Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)

Parisian gambling house

Parisian gambling house. Located at 36 Palais Royal, this is the place where Raphael loses the last of his money, save for the three sous he gives to beggars on the quai Voltaire.

Parisian antique shop

Parisian antique shop. The impossibly well-stocked treasure-house into which Raphael wanders from the quai Voltaire (having just been lost in contemplation of the Louvre, the towers of Notre-Dame and other similarly imposing edifices). Its wares include works of art from all over the world and from many different periods of history; each of its four galleries contains works more priceless than the last. The fateful piece of shagreen is mounted in significant opposition to a portrait of Jesus Christ painted by the fifteenth century old master who shared Raphael’s name.

Hôtel de Saint-Quentin

Hôtel de Saint-Quentin (oh-TEL deh sahn-ken-TA[N]). House in Paris’s rue des Cordiers in which Raphael lodges before his seduction by luxury; he selects it for its nearness to the former residence of the philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau. His room is a dirty, narrow, yellow-walled garret with a sloping ceiling and gaps between loose roof tiles that expose the sky. There he works without respite on his two literary projects for three years, as if dedicated to a fast, although his dreams are of wealth and conspicuous consumption. After ten months he becomes enamored of the landlady’s daughter Pauline, who reminds him of the heroine of Charles Perrault’s conte “Peau d’Ane” (“Donkey-skin”; Honoré de Balzac’s title is an ironic transfiguration of it). The point is carefully made that these are inapt surroundings for a man whose family name links him to...

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(Great Characters in Literature)

Kanes, Martin. Balzac’s Comedy of Words. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1975. Chapter 3 deals with The Wild Ass’s Skin, exploring the problem of creativity.

Pritchett, V. S. Balzac. London: Chatto and Windus, 1973. A chapter on The Wild Ass’s Skin puts the novel into its biographical context.

Robb, Graham. Balzac. London: Picador, 1994. A comprehensive biographical and critical study. The Wild Ass’s Skin is discussed in chapter 8, “Absolute Power.”

Testa, Carlo. Desire and the Devil: Demonic Contracts in French and European Literature. New York: Peter Lang, 1991. Part one of the study deals with “Balzac’s Laicized Demonism,” including a detailed analysis of The Wild Ass’s Skin.

Weber, Samuel. Unwrapping Balzac: A Reading of “La Peau de chagrin.” Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1979. The only full-length study of the work.