Balzac's La Peau de Chagrin: The Gambler's Quest for Power

For Raphael, the protagonist of Balzac's novel La Peau de chagrin (1831), gambling was a metaphor for a way of life. His goal allowed no middle course: either the acquisition of wealth and the conquest of women – or suicide. Because Balzac's literary vision emphasizes philosophical and supernatural matters, the fetish – la peau de chagrin – not only plays a central role in his tale, but imbues the events with an aura of mystery and magic. Although some readers may be skeptical of the skin's power, as was the scientifically oriented Raphael at first, Balzac's engaging style and imagination sweeps them into a world of imponderables in which the otherworldly fetish actually does direct Raphael's destiny. Balzac's tale is permeated with the unpredictability of life's course of events. It reflects the randomness and the chanciness of games and gambling which are to be explored within the framework of La Peau de chagrin. (BLK)
Knapp, Bettina L
Volume 1998-1999 Fall-Winter; 27(1-2): 16-37