Author: Guy de Maupassant (1850–1893)
Translators: Albert M. C. McMaster, A. E. Henderson, Mme Quesada et al
Guy de Maupassant, full name Henri-Jean-Albert-Guy de Maupassant, was born near the town of Dieppe on the northern shores of France. At the age of 20, he enlisted in the army during the Franco–Prussian War (19 July 1870–10 May 1871). After the war, he went to work in Paris where he came under the wings of Gustave Flaubert, a childhood friend of his mother. The author of Madame Bovary introduced him to the leading writers of the day including Emile Zola, Henry James and Ivan Tugenev. Flaubert lived long enough to witness his protégé achieve national acclaim with Boule de Suif, a short story set in the Franco–Prussian War: Flaubert proclaimed it as “a masterpiece that will endure”. It remains Maupassant’s most famous work and its success launched a productive decade for Maupassant. In all, he wrote about 300 short stories and six novels.
Maupassant has suffered from syphilis since his 20s and it may have driven him insane. After he attempted suicide in 1892, he was committed to a private asylum in Paris where he died the following year.
Today, Maupassant is considered as a master of the modern short story, along with his contemporaries Anton Chekhov (1860–1904) and O. Henry (1862–1910).
What is the story about?
This collection includes The Necklace (sometimes translated as The Diamond Necklace) (1884), one of Maupassant’s most famous stories.
Maupassant’s literature was very much influenced by his mentor Gustave Flaubert, one of the founding fathers of Literary Realism. This movement is contrasted with the preceding Romanticism : Realism, as the term itself suggests, aimed to represent real life as it is, in all its ordinariness, without embellishment or idealisation. The focus is on the ordinary, not the extraordinary. Therefore, Maupassant’s characters are mostly ordinary persons dealing with the ordinary reality of their day-to-day lives.
Maupassant (like O. Henry but unlike Chekhov) often ends his stories with a twist.
The Necklace is a good example of the above styles. The central character Matilde, who reminds us of Flaubert’s Emma Bovary, was “born … into a family of clerks. She had no dowry, no expectations, no way of being known, understood, loved, married by any rich and distinguished man; so she let herself be married to a little clerk of the Ministry of Public Instruction.” The surprise ending is one of the most famous in literature.
Easily digestible read.