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Magic Skin

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By: (1799-1850)

Something along the lines of Dorian Gray as part of the Comedies Humane Philosophique, this is Balzac's first successful novel. He even wrote "criticisms" of the writing himself in promotion of the book, in addition to hyping the work before it even came out. It is a criticism of materialism and French bourgeoisie as so many of his compiled works seek to be. Some same characters reappear.

First Page:

THE MAGIC SKIN

By Honore De Balzac

Translated by Ellen Marriage

To Monsieur Savary, Member of Le Academie des Sciences.

[omitted: a drawing representing the serpentine path made by the tip of a stick when flourished.]

STERNE Tristram Shandy, ch. cccxxii.

THE MAGIC SKIN

I. THE TALISMAN

Towards the end of the month of October 1829 a young man entered the Palais Royal just as the gaming houses opened, agreeably to the law which protects a passion by its very nature easily excisable. He mounted the staircase of one of the gambling hells distinguished by the number 36, without too much deliberation.

"Your hat, sir, if you please?" a thin, querulous voice called out. A little old man, crouching in the darkness behind a railing, suddenly rose and exhibited his features, carved after a mean design.

As you enter a gaming house the law despoils you of your hat at the outset. Is it by way of a parable, a divine revelation? Or by exacting some pledge or other, is not an infernal compact implied? Is it done to compel you to preserve a respectful demeanor towards those who are about to gain money of you? Or must the detective, who squats in our social sewers, know the name of your hatter, or your own, if you happen to have written it on the lining inside? Or, after all, is the measurement of your skull required for the compilation of statistics as to the cerebral capacity of gamblers? The executive is absolutely silent on this point... Continue reading book >>


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