: Un Episode sous la Terreur (An Episode Under the Terror), Un Chef d'Oeuvre Inconnu (The Unknown Masterpiece), Jésus-Christ en Flandre (Christ in Flanders)

Short Stories: Une Passion dans le Désert, Facino Cane, Pierre Grassou

Le Lys Dans La Vallée (The Lily of the Valley)

La Maison du Chat-qui-Pelote (At the Sign of the Cat and Racket)

Le Curé De Tours (The Vicars of Tours)

Le Père Goriot (Father Goriot) - Vol 1 (of 2)

Sarrasine

Eugénie Grandet - Vol 2 (of 2)

Short Stories: La Bourse, Le Message, La Grenadière

La Duchesse De Langeais (The Duchesse of Langeais)

La Femme Abandonnée (The Deserted Woman)

La Vendetta (Vendetta)

La Fille aux Yeux d'Or (The Girl with the Golden Eyes)

Ursule Mirouët

Le Bal de Sceaux (The Ball at Sceaux)

Une Femme de Trente Ans (A Woman of Thirty)

Madame de la Chanterie - L'Envers de l'Histoire Contemporaine - Première Partie (The Other Side of Contemporaneous History: Part I)

L'Interdiction (The Commission in Lunacy)

L'illustre Gaudissart (The Illustrious Gaudissart) , Esquisse d'Homme d'Affaires d'Après Nature (A Man of Business)

Les Comédiens Sans Le Savoir (The Unwitting Comedians)

Honorine

La Fausse Maitresse (The Imaginary Mistress)

Short Stories: Z. Marcas, Gaudissart II

La Maison Nucingen (The Firm of Nucingen)

Autre Etude de Femme (Another Study of Woman)

Une Double Famille (A Second Home)

Une Fille D'Eve (A Daughter of Eve)

Melmoth Réconcilié (Melmoth Reconciled)

Albert Savarus





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