The Magic Skin
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The Magic Skin (La Comédie Humaine)

3.84 of 5 stars 3.84  ·  rating details  ·  2,184 ratings  ·  102 reviews
This volume contains a facsimile reprint of "The Magic Skin," by Honore de Balzac (1799-1850). Born Honore Balzac, he was a nineteenth-century French novelist and playwright. His work, much of which is a sequence of almost 100 novels and plays collectively entitled "La Comedie humaine." Balzac is generally regarded as a founding father of realism in European literature, an...more
Hardcover, 412 pages
Published September 1st 2007 by Wildside Press (first published 1831)
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The Wild Ass's Skin - or The Magic Skin, as it's known in some editions (neither of those titles are particularly appealing, I know) - is a literary novel of magical realism. It's simultaneously a fantasy, a study of character, and a cautionary 'be careful what you wish for' tale. At the beginning we are introduced to a young man who seems deep in despair, gambling away his last coins and thereafter contemplating suicide. Delaying the hour of his impending death, Raphael (as we learn he's called...more
This isn't the edition I read. My book is one translated by Atwood Townsend, with an excellent afterword by Henri Peyre. French title is Le Peau de chagrin.

Poor young poet (shades of Sorrowing Werther)contemplates suicide, procures a magical piece of leather that grants wishes but the talisman shrinks when he wishes. Excellent Faustianish premise. Unfortunately, I found protagonist Raphael so distasteful as a character I was continually annoyed, and then the ending, which falls entirely and con...more
Lynne King
I read this book at university in French and it was one of my favourite books. I've since read it in English and it seems to lack something - "je ne sais quoi" but still it is a wonderful book.

Balzac is one of my favourite authors. He has such a style about him and he has turned this simple story into a richly flavoured one. Imagine, a young man in Paris, Raphaël de Valentin in 1830, down on his luck, even temporarily contemplating suicide. His surprise indeed overwhelms him when he serendipitou...more
This is for me one of Balzac's evergreen books -- I never grow tired of it. Think of it as a Buddhist tale by the Brothers Grimm, except that it has the usual Balzac suspects, including Horace Bianchon, Eugene de Rastignac, Taillefer, and a host of others.

The story is about how a young man about to commit suicide by throwing himself into the Thames visits a curio shop first and receives a magical talisman from the shop's aged owner. The talisman is a piece of wild ass's (or onager's) skin which...more
Малко по-малко от 5 звездички давам, само защото "Братовчедката Бет" ме вълнуваше малко повече.

Балзак пак ме плени с изящния си изказ, прекрасните, богати описания на хора, чувства, предмети, места, желания и състояния, както и с огромната си философия и познание на живота. Учудващо и дори стряскащо е как, толкова години по-късно, хората изобщо не сме се променили. Страдаме от същите болести на душата, предразсъдъци, поквари и по същия начин егото ни ни владее и мята насам-натам из живота. (Има...more
Vladimir Toss
Кто бы знал что английское название такое смешное
Gli ho dato 4 stelle perché il finale è palpitante e grandioso, in un crescendo di tragicità che crea quasi un malessere nel lettore. Però questo romanzo di Balzac non mi ha stregato, in alcuni momenti mi ha annoiato, riconosco la bellezza della scrittura, la sua ricchezza ed esuberanza che solo in Balzac trovo,che però in questo romanzo sono esagerate come da un’ansia enciclopedica dello scrittore (che rallenta la lettura e la rende pesante); quando leggo Balzac ho la sensazione che la sua penn...more
Ben Dutton
Literature in translation provides interesting reading experiences. I first read Honoré de Balzac’s La Peau de Chagrin in a translation by Herbert Hunt (which is the Penguin Classics translation) and over Christmas 2008 read it again in a translation by Ellen Marriage as part of the Thompson Publishing Company’s complete La Comédie Humaine, an eighteen volume set, of which La Peau de Chagrin is the first work. I have read some Balzac, but I am of the suspicion that this will remain my favourite...more
The Magic Skin (La Peau de Chagrin), also translated as Wild Ass's Skin, contains one of my favorite descriptive scenes in all of Balzac--that of the antique shop.

A young man, by appearance noble but impoverished, enters a gambling house for the first time and leaves shortly thereafter, having lost his small stake. He walks along the banks of the Seine determined to drown himself. It seems degrading to die thusly in broad daylight, so he strolls on, awaiting darkness.

An antique shop attracts his...more
Hareton Linton
ბალზაკის სიტყვაკაზმულობა ძალიან მომეწონა, თუ როგორ აღწერს ის მოვლენებსა და სიტუაციებს, როგორ ახასიათებს პერსონაჟებს. წიგნში მრავლად იყო ამაღელვებელი მომენტები, რამაც კულმინაციას ფინალში მიაღწია.
ადამიანი, ამ წიგნიდან ბევრს ისწავლის და გაიგებს, თუმცა ეს ჩემი ჟანრი არაა და არც მსგავსი სიუჟეტები მხიბლავს.
ცოტა გაურკვეველია, ქართველი ერის საყვარელი წიგნი რა დამსახურების გამოა [#1 "50 წიგნი, რომელიც უნდა წაიკითხო, სანამ ცოცხალი ხარ"

I liked the Balzac's word, how he describes events and situations, how...more
A young man comes across an animal skin in a curiousity shop that will grant his every wish, though it will shrink just a bit with each wish and his life will be commensurately shorter. Naturally, he at first fulfills all his desires for wealth, etc., but soon learns that all acts of volition are desire in action. So he constructs a lfe where all his basic needs are anticipated by his servants, with whom he has no direct contact any longer. But then he finds love, which is fraught with desires,...more
Alina Raspopina
Эта книга схожа с книгой "Портрет Дориана Грея", по своему сюжету фантастическому она очень похожа, Бальзак чудно передал как волшебно может жизнь превратится в нечто, где ты сможешь иметь всё, что захочешь.
Fortunes made and spent and made and spent, obsession, debauchery, Rastignac, and Bianchon--in other words The Wild Ass's Skin is classic Balzac. Which was not exactly what I expected, since I thought this relatively early novel that he categorized in his "Philosophical Studies" section of the Human Comedy would be different from his "Studies of Manners" that is the category for most of his novels and stories. But the surprise was a mostly pleasant one.

The Wild Ass's Skin does have a fantastic b...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mayra Correa e Castro
Sessenta anos separam o lançamento de A Pele de Onagro (1831) de O Retrato de Dorian Gray (1891), mas ambos foram escritos quando seus autores navegavam pela casa dos 30 anos de idade. Se no século XXI as pessoas já ficam desesperadas se não obtiverem sucesso até os 40 anos, imagine no século XIX, quando a expectativa de vida era bem menor. Talvez por isso, Balzac (1799-1850, França) – o autor do primeiro romance – e Oscar Wilde (1854-1900, Irlanda) – autor do segundo – , devam ter ficado excita...more
First published in 1832, this novel is pedantic and dense. A young man, Raphael, has lost all is wealth and has become a disrepute and gambler. He plans to throw himself into the Seine, but waits until night, and in the meantime visits an antiquities store where he receives a piece of skin from a goat from the Himalayas; it has an inscription said to be Sanskrit, He can get everything he wishes, but the skin will shrink, and when it is gone Raphael will die. There goes on a long story about his...more
One star because the reader of this Tantor audio version is quite possibly the WORST reader I have ever encountered. He reads in phrases and clauses, all with the same droning intonation, and with no regard for the sense or emotion of what he is reading. Even worse, he affects a French accent which sounds more like Count Dracula. Balzac is turning in his grave. So how many stars does Balzac get for penning this tale -- hard to say, since the reader was so offputting. I'm willing to give ol' Balz...more
Can't remember why I had this on my list. Balzac has some great ideas, some sharp plotting, lacks style and on the whole really uneven (dull beyond belief followed by clean goodness). Flaubert and Proust cover some of the same themes (and even scenes) with much better style. Dickens is a better read; Balzac has some moves that are exemplary.
"Vouloir nour brûle et Pouvoir nous détruit; mais Savoir laisse notre faible organisation dans un perpétuel état de calme. .. J'ai placé ma vie, non dans le coeur qui se brise, non dans les sens qui s'émoussent, mais dans le cerveau qui e s'use pas et qui survit à tout. .. Ma seule ambition a été de voir. Voir n'est-ce pas savoir? Savoir, n'est-ce pas jouir intuitivement? N'est-ce pas découvrir la substance même du fait et s'en emparer essentiellement? Que reste-t-il d'une possession matérielle?...more
I kept seeing Balzac's name come up in other French novels, so I figured I'd give him a shot. What a downer! About as chipper as "The Scarlet Letter". The main character is a self-centered jackass who gets his just deserts. That's it. That's the whole story.
براي آنكه مردي بزرگ پاك درهم شكسته شود،مي بايد از جاي بلندي بيفتد،مي بايد تا آسمان ها بالا رفته بهشت دور از دسترسي را يك نظر ديده باشد.راستي آن طوفان هايي كه انسان را بر آن مي دارد كه آرامش روح را در دهانه طپانچه اي بجويد،بايد تسكين ناپذير باشند
Shon McDonnell
If you like Wilde's Pic of Dorian Grey, you'll love this one. We all go through this at some point; we all consider selling our soul's in some form or other.
Un altro piccolo capolavoro. Ho amato il modo in cui l'elemento soprannaturale (la pelle di zigrino) si inserisca in un quadro sociale spietatamente realistico. Dialoghi meravigliosi, riflessioni profonde, descrizioni sublimi e temi esistenziali mai affrontati con superficialità: l'amore, l'arte, la morte, il dibattito scientifico, il contrasto tra una virtuosa solitudine e una società arrivista. Cosa si può chiedere di più da un libro? La prima parte è particolarmente poetica e visionaria, la s...more
Abouzar Ghaffari
ناتورالیسم می تونه چنان خسته کننده باشه که نتونید یه کتاب رو تا تهش بخونید !
Luciana Darce
A primeira vez que ouvi falar de Balzac foi no contexto de “mulher balzaquiana”, ou A mulher de trinta anos. Vergonhosamente, eu ainda não li essa obra – provavelmente aguardarei até completar 30 e me darei o livro de presente como uma piadinha particular.

Lembro de, quando fazia jornalismo, ter farejado atrás de Ilusões Perdidas, uma vez que a sinopse do livro me fazia muito lembrar a posição em que eu me encontrava à época... Apesar disso, por um motivo ou por outro, sempre havia um livro mais...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
A young man, having gambled away his last gold coin, walks to the Seine to commit suicide. While he waits for darkness to fall, he wanders into a curiosity shop where he comes across a wild ass’s skin. This talisman, he learns, will grant every wish. But with each wish granted the pelt shrinks, and the owner’s lifespan shrinks accordingly. The Faustian tale moves both forward, as the young owner gains the wealth he desires and therefore draws ever closer to his own demise, and backward as we lea...more
Balzac, Honore de. THE WILD ASS’S SKIN. (1831). ****. Balzac is certainly one of the writers of his time, and you must be prepared to transpose yourself back into his time to truly enjoy most of his novels. The plot of this novel is relatively simple: a young man, Raphael de Valentin, is considering commiting suicide by jumping into the Seine off of the Pont de Arts. He is distracted by passersby and roams about through the shops on the other side of the bridge. In one of the shops of an antique...more
Jesse Whitehead
I have not had good luck with French authors. Either their writing is not for me, the translations are terrible or the books that get translated are the terrible ones. I think it’s a pretty good chance that it could be any one of these.

I’ve tried Victor Hugo twice. Les Miserables is one of the most overwrought narratives on the planet — it has spawned an amazing movie (the one with Qui-Gonn) and a powerful musical — but it is so full of unrepentant political and social commentary and hundred-pag...more
While it’s certainly more sensational and attention getting, I don’t like this literal translation of the title of Balzac’s novel. The original title of the book is Le Peau de Chagrin. When considering the title in French, “chagrin” has both a literal and figurative connotation, which supports the sentiments evoked in the novel. “Chagrin” or shagreen—the leather hide of an onager whose magical properties cause the protagonist Raphael to become a Faustian-like figure, leading to the “chagrin” or...more
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Honoré de Balzac was a nineteenth-century French novelist and playwright. His magnum opus was a sequence of almost 100 novels and plays collectively entitled La Comédie humaine, which presents a panorama of French life in the years after the fall of Napoléon Bonaparte in 1815.

Due to his keen observation of detail and unfiltered representation of society, Balzac is regarded as one of the founders o...more
More about Honoré de Balzac...
Père Goriot Eugénie Grandet Cousin Bette (Poor Relations) Lost Illusions (La Comédie Humaine) Le Colonel Chabert

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“Il ya toute une vie dans une heure d'amour.” 17 likes
“Hélas! Nous ne manquons jamais d'argent pour nos caprices, nous ne discutons que le prix des choses utiles ou nécessaires; nous jetons l'or avec insouciance à des danseuses, et nous marchandons un ouvrier dont la famille affamée attend la paiement d'un mémoire. Combien de gens ont un habit de cent francs, un diamant à la pomme de leur canne, et dinent à vingt-cinque sous? Il semble que nous n'achetions jamais assez chèrementles plaisirs de la vanité” 4 likes
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