“The Skin of the Donkey” and Balzac’s Fate

  ”The Donkey Skin” is a novel written by Balzac in 1830: Valentin, a young man with strong desires that cannot be realized, was in despair when an antique dealer gave him a magical donkey skin. This donkey hide can grant any wish of its bearer, but at the cost of his life. The area of ​​the donkey skin symbolizes the lifespan of the bearer, it will shrink with the strength and number of the bearer’s wishes, and when it shrinks into invisibility, its bearer’s life will end. The story reveals the paradox of life: a life without desire is no luster, and if desire is too strong, it will lead to an early death of life. After fulfilling his desires again and again, Valentine couldn’t resist the temptation of love, and finally ruined his life.
  Balzac was the insight of life, he revealed to us the mysteries and truths of life. Valentine’s story is a useful revelation for each of us. Regrettably, Balzac himself, the author of this story, the revealer of the mysteries of life and the truth, unfortunately repeated the mistakes of Valentin in the story of his own life and became a victim of lust.
  The story begins with a letter from Russia signed “Unknown Woman”.
  This “unknown woman” is Mrs. Hanska. She came from an aristocratic family. At the age of 18, she married Wenceslav Hansky, the chief nobleman of the Russian province of Ukraine, who was 23 years older than him. Hansky is not a handsome and beautiful man, and he looks old, but he has 40,000 serfs, millions of furniture, vast forests and grasslands, several large manors and many factories and workshops, and his net worth is like a small kingdom.
  This smart and beautiful Mrs. Hanska once won the love of Russian poet Pushkin after her marriage. How could she endure the loneliness of the remote Verkhovnia manor? Although Hansky took her on vacation every year to Petersburg, Kyiv, or abroad, and treated her friends and lovers with gentlemanly generosity, it could not satisfy her passionate heart.
  In the winter of 1831, several of Balzac’s novels about love and marriage disturbed the heart of the amorous aristocratic woman. She negotiated with her two nieces and governess who accompanied her to relieve boredom, and everyone wrote a letter to the writer in the name of “unknown woman”, expressing their respect, admiration and appreciation for his works. After writing four letters back and forth like this, Mrs. Hanska’s curiosity and passion could not be satisfied, so, starting in January 1833, she wrote to Barr by herself, without the knowledge of the other three women. Zach, and sign her own real name. To prevent Hansky from discovering that she was communicating with a strange foreign man, she asked Balzac to send the letter to her family’s Swiss governess and forward it to her.
  This correspondence, which began with a game mentality, soon aroused Balzac’s ardent love. He wrote mesmerized: “…I kneel before you. My life and my heart belong to you. You can kill me with one knife, but don’t make me suffer! I love you with all the strength of my heart. Don’t let my beautiful hope come to nothing.” These warm words touched Mrs. Hanska. She tried to persuade her husband to travel to Europe in 1833, to meet Balzac in the hometown of the Swiss governess, and to introduce him to Hansky in an appropriate manner, introducing him naturally into her family.
  Although this meeting only had little time to spend alone with Madame Hanska, it gave Balzac a windfall. He saw that Hansky was in poor health and probably wouldn’t live long. If he can win the heart of Madame Hanska at the right time, wouldn’t Balzac be the owner of this huge property in the future?
  Back in Paris, Balzac continued to relay letters through the governess, writing sweet love letters to Madame Henska, and at the same time, following Madame Henska’s instructions, to the husband who was still in the dark, Greeting the whole family in a natural way, and offering to live in Geneva for a while to collect writing material, hoping to spend Christmas with the family who is still traveling.
  Before Christmas 1833, Balzac followed the Hansky family to Geneva. He wrote to Mrs. Hanska, expressing his impatience: “Let’s unite, don’t refuse to give me that which means everything…” After hesitating for a month, Mrs. Hanska finally let her lover get her wish .
  In May of the following year, the Hansky family traveled to Vienna, and Balzac rushed to meet his lover. In order to show off in front of his lover, he reluctantly sent a set of silver plates to the pawnshop, borrowed a loan shark, decorated a gorgeous carriage and two beautiful servants, and he himself also put on clothes with engraved gold buttons. With the cost of the journey and everything in Vienna, it cost him 15,000 francs. When he left Vienna, he had no money left, and he had to borrow a gold coin from Madame Hanska and give it to the hotel servant.
  But he got a precious promise: Madame Hanska would become Madame Balzac when Hanskey died.   3.
Neither of them would have imagined that the separation would last for 7 years.   Balzac couldn’t wait any longer. He wanted to give up the plan to get both people and money, and asked his girlfriend to find him a “30-year-old woman with a fortune of 300,000 to 400,000 francs, with an easy-going temperament and an elegant appearance.”   Good luck finally came. On January 5, 1842, Mrs. Henska wrote that her husband had died two months earlier. Balzac’s heart rekindled hope. He immediately wrote to Mrs. Hanska and said: “Write to me and tell me that your life will belong to me completely from now on, and happiness will come to us…” However, Mrs. Hanska replied that she no longer trusted him . He had never seen her in 7 years and now she intends to live for her daughter and never leave her.   At this time, Balzac was already thinking about the arrangement of the wedding room, the wedding ceremony, the honeymoon trip, etc. How could he give up the happiness that was about to come after a long wait? He continued to write passionate love letters, went to Petersburg to meet Madame Henska, and, beginning in the spring of 1845, spent most of the year with Madame Henska, her daughter, and her daughter’s fiancé Travel around Europe. But Mrs. Hanska still hesitated and refused to marry. First, she used her daughter’s unresolved marriage as an excuse, and then said that the Tsar had not yet approved her to take her husband’s estate to marry abroad. In September 1847, he even went all the way to the estate of Mrs. Hanska in Ukraine. All he got was a thick Russian fur coat as a parting gift back to Paris.   Four


  The economic upheaval caused by the revolution of February 1848 cost Balzac a great deal of the railway stock he bought, but the creditors keep his eyes on him. He wanted to continue writing the novel The Peasants. Use its income to pay off debts, but sit at a desk for hours without writing a word. A huge sense of failure left him extremely frustrated. There is only one way out of all the troubles: to marry Mrs. Henska, in order to take advantage of her great wealth. So, he went to Ukraine for the second time.
  What greeted him was Madame Hanska’s somberness and irritability. He, a literary genius, was smart when he wrote novels, but stupid when he returned to life (many times in business, factories, and repeated failures), and even more stupid when he fell in love. He did not understand that his appearance and temperament could not attract the opposite sex, and he was heavily in debt. Madame Hanska just wanted to be his short-lived lover out of admiration for his talent (November 1846, Madame Henska for Balzac gave birth to a child, but unfortunately died within a few days of birth), and did not want to be a permanent couple with him.
  Once again, he fell into deep disappointment and depression, coupled with unaccustomed to the harsh Ukrainian winter weather, and soon fell ill. Bronchitis, emphysema, neurasthenia, angina pectoris and other illnesses tormented him, sometimes even in a coma.
  Balzac’s disease continued to attack and worsened again and again, making Madame Hanska see the shadow of death. I don’t know whether it was a conscience or some kind of religious consciousness that played a role, but this proud woman took the initiative to make a decision when Balzac was seriously ill, agreeing to his many requests for a long time, to marry him and be his wife.
  On March 14, 1850, the wedding took place in the Varvara Catholic Church in Berkichev, Ukraine.
  This long 17 years of perseverance has finally come true.
  5. After
  getting married , Balzac’s illness did not improve. Moreover, in his wife’s manor, he did not feel like a master. From his wife to the 300 servants in the manor, he was treated as a guest. He doesn’t feel like this is his home. Just over a month into their marriage, he persuaded his wife to return to Paris.
  When he returned to Paris, his condition was still not getting better. In summer, the disease is more serious, and it is difficult to even read and write. Doctors feel powerless.
  At 11:30 on the night of August 18, 1850, the great novelist and legendary lover closed his eyes forever.
  The only one who accompanied him through the last moments of his life was his mother, whom he had hated all his life; and the new wife, whom he had been pursuing for 17 years, was having a pleasant conversation with a friend in another room in order to relieve his grief.
  Before Balzac died, he shouted for the famous doctor to save his life. I don’t know if he also thought of another character in his pen, Valentine in “The Tale of the Donkey”, how similar his fate is to the character he created. Perhaps he also remembered his youthful wish: “Sooner or later I will make a fortune, or engage in literature, or politics, or business, or marry a rich widow.”