This article approaches the text of Balzac's Gobseck through Barthes's general reflections, in Comment vivre ensemble, on the private room as a symbolic space of seclusion. Barthes's comments on the value of excrement in Gide's La Séquestrée de Poitiers are used to set up a Freudian reading of the anal sadism of Gobseck the usurer, as revealed in his speech, behaviour, and body language. The contrasting rooms of Fanny and Anastasie are subsumed into the closing juxtaposition of Gobseck's clean, bare, cell-like death chamber with the squalid accumulation of putrid matter in the next-door room, formerly that of the lawyer Derville. Cleanliness and moral fastidiousness are analyzed as reaction-formations masking an active anal eroticism in both men and underpinning their superficially unlikely friendship. Gobseck's chamber emerges as the symbolic center of an anal economy in which Derville is shown to play a key role, both as narrator and protagonist. (dk)


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pp. 243-257
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