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Pierre and Jean (1887)

by Guy de Maupassant

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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9211617,870 (3.65)70
'Monsieur de Maupassant has never before been so clever.' Henry JamesHenry James's admiration for 'this masterly little novel' has been echoed throughout the twentieth century by readers of Pierre et Jean. It marked a turning-point in the development of French fiction, situated as it is between traditional social realism and the psychological novel. It isrecognized 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 offamily life.… (more)
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» See also 70 mentions

English (14)  Italian (1)  French (1)  All languages (16)
Showing 1-5 of 14 (next | show all)
I read this because it's on my 100 Books list, and found myself v.much enjoying it. The style (at least in translation) is both readable and elegant and I found the content pleasantly reminiscent of Zola, in that there is a strong focus on human nature and failings. ( )
  Tara_Calaby | Jun 22, 2020 |
This story is set in the Normandy coast land and features a look at the family of brothers Pierre and Jean. Pierre is the older brother and is 30 described as dark, doesn't know what he wants and has started one career after another and currently is now a doctor but he has not established a career yet. He is ill tempered but very fond of his mother. He also is fond of knowledge and intelligence. Jean is 25 year old and fair haired and calm. He is a lawyer and has not launched his career either. Mother is Louise and she is married to Gerome Roland and former jeweler who is a sailor wanta be. Roland is impervious to everything and admires nothing more than leisure. In addition, there is the widow Miss Rosemilly, 23 y/o woman who is described as strong and agile with a wealth of her own. She is also described as a hunter and certainly is better at hunting prawns that Jean.

The older brother has always been jealous of his younger brother but this is exasperated when Jean becomes the sole heir to a family friend's estate. This is a story of jealousy and the harm that can come from family secrets and jealousies.

A couple of quotes that I liked;
"I'm taking lessons, learning how a man prepares himself to be a cuckold." and
"How ugly life is! If for once you find a little sweetness in it you are wicked to enjoy it and pay very heavily for it later.

I really enjoyed the descriptions of the Normandy coastline, the homeland of the author ( )
  Kristelh | Dec 10, 2018 |
304 books ago, I reviewed Bel Ami, my first Maupassant novel and, coincidentally, the one he wrote just before this one. Thankfully, although it still deals with the worst of our fallen nature, at least you have some sympathy and understanding for the characters involved. With Bel Ami, I just wanted to punch the protagonist in the face.

Pierre and Jean are brothers, young men on their verge of finding their ways in the world. The underlying frictions caused by their very different natures rupture when one of them becomes the sole beneficiary of the heavily-laden will of a fairly obscure old friend.

It’s not just the brothers who have a hard time interpreting this injustice; the event also threatens to destroy the entire family as various skeletons are let loose from their closets to redefine relationships in unexpected ways.

Maupassant can definitely write and he does a very good job in what is a very short novel of constructing the characters with enough substance that the realism comes across quite forcefully. You find yourself siding with pretty much everyone except the father and that’s only because he seems too reflective to grasp what’s really happening.

In writing this way, Maupassant cleverly engages your sympathies and challenges you to evaluate your response to the moral dilemma which subsequently confronts you when the truth is revealed. That’s clever and, at the time it was written, would have created far more impact than in our much more liberal days. It’s a great example of what the novel is for: a portal to see our very own selves. ( )
1 vote arukiyomi | Dec 17, 2016 |
Pierre and Jean are brothers who have just finished their degrees in medicine and law when they receive the news that a family friend has died and made Jean the sole heir of a decent sum of money. Pierre contains his jealously relatively successfully, but he is not able to contain his feelings when others suggest that there must have been a reason one brother was favored over the other. Pierre notices that there is a strong physical resemblance between Jean and his benefactor while the brothers look nothing alike. Pierre’s suspicions of his mother’s infidelity weigh so heavily on his mind that he is unable to think of anything else until he confronts her and Jean.

I really liked this novel. The pace moved nicely, and the story was compelling. I hadn’t read Maupassant before, and now I’m looking forward to reading more of his work. ( )
  AmandaL. | Jan 16, 2016 |
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 |
Showing 1-5 of 14 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (29 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Maupassant, Guy deAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Angiolillo Zannino, GioiaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Calvino, ItaloIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Tancock, LeonardTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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'Monsieur de Maupassant has never before been so clever.' Henry JamesHenry James's admiration for 'this masterly little novel' has been echoed throughout the twentieth century by readers of Pierre et Jean. It marked a turning-point in the development of French fiction, situated as it is between traditional social realism and the psychological novel. It isrecognized 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 offamily life.

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