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Pierre et Jean (Oxford World's Classics) by…

Pierre et Jean (Oxford World's Classics) (original 1887; edition 2009)

by Guy de Maupassant

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Title:Pierre et Jean (Oxford World's Classics)
Authors:Guy de Maupassant
Info:Oxford University Press, USA (2009), Edition: 1, Paperback, 208 pages

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Pierre and Jean by Guy de Maupassant (1887)



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A sibling rivalry between two brothers gets worse when one is named sole heir in a will by a family friend. The novel explores jealousy, 19th century honor, and buried family secrets. There are moments of brilliance, such as the group’s outing to the beach to hunt for shrimp, but I think Maupassant would have been more successful if he had further tightened up this novel into a short story.

Just this quote, on love lost:
“Ah, remorse! remorse! It must have tortured her long ago in the early days, then faded as everything does. She would certainly have wept for her misdeeds and then she had gradually forgotten. Have not all women, every one of them, this gift of prodigious forgetfulness which enables them scarcely to recognize after a few years the man to whom they have given their lips and their whole body to kiss? The kiss strikes like lightning, love pass over like a storm, then life clears again like the sky and goes back to where it was before. Does anyone remember a cloud?” ( )
1 vote gbill | Aug 9, 2015 |
The constellation of two half-brothers from two fathers, differently aged, one with a big inheritance, the other with nothing, both falling in love with the same girl, ever fascinated me. Peter and John came to me in the romantic stage of adolescence. I was a bit disappointed, that the girl decides upon the rich boy, and that the poor fellow without a whimper comes second place. Before he run away to sea he should have given his brother at the very least a good smacking.
  hbergander | Feb 10, 2014 |
What can you do when you suspect that the person you love most in the world has been living a lie that threatens to destroy your family's happiness? This is the agonizing dilemma that faces Pierre in Guy de Maupassant's short novel Pierre et Jean.

Pierre and Jean Roland are brothers. Pierre has just finished medical school, and his younger brother Jean has completed his training as a lawyer. They have joined their parents in Le Havre, a seaport on the coast of Normandy, for a few weeks of relaxation before embarking on their careers. Their father, a simple man but with a lifetime love of the sea and ships, has retired there with his wife after many years as a jeweler in Paris. The two brothers are close, as is the whole family, but there is a stark contrast in their appearance and temperament. Pierre is dark, slender, ambitious, moody, and quick-witted. Jean is blond, tall, somewhat stout, easygoing, and indolent.

One day, when the family returns from an outing in their boat, they receive a visit from an attorney with the news that an old family friend from Paris has recently died and left his entire fortune to Jean. Pierre joins his parents in rejoicing in Jean's good fortune, but jealousy begins to gnaw at him, and he can't help wondering why only Jean was favored. Then a chance comment by a barmaid makes him suspect the shocking truth that was so obvious to an outsider: the deceased friend was Jean's father. Their mother is an adulteress! And the whole world will know it if Jean accepts the legacy.

Pierre's mental agony and the events which follow take place against the backdrop of a wonderfully evocative picture of the Norman coast where the author grew up. Ships blowing their horns in a dense fog while reaching blindly for a safe port... beach-goers retreating before the oncoming tide... these are vivid scenes that also symbolize Pierre's situation.

Pierre et Jean is an intense and compact psychological drama, quite different from the social realism of Maupassant's earlier novels. It reminds me more of the works of Scandinavian authors Ibsen, Strindberg and Soderberg than it does of Maupassant's mentors, Flaubert and Zola. And what makes this novel all the more poignant is that all the members of the Roland family are likable characters who love one another, yet they are about to be torn apart by an act of good will. Highly recommended. ( )
1 vote StevenTX | May 29, 2013 |
This novel opens with a family outing. The outing is uneventful, but we learn a lot about the characters. The father is a silly old man, harmless but not to be taken seriously. The mother is serene and kind. Her two adult sons adore her. The sons, Pierre and Jean, also love each other, but are a bit competitive.

When the family returns home, they learn that a wealthy family friend, Marechal, has died and has left his entire estate to the younger son, Jean. At first, Pierre is jealous in a way that might be expected in these circumstances, but his feelings soon develop into something much more sinister--he begins to suspect that Jean may have been Marechal's son, the result of an illicit affair between their mother and Marechal. "It was no longer jealousy that made him seek an answer, nor the rather unworthy but natural envy he knew was hidden inside him and that he had been fighting for three days, but a terror of an appalling thing. Terror of believing that his brother Jean was the son of this man."

There follows a psychological game of cat and mouse between Pierre and his mother, of which his father and Jean remain blissfully ignorant for the most part. There is very little action, and most of the narration takes place in Pierre's mind. This is a masterful work. De Maupassant is able to convey so much in so view words, and on such a small stage. Highly recommended. ( )
2 vote arubabookwoman | Feb 18, 2013 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0140443584, Paperback)

The fraternal love that Pierre Roland feels for his younger brother Jean has always been tinged with jealousy. But when a lawyer arrives at the house of their parents, to declare that an old family friend has bequeathed his entire fortune to Jean, this envy rapidly becomes an all-consuming force. Despising himself for the hate that he feels, Pierre roams the seaport of Le Havre alone, desperate to come to terms with his brother's success. As he walks through the streets, however, one thought dominates his mind. Why was he not left a share of the friend's estate? Vivid, ironical and emotionally profound, "Pierre and Jean" is considered Maupassant's greatest novel - an intensely personal story of suspicion, jealousy and family love.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:06:28 -0400)

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"Pierre et Jean marked a turning-point in the development of French fiction, situated as it is between traditional social realism and the psychological novel. It is recognized as a classic study of filial jealousy, triggered by one of the two brothers of its title finding himself the sole inheritor of the fortune of his mother's former lover." "Pierre et Jean is set in Le Havre in the 1880s and is notable for its evocation of the Normandy coastline captured by the Impressionists. But Maupassant's achievement is to have woven from this simple plot in a maritime context a brilliantly crafted exploration of the complexities at the heart of family life."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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