Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Balzac’s style is easily translatable; in other words, the reader of a good translation does not miss much of the enjoyment that the original text ought to produce. It should be remembered that many of the very greatest novelists—Stendhal, Herman Melville, Fyodor Dostoevski, Leo Tolstoy, and Italo Svevo—although vigorous and also stylistically effective in rendering their fictional worlds, have not excelled in poetic expression or beautiful language; to this assertion in all its parts Balzac is no exception.

The important characters of this story appear again, sometimes with leading roles, in many of Balzac’s novels, beginning with Le Pére Goriot (1835; Pére Goriot, 1860). Considering chronologically the development of “Gobseck” and the gestation of Pére Goriot—whose protagonist, Anastasie’s father, is also mentioned in “Gobseck”—it is plausible that the strong types of Gobseck and Maxime de Trailles as well as the social state of affairs represented by Goriot’s daughters and their aristocratic husbands and lovers inspired Balzac’s vision of a great cycle of novels to be entitled La Comedie humaine (1829-1848; The Human Comedy, 1885-1893) in an analogy with Dante’s The Divine Comedy (c. 1320; English translation, 1802). In this aspect as well as in those pointed out in the previous section, “Gobseck” occupies a central position in Balzac’s oeuvre.