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Thread: Me and Guy

  1. #1
    Registered User Steven Hunley's Avatar
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    Me and Guy

    Guy and Me
    Steven Hunley

    Some people will read anything. Me, I donít read just anything. I read the masters. The point is this. Theyíre so damn good, these masters, or Maestros of Letters, that even though their words and style are ancient, positively dusty in fact, their stories are still read today, and at this exact moment in time, thousands are reading their stories. We must give these maestros their due and recognition.

    Some who read English only read the English.

    Iím getting two slices of generic bread out of the wrapper and placing them on the cheap splintered plywood cutting board.

    ďYou can never trust a translation anyway,Ē they argue. ďThereís so many ways to interpret a word. Check a thesaurus. They canít really be accurate all the time.Ē

    Iím getting the generic strawberry jelly out of the fridge.

    Well maybe. I really canít say. But I can say this. Some of the foreign stuff is good. Good old foreign stuff anyway. Like Maupassant. Right now Iím into Maupassant. Not because Iím a Francophile, or because Iím stuck up. Itís because right now Iím stuck down. Poor as a church mouse so to speak. Whatever language you speak. I donít even have a church. For how much they charge for this dump I call a home I should be renting a nice slice of heaven. But no. This is about a mile from Crime Compton, California, U.S.A.
    So the words will not be exactly right in translation, but the characters, the characters share something with me. I felt it at once when I read the first page of The Necklace.

    Like this:

    Guy de Maupassant
    The Necklace

    ďMathilde suffered ceaselessly, feeling herself born to enjoy all delicacies and all luxuries. She was distressed at the poverty of her dwelling, at the bareness of the walls, at the shabby chairs, the ugliness of the curtains. All those things, of which another woman of her rank would never even have been conscious, tortured her and made her angry. The sight of the little Breton peasant who did her humble housework aroused in her despairing regrets and bewildering dreams. She thought of silent antechambers hung with Oriental tapestry, illumined by tall bronze candelabra, and of two great footmen in knee breeches who sleep in the big armchairs, made drowse by the oppressive heat of the stove. She thought of long reception halls hung with ancient silk, of the dainty cabinets containing priceless curiosities and of the little coquettish perfumed reception rooms made for chatting at five o'clock with intimate friends, with men famous and sought after, whom all women envy and whose attention they all desire.Ē

    Iím getting the generic peanut butter off the splinted old shelf with the chipped yellow paint.

    Or maybe the translation:

    ď She suffered endlessly, feeling herself born for every delicacy and luxury. She suffered from the poorness of her house, from its mean walls, worn chairs, and ugly curtains. All these things, of which other women of her class would not even have been aware, tormented and insulted her. The sight of the little Breton girl who came to do the work in her little house aroused heart-broken regrets and hopeless dreams in her mind. She imagined silent antechambers, heavy with Oriental tapestries, lit by torches in lofty bronze sockets, with two tall footmen in knee-breeches sleeping in large arm-chairs, overcome by the heavy warmth of the stove. She imagined vast saloons hung with antique silks, exquisite pieces of furniture supporting priceless ornaments, and small, charming, perfumed rooms, created just for little parties of intimate friends, men who were famous and sought after, whose homage roused every other woman's envious longings.

    When she sat down for dinner at the round table covered with a three-days-old cloth, opposite her husband, who took the cover off the soup-tureen, exclaiming delightedly: "Aha! Scotch broth! What could be better?" she imagined delicate meals, gleaming silver, tapestries peopling the walls with folk of a past age and strange birds in faery forests; she imagined delicate food served in marvelous dishes, murmured gallantries, listened to with an inscrutable smile as one trifled with the rosy flesh of trout or wings of asparagus chicken.

    She had no clothes, no jewels, nothing. And these were the only things she loved; she felt that she was made for them. She had longed so eagerly to charm, to be desired, to be wildly attractive and sought after.Ē

    Iím not sure which one I like best, which translation. But I still relate to Mathilde. I could live with a woman like Mathilde. For good or for bad I like Mathilde immensely.

    So this is only page two. I am enthralled. I am taken with his style and use of small details to paint such a picture, of place and character. I feel there is something of Mathilde in me, or even better, that there is something of me in Mathilde. I would love to give something up for Mathilde. I understand her. Iím interested in her fate. Itís early in the story. There is plenty to come. Iím ready for it. I want it. I must have it, for, as fine and rare and valuable as it is, it is a free story. It proves that value isnít measured only in Pounds Sterling, Deutschmarks, Lira, or Yen.

    Iím making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with a butter knife that has been used to measure something nasty.

    Robert Lewis Stevenson knew of Mathilda too. Probably read it in 1884 in Le Gaulois. Me and Stevenson read the same stuff. That just warms my literary heart.

    Iíve got no milk so Iím gonna probably eat it with water. Just thick sticky yummy, thatís all I deserve.

    But like Mathilda, I know things could be better. I feel slighted. It should be Beluga caviar Iím washing down with Moet and Chandon, or Chateau LaFite Rothschild, 75.

    This story is over, on accounta I got peanut butter stuck on the roof of my mouth.

    Seriously, itís an abrupt end, and hurts me more than you.

    ©Steven Hunley 2011
    Last edited by Steven Hunley; 01-04-2013 at 11:50 PM.

  2. #2
    Registered User Delta40's Avatar
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    Fremantle Western Australia
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    Was it crunchy or smooth? A nice contrast of two worlds, I would say it was crunchy but your writing is definitely smooth Steve - so well executed!
    Before sunlight can shine through a window, the blinds must be raised - American Proverb

  3. #3
    The Ghost of Laszlo Jamf islandclimber's Avatar
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    Feb 2008
    Vancouver Island
    Steve. Intriguing story. I love the end of it. The abruptness of peanut butter stuck to the roof of the mouth. Beluga caviar, Moet et Chandon, Chateau Lafite Rothschild '75 play a stark contrast to a generic peanut butter and jelly sandwich with water. You place your own sandwich making vignettes in ideal spots, and the Robert Louis Stevenson reference is great. The only issue I had with it, was in your comparison of translations you went two paragraphs further with one than the other... Was there a reason for that? Regardless, I quite like this indirect dialogue between you and Maupassant. It works.
    Last edited by islandclimber; 01-08-2013 at 02:02 AM.

  4. #4
    Inexplicably Undiscovered
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    Jun 2007
    next door to the lady in the vinegar bottle
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    Well, whatever or whomever you're reading, it's been a good influence on you. You're one of the finest writers on the LitNet.

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