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Boule de Suif by Guy de Maupassant

Boule de Suif (1880)

by Guy de Maupassant

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571617,406 (3.69)19
  1. 00
    Tribu bêlante by Kenzaburô Oé (raton-liseur)
    raton-liseur: Vraie lâcheté et faux courage dans un pays occupé.

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Often called his best work, Boule de Suif is also Maupassant's first published short story. In my collection, as in many others, it is grouped with several works about the Franco-Prussian War and the subsequent occupation of France.

In this story, Maupassant first describes the changing atmosphere of a town that first sees the retreat of their own army and then the arrival of an occupying force. The townspeople's mood moves from fear and despair, to acceptance and practical business dealings. Some even befriend the young men. Then, Maupassant shows the emotional and ethical accommodations that a small group of disparate people undergo when in a stressful situation. One informs and reflects the other. Although I did not find this story as tight and polished as some of his others, the impact of this story is particularly poignant.

Rouen has been occupied by the Prussians, and several wealthy citizens have procured much desired travel permits allowing them to leave for Le Havre, which is still in French hands. As the coach jounces along, the passengers eye one another and try to determine each other's social status. There are an upstart wine merchant and his wife, a well-established mill owner and his wife, a Comte and Comtesse, a politician, two nuns, and a woman of easy virtue, known as Boule de Suif (Ball of Fat or Dumpling). At first the passengers are careful to maintain their distances from one another based on social standing, but after many hours of travel beyond what they were expecting, they are ready and willing to take advantage of Boule de Suif's offer to share her generous feast, which she had the foresight to pack. Over chicken legs and bottles of claret, the group bonds and social distinctions cease to be the overriding concern.

At the inn where they stop for the night, a Prussian officer makes a pass at Boule de Suif, who rebuffs him. Stung, the officer refuses to let the party continue their journey until she sleeps with him. A staunch patriot, she continues to refuse, while the others slide from outrage on her behalf to frustration that they are being held hostage to her denial. The story that unfolds is both sad and seemingly inevitable. ( )
  labfs39 | Sep 16, 2013 |
A nice story, on an interesting idea, but Maupassant would go on and create much better things later. It was his first published work and I think it shows. There's nothing wrong technically, and the story has heart, but it feels a little like an academic exercise in writing a "good" short story at times. ( )
  DRFP | Feb 7, 2010 |
When I first read this terrific short story, years ago, I liked it very much but failed to see how elegantly economical it is -- a complete story, on a subject worth the time, yet without a word wasted. Highly recommended. ( )
  grunin | Apr 1, 2006 |
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» Add other authors (46 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Guy de Maupassantprimary authorall editionscalculated
Brown, AndrewTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Colet, RogerTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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"It is 1870: northern France is occupied by Prussian troops, and a carriage travelling from Rouen to Dieppe is held up by the invading forces. The price of the passenger's release: a night with the on-board whore." "Butterball is a prostitute with scruples. A staunch Bonapartist, but disdained by her bourgeois fellow-travellers on account of her profession, she nonetheless shares her provisions with them; sleeping with a Prussian officer for their sake is, however, a bridge too far. The solidarity the other characters initially assume is gradually worn down by boredom and fear, and together they set about persuading her of the righteousness of self-sacrifice. Maupassant's satire of bourgeois hypocrisy and cowardice is here complemented by a selection of his other short stories, all linked by common themes of gender and petty prejudice, great and unexpected courage, and the mean, narrow-minded motivations of the bourgeoisie."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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