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Selected Short Stories [Penguin Popular…
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Selected Short Stories [Penguin Popular Classics]

by Guy de Maupassant

Other authors: Roger Colet (Translator), Roger Colet (Introduction)

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7401019,184 (4.17)5
  1. 20
    The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas père (bokai)
    bokai: While Maupassant's power is in his slice of life short stories told in an objective narrative voice and Dumas is the master of the thousand page epic told (see more) in highly sympathetic narration, both authors evoke images of the same France and are unequaled in their skill at bringing character and conflict to life. A short by Maupassant is a great way to break up the lengthy prose of Dumas, and Dumas, in turn, expands and elaborates the world that Maupassant provides only glimpses of.… (more)
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» See also 5 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 10 (next | show all)
I rarely laugh out loud at a book or movie. This book is a notable exception. The humor is sometimes dry and subtle, and at other times it borders on the completely absurd. Amazingly descriptive story-telling is on display in every story. ( )
  Brauer11431 | Apr 16, 2019 |

Master storyteller Guy De Maupassant covered the full range in his short fiction, by turns as realist as Balzac, as romantic as Dumas, as naturalist as Zola, as decadent as Lorrain or as Gothic as Poe. What a powerful, versatile imagination. This collection of short stories includes three well-known classics – Boule De Suif, The Piece of String, Madame Tellier’s Establishment – but I will focus on four very short tales that, by telling detail and the author’s grasp of the nuances of psychology, capture the human heart.

A Vendetta
In a tiny Italian fishing cottage built on a mountainside overlooking the sea, a widow lives alone with her adult son and dog named Frisky. But one night tragedy strikes: after a quarrel, the victim of underhandedness and betrayal, her son, Antoine, is knifed by one Nicolas Ravolati, who escapes back across the sea to Sardinia. After the son’s body is brought back to the cottage, the old grieving widow sits next to howling, grieving Frisky and then bends over the body and says, “Don’t worry my boy, my poor child, I will avenge you. Do you hear me? It’s your mother’s promise, and your mother always keeps her word, you know that.” In the days that follow, looking out at sea in the direction of Sardinia, she can discern the white spec that is the home town of Nicolas Ravolati. But what can she, so old and so weak, possibly do to avenge her son? Then, ah, Maupassant, you clever master! We read: “One night, as Frisky began to howl, the mother has a sudden inspiration, the fierce vindictive inspiration of a savage.” What unfolds is simply unforgettable. Thanks, Guy. Frisky, love that dog’s name.

The Model
How deep is our love; how extreme our emotions: what moves us to sacrifice our lives; why would we be willing to destroy everything in a fit of passion? A short tale of love, obsession, remorse and more love. This Maupassant story of a painter and his wife reminds me of how we as humans can develop our minds to be super-sharp, our bodies to be incredibly strong and flexible, but what about the emotions? Curiously enough, the emotions play such a major role, enough to keep us and the world spinning round and round and round.

Two Friends
How to articulate the close bond of friendship amid the stupidity of war, the warm blood of humanity amid the cold blood of inhumanity? Maupassant captures the human, all too human in this tale of two Parisians, French to their marrow, as they decide, after a few drinks, to brave the chances of encountering Prussian soldiers in order to relive the simple pleasure of fishing they both enjoyed out in the countryside prior to the war. The artistry of every single touch of character, bit of dialogue and unfolding of events is a stroke of storytelling genius.

The Minuet
During a discussion amid friends, an elderly bachelor who stepped over many a dead body during his years of military service and witnessed multiple additional tragedies in his long life, spoke up: “The crude violence of nature or man may bring cries of horror or indignation to our lips, but it does not wring the heart or send the shiver down the spine, as does the sight of certain heart-rending, though trivial incidents. . . . Suddenly there opens before us a chink of that mysterious door leading to the intricate maze of the subconscious mind with its incurable misery, the more deep-seated because apparently not acute, the more agonizing because apparently indefinable, the more enduring because apparently imaginary; these persists in the soul as it were a trail of sadness, an after-taste of bitterness, a feeling of disillusion, which it takes years to dispel.”

The old bachelor then goes on to relay an experience he had many years ago at the Luxembourg garden in Paris whilst a young law student, when he would frequently visit this grand old 18th century-style garden in his leisure hours and indulge in dreamy philosophical musings. On a few such outing, he noticed there was another person, an oddly dressed little old gentlemen who also frequented the garden. On those occasions when the two of them had a chance encounter, they exchanged pleasantries but then the bachelor observed something peculiar: “Suddenly one morning, thinking himself quite alone, he began making strange movements; first a few little jumps, then a bow, then he executed an entrechant, which still showed agility in spite of his spindly legs; then he began a graceful pirouette, hopping and jigging up and down in the oddest way, smiling to an imaginary audience, bowing with his hand on his heart, contorting his poor old body like a marionette, waving pathetically ridiculous greetings to the empty air. He was dancing!” What happens in a future meeting with this odd gentlemen burns a hole deep in the old bachelor’s memory. As our bachelor wryly observes, such is the irrationality of life.
( )
1 vote Glenn_Russell | Nov 13, 2018 |
Maupassant's stories have the distinction, for me at least, of having something in common with Chekhov: their stories are beautifully written, but after a day, with a few exceptions, what happens in the story is forgotten. Maybe that is true of most short stories by anyone, especially when several are read at a sitting. They are, after all, a snapshot of a place, a moment, a person rather than an epic or a bildungsroman. Chekhov is the superior writer, based on my experience of Maupassant. There is something about the atmosphere that Chekhov creates in his stories that linger. This is not to say that Maupassant is a mediocre writer, just that looking at the titles of the stories, only about 3 out of the 30 stories left any kind of impression on me.
Many stories center on prostitutes or women who are sexually open, but the stories cannot be considered pornographic in any way except by innuendo. One of his more famous stories, "The Horla", is about a man who is losing his mind. Many of the stories are about the meanness of people, when there is no advantage to being kind. My favorites were: "Boule de suif", "Two Friends", "The Horla".

Contains:
Boule de Suif
In the Spring
The Graveyard Sisterhood
Madame Tellier's Establishment
A Ruse
An Old Man
Rust
Two Friends
The Jewels
The Conservatory
The Matter with Andre
My Uncle Jules
A Duel
The Convert
In the Bedroom
Regret
The Decoration
The Piece of String
The Model
The Hand
Idyll
Mother Savage
Guillemot Rock
Imprudence
The Signal
In the Woods
The Devil
The Horla
The Mask
Mouche ( )
  Marse | Mar 27, 2018 |

Master storyteller Guy De Maupassant covered the full range in his short fiction, by turns as realist as Balzac, as romantic as Dumas, as naturalist as Zola, as decadent as Lorrain or as Gothic as Poe. What a powerful, versatile imagination. This collection of short stories includes three well-known classics – Boule De Suif, The Piece of String, Madame Tellier’s Establishment – but I will focus on four very short tales that, by telling detail and the author’s grasp of the nuances of psychology, capture the human heart.

A Vendetta
In a tiny Italian fishing cottage built on a mountainside overlooking the sea, a widow lives alone with her adult son and dog named Frisky. But one night tragedy strikes: after a quarrel, the victim of underhandedness and betrayal, her son, Antoine, is knifed by one Nicolas Ravolati, who escapes back across the sea to Sardinia. After the son’s body is brought back to the cottage, the old grieving widow sits next to howling, grieving Frisky and then bends over the body and says, “Don’t worry my boy, my poor child, I will avenge you. Do you hear me? It’s your mother’s promise, and your mother always keeps her word, you know that.” In the days that follow, looking out at sea in the direction of Sardinia, she can discern the white spec that is the home town of Nicolas Ravolati. But what can she, so old and so weak, possibly do to avenge her son? Then, ah, Maupassant, you clever master! We read: “One night, as Frisky began to howl, the mother has a sudden inspiration, the fierce vindictive inspiration of a savage.” What unfolds is simply unforgettable. Thanks, Guy. Frisky, love that dog’s name.

The Model
How deep is our love; how extreme our emotions: what moves us to sacrifice our lives; why would we be willing to destroy everything in a fit of passion? A short tale of love, obsession, remorse and more love. This Maupassant story of a painter and his wife reminds me of how we as humans can develop our minds to be super-sharp, our bodies to be incredibly strong and flexible, but what about the emotions? Curiously enough, the emotions play such a major role, enough to keep us and the world spinning round and round and round.

Two Friends
How to articulate the close bond of friendship amid the stupidity of war, the warm blood of humanity amid the cold blood of inhumanity? Maupassant captures the human, all too human in this tale of two Parisians, French to their marrow, as they decide, after a few drinks, to brave the chances of encountering Prussian soldiers in order to relive the simple pleasure of fishing they both enjoyed out in the countryside prior to the war. The artistry of every single touch of character, bit of dialogue and unfolding of events is a stroke of storytelling genius.

The Minuet
During a discussion amid friends, an elderly bachelor who stepped over many a dead body during his years of military service and witnessed multiple additional tragedies in his long life, spoke up: “The crude violence of nature or man may bring cries of horror or indignation to our lips, but it does not wring the heart or send the shiver down the spine, as does the sight of certain heart-rending, though trivial incidents. . . . Suddenly there opens before us a chink of that mysterious door leading to the intricate maze of the subconscious mind with its incurable misery, the more deep-seated because apparently not acute, the more agonizing because apparently indefinable, the more enduring because apparently imaginary; these persists in the soul as it were a trail of sadness, an after-taste of bitterness, a feeling of disillusion, which it takes years to dispel.”

The old bachelor then goes on to relay an experience he had many years ago at the Luxembourg garden in Paris whilst a young law student, when he would frequently visit this grand old 18th century-style garden in his leisure hours and indulge in dreamy philosophical musings. On a few such outing, he noticed there was another person, an oddly dressed little old gentlemen who also frequented the garden. On those occasions when the two of them had a chance encounter, they exchanged pleasantries but then the bachelor observed something peculiar: “Suddenly one morning, thinking himself quite alone, he began making strange movements; first a few little jumps, then a bow, then he executed an entrechant, which still showed agility in spite of his spindly legs; then he began a graceful pirouette, hopping and jigging up and down in the oddest way, smiling to an imaginary audience, bowing with his hand on his heart, contorting his poor old body like a marionette, waving pathetically ridiculous greetings to the empty air. He was dancing!” What happens in a future meeting with this odd gentlemen burns a hole deep in the old bachelor’s memory. As our bachelor wryly observes, such is the irrationality of life.
( )
1 vote GlennRussell | Feb 16, 2017 |
There is an introduction, entitled, "The Art of Guy De Maupassant", which was written by Holbrook Jackson. The introduction is well worth reading and is the type of introduction that should be an introduction: it introduces Maupassant's life history, his introduction into the world of writing, and his rise to fame as France's master of the short story form and in no way spoils the experience of reading the body of the book. So many introductions should be an afterword or left out entirely.

Apparently Maupassant benefitted from the tutelage of Gustave Flaubert, who was a friend of Maupassant's mother.

There are fourteen stories in the collection which is a nice sample from the author's over 300 short stories. The book I have was published in 1927, 34 years after Maupassant's death. Reading this rather delicate book added to the experience of reading stories from the nineteenth century, stories that deal with real life and, one can sense, real people.

The stories demonstrate the writer's skill at capturing the essence of real life situations. His stories are about ordinary people and the life they had. Having been a French soldier in the Franco-Prussian war of the 1870s his stories about the experiences of people during that episode are brought to life with real feeling and a sense of authenticity. His stories do not shy from portraying the horror of war or the hatred felt by the characters caught up in conflict.

These stories are of their era and do not contain the clever switches of plot or viewpoint that today's readers often want. This strengthens the stories in my mind. They show the short story at a particular stage in its evolution, and, in the case of Maupassant's stories, give us a glimpse into life in 1800s France. It is interesting to see what has changed and what has not. His stories also show what is the same in France and other parts of the world: prejudice; snobbery; caddish behaviour; ill treatment of women; brutality in war.

Humour is also a strong point in his stories. His word selection when describing characters is excellent and very pointed. "Boule de Suif" (Ball of Fat) is regarded by Holbrook as Maupassant's best story and it is a wonderful example of the writer's skill at humour, and irony, in his characterisation. It also demonstrates his attitude to the hypocrisy of the aristocracy, upper and middle classes, and the holier-than-thou religious.

I always enjoy reading a story by Maupassant. There are many of his stories on-line and I would strongly recommend that people dip into his work and step back in time to enjoy life at a different pace.

Lest you be left in any doubt, yes, I enjoyed this book and the whole reading experience I had with it. ( )
3 vote pgmcc | Mar 15, 2015 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Guy de Maupassantprimary authorall editionscalculated
Colet, RogerTranslatorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Colet, RogerIntroductionsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
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A collection of the author's most characteristic stories portrays life in 19th-century France.

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