Nicholas (nwhyte) wrote,

The Complete Short Stories of Guy de Maupassant

Second paragraph of third story, "The Lancier's Wife" (originally "La uhlane"):
Là, ce fut le salut, le repos. On sait quelle sympathique bonté fut témoignée à la pauvre armée française et de quels soins on nous entoura. Chacun se reprit à la vie, et ceux qui, avant la guerre, étaient des riches et des heureux, avouèrent que jamais bien-être ne leur avait paru plus doux que celui-ci. Songez donc ! on mangeait maintenant tous les jours et on dormait toutes les nuits. There we were safe, and could rest. Everybody knows what sympathy was shown to the unfortunate French army, and how well it was cared for. We all gained fresh life, and those who had been rich and happy before the war declared that they had never experienced a greater feeling of comfort than they did then. Just think. We actually had something to eat every day, and could sleep every night.
In fact, research reveals that this story is one of several in the collection that is not actually by Guy de Maupassant but by (in this case) Jean Richepin. The second paragraph of "The Prisoners", the third story in the collection that is actually by Maupassant, is:
Devant la porte de la maison forestière, une jeune femme, les bras nus, cassait du bois à coups de hache sur une pierre. Elle était grande, mince et forte, une fille de forêts, fille et femme de forestiers. Before the door of the forester’s dwelling a young woman, her arms bare to the elbow, was chopping wood with a hatchet on a block of stone. She was tall, slender, strong - a true girl of the woods, daughter and wife of a forester.
I had picked up a French collection of de Maupassant's short stories ages ago on a visit to my sister in Burgundy, tried and realised my French is not good enough to appreciate the original, and then picked up this from the internets.

It starts very strongly with "Boule de Suif", and then a number of other stories set in the imemdiate aftermath of the Franco-Prussian War. The German occupation of most of France in the early 1870s was not really something I had thought about much before, but it was clearly a big contributor to the national trauma of defeat. The title character in "Boule de Suif" is a sex worker, and so are the protagonists of another memorable story, "La Maison Tellier"; in general the best of them dig into the hypocrisy of conventional life, and the least good are just passing commentary.

The collection that I got is an electronic edition of the 13 volumes translated "by Albert M. C. McMaster, A. E. Henderson, Mme. Quesada and Others", first published in 1911 in New York. As noted above, it includes a few ringers which are not by Maupassant but by other writers; it also excludes his more spooky stories, eg "Le Horla", so cannot really be considered complete. There's a lot of them but I did not find them difficult to get through. You can get it from Project Gutenberg here.

This was my top unread non-genre fiction book. Next on that list is Thirteen, by Steve Cavanaugh.
Tags: bookblog 2021, french

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