Guy de Maupassant

The short story form is not easy to master. Many accomplished writers who attempt it produce tales that lack resolution. My favourite author of such brief forms of story-telling is Guy de Maupassant, a Frenchman who wrote in the nineteenth century. He says in a few pages what some cannot convey in an entire book.

Most of his stories are only a few pages long, and I prefer them to the six novels that he wrote. The most famous of these is ‘Bel-Ami’, which has been filmed several times. The Franco-Prussian War formed the backdrop for some of his work, showing ordinary citizens caught up in events beyond their control.

He liked writing moral stories about the peasants of Normandy, with their sly, earthy and penny-pinching ways. A good example of this is ‘A Piece of String’, in which a misunderstanding over a miserly action leads into an accusation of theft.

Death stalks the worlds that his characters inhabit, and revenge is always imminent. Maupassant eventually descended into madness, but not before penning several brilliant depictions of psychological horror. Of these, the disembodied and murderous hand in ‘The Hand’ has been stolen several times for films and television horror series.

‘The Horla’ is a haunting description of a man who is joined by a supernatural being, or is he imagining things – or losing his mind?

‘Idyll’ is laden with eroticism, while ‘Regret’ is a cautionary tale about how faint heart never won fair maiden. It should be read by anyone who has a long felt want for a prospective partner.

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