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The wild ass's skin

The wild ass's skin

Balzac, Honoré de, 1799-1850; Constantine, Helen; Coleman, Patrick

Raphael de Valentin, a young aristocrat, has lost all his money in the gaming parlours of the Palais Royal in Paris. Contemplating suicide by throwing himself into the Seine, he is distracted by a bizarre object which promises to grant its possessor his every wish - but at a high price

Paperback, Book. English. Classics.
Published Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012
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Available at Moor Allerton.

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Statement of responsibility: Honoré de Balzac ; introduction and notes by Patrick Coleman ; translated by Helen Constantine
ISBN: 0199579504, 9780199579501
Language note: Translated from the French.
Physical Description: 288 p. ; 20 cm.
Series: Oxford world's classics
Series Title: Oxford world's classics.

Author note

Helen Constantine taught languages in schools before becoming a full-time translator. She has published three volumes of translated stories for OUP, Paris Tales, French Tales, and Paris Metro Tales. She has translated Gautier's Mademoiselle de Maupin and Laclos' Dangerous Liaisons for Penguin, and with her husband David Constantine, edits the international magazine Modern Poetry in Translation.

Patrick Coleman's books include editions of Rousseau's Confessions and Discourse on Inequality and Constant's Adolphe for Oxford World's Classics, and Anger, Gratitude, and the Enlightenment Writer (Oxford, 2011).


'Who possesses me will possess all things,

But his life will belong to me...'

Raphael de Valentin, a young aristocrat, has lost all his money in the gaming parlours of the Palais Royal in Paris, and contemplates ending his life by throwing himself into the Seine. He is distracted by the bizarre array of objects in a chaotic antique shop, among them a strange animal skin, a piece of shagreen with magical properties. It will grant its possessor his every wish, but each time a wish is bestowed the skin shrinks, hastening its owner's death. Around this fantastic premise

Balzac weaves a compelling psychological portrait of his hero, a prisoner of his own Promethean imagination, and explores profound ideas about the human will, vice and virtue, love and death.

Helen Constantine's new translation captures the energy and exuberance of Balzac's novel, one of the most engaging of his 'Études philosophiques' from the Comédie humaine. The accompanying introduction and notes offer fresh insights into this remarkable work.

ABOUT THE SERIES: For over 100 years Oxford World's Classics has made available the widest range of literature from around the globe. Each affordable volume reflects Oxford's commitment to scholarship, providing the most accurate text plus a wealth of other valuable features, including expert introductions by leading authorities, helpful notes to clarify the text, up-to-date bibliographies for further study, and much more.


The novel has been elegantly translated by Helen Constantine, who is both faithful and creative
Nicholas White, Times Literary Supplement||A model of its kind
Nineteenth-Century French Studies