Sunday, 21 April 2013

Short Story Sunday - Guy de Maupassant

On Horseback and Other Stories - Guy de Maupassant

Published by Capuchin Classics in 2008, this collection contains nine stories which originally appeared between 1877 and 1891:

  • On Horseback
  • Madame Tellier
  • Mademoiselle Fifi
  •  That Pig of a Morin
  • The Horla
  • The Necklace
  • The Piece of String
  • Two Little Soldiers
  • The Christening

The stories chosen for the collection are generally quite short - the longest tale and the only one I didn't enjoy is The Horla at 28 pages -  they are a varied bunch: some simple and light-hearted, some cynical and depressing and although the stories are not moralising they make profound points about life and society which leave you pondering the events of the story afterwards.

My two favourite stories from the collection: the title story and The Necklace are very similar. Both stories are set in Paris and feature middle income families showing off in an attempt to elevate their social status; both stories end in disaster, with the characters in a worse situation financially than they were before.

Other themes developed in the collection are: the betrayal of a friend, nationalism in the form of mocking occupying soldiers, how to deal with supernatural forces, the loss of reputation and how one's youth and status can result in less severe repercussions for unacceptable behaviour.

As I am taking part in Zoladdiction this month, I was very excited to see one of his novels, L'Assommoir, mentioned in the final story, The Christening. The narrator of the tale, a ship's doctor, says that we may have read about the evil effects of alcohol in "that admirable book entitled L'Assommoir" but that he has seen even worse results of "the divine poison" during his years as a doctor. He relates the story of a family in Brittany who end up in the most distressing situation as a result of their hard drinking. This really was a shocking story and as it was the last in the collection it made a lasting impression.

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