Deux par Guy de Maupassant

How profound that mystery of the Invisible is! We cannot fathom it with our miserable senses, with our eyes which are unable to perceive what is either too small or too great, too near to us, or too far from us – neither the inhabitants of a star nor of a drop of water.”

Over the last few days I’ve had the pleasure of reading a couple short stories by the french master, Guy de Maupassant (1850-1893). The first was in one of my “go to” anthologies – my 1941 edition of 1937’s “Great Ghost Stories of the World: The Haunted Omnibus” edited by Alexander Laing, with eerie yet beautiful illustrations by Lynd Ward. (title page pictured below)

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The first story, “The Horla,” was my favorite of the two. Having just been reminded of it from reading another blog (and I’ll be darned if I can remember which one now – if it was you, let me know so I can link and give you credit), I thought I would read it again as part of my seasonal reading for October.

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It is a story in the form of journal/diary entries of a man who is either losing his sanity, or being dogged by a supernatural entity (the titular “Horla”). At first, he is describing a “classic case” of the phenomenon known as “sleep paralysis” but over time it becomes more than that. Much more. The man’s struggles to free himself from, or even just understand the nature of, this entity lead him further down the path toward madness. The story can be read for free online here:

http://www.eastoftheweb.com/short-stories/UBooks/Horl.shtml

The other story was more pedestrian. **Spoiler Alert** Promisingly titled “Ghosts,” it sounded perfect for another seasonal read. Despite its title, it turned out to NOT include supernatural elements at all, but instead a scheming clergyman, taking advantage of the superstitions of one of the locals. I found this story via my iPhone app “Short Stories.” It may turn out to be memorable to me just because I learned a new word from it: “Latitudinarian” – from my Merriam Webster app – “not insisting on strict conformity to a particular doctrine or standard: tolerant; specifically, tolerant of variations in religious opinions or doctrine.” Actually, I think I may have a bit of Latitudinarian in me…

What are your experiences with Guy de Maupassant? Favorites? Recommendations?

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(above: Guy de Maupassant)

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8 Comments

  1. Dale said,

    October 29, 2012 at 9:57 am

    Thanks for sharing that new word, Jay! I had not heard of it either. It’s a good one. I haven’t read any of Guy de Maupassant, but I saw him on a list somewhere recently and thought he sounded interesting.

    Like

    • Jay said,

      October 29, 2012 at 12:53 pm

      I remember having to read GdM’s short story, “A Piece of String” for some English/Composition/Lit class back in high school. I also read The Horla once before back in 1995, I think. His writing is certainly impressive enough to make me want to read more.
      -Jay

      Like

  2. anatheimp said,

    October 29, 2012 at 8:03 pm

    He’s my favourite short story writer, Jay. His sense of irony is quite heartbreaking. Have a look at The Necklace and you will see what I mean. Here’s a piece on the author I wrote a couple of years ago. http://anatheimp.blogspot.com/2010/05/vanity-of-vanities.html

    Like

    • Jay said,

      November 6, 2012 at 7:53 am

      Hi Ana!
      Thanks for sharing the link to your post. Coincidentally, the story,The Necklace, cameo as an answer on theTV quiz show, Jeopardy, this week. I still hadn’t read this story, but,”playing along at home”,” was able to infer the answer. 🙂
      -Jay

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Nancy said,

    November 1, 2012 at 6:57 pm

    I enjoyed reading The Horla. It’s disturbing and the writer gives out great straight punches. I particularly like this line (or two) from the story: “How weak our mind is; how quickly it is terrified and unbalanced as soon as we are confronted with a small, incomprehensible fact. Instead of dismissing the problem with: “We do not understand because we cannot find the cause,” we immediately imagine terrible mysteries and supernatural powers.”

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    • Jay said,

      November 6, 2012 at 7:56 am

      Hi Nancy,
      The Horla was in the same volume as another story where the character is losing her mind, The Yellow Wallpaper, by Francis Perkins Gilman. Very good and somewhat disturbing too. I underlined the same passage you quote inmy reading. How true that is!
      -Jay

      Like

  4. January 27, 2017 at 12:13 am

    Well, in spite of The Horla being your favourite, Ghosts sounds intriguing too. I’ll have to place it next on my list of Maupassant’s short stories. The only other Maupassant I’ve read so far is The Necklace, which was excellent as well. I’m so happy to find such an enjoyable author!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jay said,

      January 27, 2017 at 9:45 am

      I think I’ve blogged about the necklace before, and have “heard its echoes” in other short stories that I’ve read for DMI.

      Another good think about Maupassant is that his stories are in the public domain 🙂

      Like


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