Man, do I dig Guy de Maupassant! I don’t think people read him that much any more, or study him, except maybe to translate in French class. I think his present semi-obscurity must be because he his forte wasn’t the kind of novel Oprah can recommend or the professors can assign, but rather the short story, a genre in deep commercial decline. He is seen by some as a commercial, popular hack and by others as an unbalanced raver (he did after all die insane), stigmas that would seem to be mutually exclusive, but which are still both applied. But if you read him you’ll see that his eye is quite remarkable – with breathtaking economy he’s able to nail characters with one unexpected detail and twist an original plot around them in a few deft movements. And yes, there’s hysteria and deep weirdness too — he’s the poet of obsession and mad love, as committed to the dark side as any Decadent and as swoony over nature and beauty as any Romantic, yet more clear sighted and insightful about society than any Naturalist. Maybe now that Lit Crit is an arm of Political Science, it’s his refusal to fall into any camp or color his vision with any ideology that’s hampered our modern appreciation of him. But UBU still gets it, and thank Dieu Maupassant wrote a lot and there are still multi volume editions of his works out there in which I can still find stories I haven’t yet read. If you don’t mind interesting dreams I prescribe reading one before bed. These quotes are from volume two of a four volume set of his works printed by the New Werner Company of Akron, Ohio in 1912.
During one of those sudden changes of the electric light, which at one time throws rays of exquisite pale pink, at another of liquid gold, as if it had been filtered through the golden hair of a woman, and at another of a bluish hue with varied tints, such as the sky assumes at twilight, in which the women with their bare shoulders look like living flowers.
I loved everything about her, her feline suppleness, her slow glance which seemed to glide from under her half closed lids, full of promises and temptation, her somewhat extreme elegance, and her hands – her long, delicate, white hands, with blue veins, like the bloodless hands of a female saint in a stain-glass window, and her slender fingers, on which glittered only the large blood-drop of ruby. Oh, heavens! To be her lover, to be her chattel, to belong to her, to devote one’s whole existence to her, to spend one’s last penny and sink in misery, only to have the glory, the happiness of possessing the splendid beauty, the sweetness of her kisses, the pink and white of her body with its demon-like soul all to myself, were it only for a few months!
He loved her with all the violence and passion of a man born to believe in absolute ideas.
She obtained absolute control of him, turning him into one of those delicious slaves, one of those madmen in ecstasy, whom a woman’s glance or a woman’s skirt will fling upon the stake of mortal passion.
My heart longed for her. It is a terrible yet delightful thing thus to be dominated by a young woman. It is almost torture, and yet infinite delight. Her look, her smile, her hair fluttering in the wind, the little lines of her face, the slightest movement of her features, delighted me, upset me, entranced me. She had captured me body and soul, by her gestures, her manners, even by her clothes, which seemed to take on a peculiar charm as soon as she wore them. I grew tender at the sight of her veil on some piece of furniture, or her gloves thrown on a chair. Her gowns seemed to me inimitable. Nobody had a hat like hers.
In her eye lurked a species of insanity, at once mystical and violent; and even more, a fever, an aggravated longing, impatient and impotent, for the unattained and unattainable.
At such times one feels that everything is at an end – one’s life, nay, the very universe. One gets a sudden, fearful glimpse of the abject misery of life; the isolation of every human being from his fellows; the black, hopeless solitude of the heart, which, nevertheless, cheats itself with dreams as long as life endures.
And perhaps some evening next spring, moved by a beam of moonlight falling through the branches on the grass at their feet, they will join and press their hands in memory of all this cruel and suppressed suffering; and perhaps, also this short embrace may infuse in their veins a little of the thrill they would not have known without it, and will give to those two dead souls, brought to life in a second, the rapid and divine sensation of intoxication, that madness, which gives to lovers more happiness in an instant than other mend find in a lifetime.