Small in volume, written in the form of a story in a story, the story “Gobsek” is directly related to the novel “Father Gorio”. In this story, we again meet with some “recurring heroes” of the “Human Comedy” Honore de Balzac. Among them – Countess de Resto, the eldest daughter of Father Gorio, as well as usurer Gobsek and lawyer Dervil, who are mentioned in the novel “Father Gorio”.
Above the story “Gobsek” Balzac worked for a relatively long time and especially carefully. The writer persistently strove to achieve artistic perfection in it, convincingly and reliably convey in the image of a moneylender the essence of the modern era. This is evidenced by three editions of the story, carried out by the writer over the course of 18 years, and those changes that he constantly introduced into each new edition of it.
The first version of the story was preceded by an essay “The Grower”, written
by Balzac for the Moscow magazine “Fashion”. This essay later became the first chapter of the story, published in 1830 under the title “Dangers of Discontent.” Under this title, the story was included by the writer in the cycle “Etudes of Morals” – the first part of “The Human Comedy.” Already in 1832 this version of the story was translated into Russian. In it, the main attention was focused on the immoral life of the French aristocracy, to which the writer counterposed the spiritual revival of Hobsek: the usurer gives the young Ernesto de Resto the condition necessary for marriage, for which Ernest’s mother Countess de Resto achieves for the moneylender a noble rank, and, in the end,
In 1835 a new version of the story appears, but already under the title “Papa Gobsek”. According to researchers of the writer’s work, this title was given to the story by analogy with the novel “Father Gorio” published a year earlier. In the new historical conditions, five years after the July Revolution, in the midst of a fierce struggle
for enrichment, the writer shifts the focus of readers’ attention from the aristocracy to the new masters of life. At the forefront is usury Gobsek. The second edition of the story ended with a description of the terrible pantry of a dying moneylender, and the Countess de Resto appears before the readers as the daughter of Father Gorio. Thus, the two works were linked as “different versions of the same topic about the power of gold and its victims.”
In 1848, Balzac again returned to the story. He again changes its name, discarding the word “daddy”, giving the image of the main character a good-natured hue. Now the story is called briefly: “Gobsek”. In this final version, a story appears about the past of the usurer and how he built his capital.
The basis of the story “Gobsek” was based on the life of the writer, so researchers of Balzac’s creativity believe that some of its elements are autobiographical. For example, the lawyer Merville, in whose office, as a student, worked Balzac, served as a prototype for the hero of the story “Gobsek” – the notary Dervil. The writer’s work on the images of the story testifies to the persistent desire of the novelist to develop the theme of the corrupting impact of money on the essential aspects of private and public life for society. Balzac’s artistic research still strikes the reader today with the richness and drama of action, with relief images, the depth of penetration into the secrets of the human soul and the brilliance of artistic expressiveness.