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Balzac's "shagreen skin" is a parable or a portrait of time and society?

Honoré de Balzac conceived and almost fulfilled the bold idea: write a series of stories and stories in which a literary model of modern France will be created. He called the main creation of his life "Human Comedy", by analogy with "Divine Comedy" Dante Alighieri. The writer hoped that it would become as significant for the nineteenth century as the creation of the great Florentine for the Middle Ages. The anthology was supposed to contain 144 works connected by transitional characters, a single style and problems. However, Balzac managed to write only 96 of them. "Shagreen Skin" (1831) is also included in this cycle and is in the section "Philosophical Sketches".

This novel considers the conflict between the individual and society, which was the focus of the literature of the time (for example, in Stendhal's "The Red and the Black"). However, the philosophy of this book and the multiplicity of meanings make it look like a parable with a deep meaning. The "shagreen skin", the summary of which boils down to the truly Buddhist conclusion that desires are killing, carries in itself a life-affirming message: happiness is possible even without a "wand-rod", it can be found in disinterested love and desire to give, not Take and own.

The main character of the work is Rafael de Valantin, an impoverished educated aristocrat. He has been dragging on the existence of a poor man in the attic of a small hotel for several years, unaware that the daughter of the landlady, Polina, is in love with him. He himself was carried away by the brilliant secular lioness - Countess Theodora, and for her sake she began to play in the casino, to spend insanely on gifts, after which for his honor there is only one way out - suicide. So the novel "Shagreen's skin" begins.

For lack of better ideas, the hero enters an antique shop, where he acquires a piece of donkey skin, on the back of which, in a certain eastern language, an inscription is inscribed: "When you take possession of me, I will take possession of you. I will fulfill your desires, but with each of them I will decrease - just like your life. Therefore, measure your desires. " Not believing in the effectiveness of the written, Raphael makes a guess, and then meets his friends who invite him to drink. He traces the contours of his talisman with ink and wants to get great wealth. The next morning the solicitor informs him that his uncle died in India and bequeathed to his young de Valentin all his considerable savings. Rafael climbs into his pocket and takes out the antiquarian's gift. Shagreen skin contracted in size!

The subsequent narration unfolds swiftly: believing in the effectiveness of the talisman, Rafael tries to abandon desires. But the accidentally dropped phrase of politeness "I wish you happiness", the attraction to your beloved woman and the thirst to win in a duel quickly nullify the account of his days. Shagreen skin diminishes in size, no physical experiments can stop this process. In the end, the hero dies in his splendid house in the hands of Pauline, who loves him without any miracles and talismans.

It seems that the whole work is a parable of soul-burning desires, the symbol of which is the shagreen skin. Analysis of the style of the novel nevertheless shows that Balzac works in a narrative style and builds on the Romanticism of his predecessors, writers of the early 19th century, using very realistic details coupled with a colorful and dynamic composition. The hero describes the history of the ruin of his kind in such a way that anyone who knows the economic and political realities of France at the end of the reign of Louis XVI will not doubt the veracity of his words. Sincerity of this novel, despite the fantastic plot, puts it in a number of the best works of classical realism.

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