Balzac's classic philosophical novel about a young man (Raphael) torn between two women, one whom he loves but who does not reciprocate his affections (Foedora, the "woman without a heart") and one who loves him but for whom initially he has only fraternal feelings (Pauline). The sentimental drama is associated with a philosophical one in allegorical form: how does a man live his life ...with intensity but in an existence of short duration, or without desires in a long life? The drama is expressed through the talisman, a wild ass's skin, given to the hero by an old antique dealer. The skin has magical powers: it enables the owner to satisfy any desire, but it shrinks each time it is used. The owner's life is mirrored by the shrinking skin. This edition reproduces the text of the first edition of the novel (1831) and is the only available edition of this version. The book comes with a cd-rom on which the reader will find a critical apparatus prepared by Andrew Oliver, a well-known Balzac scholar.