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Thread: First Read of Maupassant Short Stories - Unimpressed

  1. #1
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    First Read of Maupassant Short Stories - Unimpressed

    Let me first just say that I'm quite passed the stage in my life where I in any way think my opinion is an accurate judgement of the actual worth of a piece of art. That being said, I can't change what I like and what I don't like, and after reading a collection of short stories by Guy de Maupassant, I have to say I didn't really like them. Here's the list of stories I read (from the Wordsworth Classics edition):

    Boule de Suif
    Two Friends
    Madame Tellier's Establishment
    Madamoiselle Fifi

    Claire de Lune
    Miss Harriet
    The Necklace
    Madammoiselle Pearl
    The Piece of String
    Madame Husson's 'Rosier'
    That Pig of a Morin
    Useless Beauty
    The Other Orchard
    A Sale
    Love
    Two Little Soldiers
    Happiness


    Of these stories, the only ones I rally enjoyed were "Boule de Suif," "The Piece of String," and "The Other Orchard."

    The biggest problem I had with the stories and most of them were so damn depressing. I'm not usually one to shy away from dark tones in literature--I actually prefer them--but so many of these stories just end on complete downers, even the ones I like. The bad guys go unpunished, the good guy gets screwed, etc. It just got old. I get that that's a realistic way of telling stories, and it'd be equally as boring if they all ended happily, but a bit of justice now and then would have been nice. And the depressing endings weren't really my main issue; it's that the endings were usually completely uninteresting. So many times the stories would end in such an obvious way--it's like Maupassant didn't even try to think of an interesting ending. Some of the stories didn't even seem to have an ending at all, they just petered out. I don't want some twist ending every time but, come on, give me something.

    Maybe my expectations were set too high p, though I don't think that's unjustified as all I've heard about Maupassant is that he's one of, if not the, best short story writer of all time. These stories left me completely unimpressed. I know there was a lot of symbolism that I didn't pick up on (I could of, but I wasn't reading analytically--I rarely do when reading on my own for pleasure), so maybe reading from that perspective would've helped. It could have also been the translator (I've looked everywhere and can't find who it is in my rather cheap edition), but even a bad translation won't change the plot.

    Oh well, maybe I'll have better luck with O. Henry.

  2. #2
    Between Farce and Tragedy
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    I think he is over-rated too. I remember reading "The Necklace" and thinking hmmm, how is this one of the best short stories ever? Try Hanif Kureishi mate, he is simply an amazing short story writer.

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    The Poetic Warrior Dark Muse's Avatar
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    Though I do not believe I have read any of the stories listed about, I have to say that I love Maupassant, he is one of my favorite French writers among those I am familiar with. I think his writing has a lyrical beauty to it, and I love his humor. I think he is a great satirist.

    Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there, wondering, fearing, doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before. ~ Edgar Allan Poe

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    Registered User PoeticPassions's Avatar
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    I think I will agree that he is overrated... I have only read a couple of his short stories, and while I think they were good, they're definitely not my cup of tea. I enjoyed 'The Necklace' but I would never say it is one of the best stories, or one of my favorites...
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    Registered User Emil Miller's Avatar
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    Maupassant is a favourite of mine and I have read much of his work over a number of years. I first read him in a bad translation but I'm glad it didn't put me off going on to read him in the original. There are a couple of things useful to remember when reading this writer: first, he is quintessentially French and the ambiance of his stories, which are virtually all set in France, is very evocative of La Belle Époque : as are Zola's of the Second Empire. Secondly, he is credited with 300 short stories and obviously some are going to be better than others, but it is in his novels that he comes to the fore and, similarly, they vary in quality, but Bel Ami and Une Vie are worth anyone's time.
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    I think maybe I was expecting something different--I wasn't expecting the depressing tone at all. I bought the Oxford collection of stories (which has a Tom that aren't in the diction I read) because I want to give him another try. I think next time I'll like him more since I know what he's all about.

    I read Bel Ami, and like his short stories, I didn't dislike it but wasn't wowed by it either. I do find it funny how some people laud his novels as his best work while just as many, of not more, claim his best work lies in his short story writing.

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    Registered User Emil Miller's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mutatis-Mutandis View Post
    I think maybe I was expecting something different--I wasn't expecting the depressing tone at all. I bought the Oxford collection of stories (which has a Tom that aren't in the diction I read) because I want to give him another try. I think next time I'll like him more since I know what he's all about.

    I read Bel Ami, and like his short stories, I didn't dislike it but wasn't wowed by it either. I do find it funny how some people laud his novels as his best work while just as many, of not more, claim his best work lies in his short story writing.
    I think it's important to know that Maupassant died of syphilis after being committed to an asylum for the insane. It may have been as a result of the onset of his condition that his work has depressing overtones: they certainly manifest themselves more strongly towards the end of his life when he started writing weird hallucinogenic stories of the horror genre. Some years ago, I visited his grave in the Montparnasse cemetery in Paris and there were still flowers being left there by admirers of his writing.
    "Let us never tolerate outrageous conspiracy theories concerning the attacks of September 11th - malicious lies that attempt to shift blame away from the terrorists themselves, away from the guilty." George. W. Bush

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    Snowqueen Snowqueen's Avatar
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    Boule de Suif, A Vendetta, Olive Grove, and Rose, are my favorite short stories by Maupassant. I haven’t read Bel Ami or Une Vie, but I'm looking forward to read both.

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    Registered User Emil Miller's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Snowqueen View Post
    Boule de Suif, A Vendetta, Olive Grove, and Rose, are my favorite short stories by Maupassant. I haven’t read Bel Ami or Une Vie, but I'm looking forward to read both.
    Une Vie is usually translated in the English version as 'A Woman's Life.'
    It's a great story with, given all that has gone before, the best one-liner ending I can recall reading.
    "Let us never tolerate outrageous conspiracy theories concerning the attacks of September 11th - malicious lies that attempt to shift blame away from the terrorists themselves, away from the guilty." George. W. Bush

    "L'art de la statistique est de tirer des conclusions erronèes a partir de chiffres exacts."
    Napoléon Bonaparte

  10. #10
    Maupassant is not very good. He has some interesting positions but he's mostly confused and touching irrelevancies.

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    Quote Originally Posted by cafolini View Post
    Maupassant is not very good. He has some interesting positions but he's mostly confused and touching irrelevancies.
    This only seems to further validate Maupassant's greatness.

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    Registered User Emil Miller's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mutatis-Mutandis View Post
    This only seems to further validate Maupassant's greatness.
    Absolutely! That's the best endorsement Maupassant has ever had.
    "Let us never tolerate outrageous conspiracy theories concerning the attacks of September 11th - malicious lies that attempt to shift blame away from the terrorists themselves, away from the guilty." George. W. Bush

    "L'art de la statistique est de tirer des conclusions erronèes a partir de chiffres exacts."
    Napoléon Bonaparte

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    Outlook Gloomy Neely's Avatar
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    I agree with Emil's earlier suggestions in particular Bel Ami. I just loved this novel. Have you read any Chekhov short stories? I don't think I have read any that weren't brilliant.
    Last edited by Neely; 05-06-2012 at 06:14 PM.

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    The Horla is just up there with Turn of the Shrew or Black Cat as a brilliant psychological horror story. He may be very irregular, specially considering the ammount he wrote, but that is a rule for short story writers, they risk all in a few pages, so when it is unworth, just throw away. Maupassant is just one of those guys who can do it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Neely View Post
    I agree with Emil's earlier suggestions in particular Bel Ami. I just loved this novel. Have you read any Chekhov short stories? I don't think I have read any that weren't brilliant.
    Not yet, but he is in my to-read pile.

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