A Day in the Country and Other Stories

A Day in the Country and Other Stories

A Day in the Country and Other Stories

A Day in the Country and Other Stories

Synopsis

This selection of twenty-seven stories shows Maupassant at his comic, cruel, and brilliant best. In addition to the poignant title story, it includes one of the most famous tales ever written, The Necklace , and Le Horla, an account of a disintegrating personality that chillingly parallels the author's own decline into madness. All the stories demonstrate his genius for invention and his ability to write unblinkingly about the absurdity of the human condition, supporting Henry James' claim that in the annals of story-telling, Maupassant stands `like a lion in the path'.

Excerpt

Guy de Maupassant is one of the world's great storytellers. Curiously enough, this is not as grand a claim as might appear, for the short story, while admitted to be extremely difficult to manage successfully, has long been regarded as somehow second-rate, not least because it is generally felt to suffer from Cleverness. Perhaps it requires too much control, so that the reader feels manipulated, and because many short stories depend so much on irony or sudden reversals, they may seem over-contrived--like a joke which, once told, loses its tension. The artistically successful novel sweeps the reader up into a world which is recognizable and convincing, comes alive and spreads its tentacles the further we read. But the short story simply invites us to peer into a ready-made world where actions seem to be determined less by the organic evolution of character and situation than by the author's eagerness to show us to the exit as quickly as possible. Perhaps the major defect of the short story is that it is short. It is a song rather than a symphony.

Maupassant's standing has always been injured by considerations of this sort. During his lifetime he was the most popular author in France after Zola. Yet by the Great War his star had waned, weakened by the dwindling vogue for the short story and the brighter light shed by Freud, the introspective, self-analytical mood spread by Proust, and a host of compulsive practitioners of the novel which was already turning into the major form of literary expression of the twentieth century. Neither did he adopt a high profile in the aesthetic arguments of his day, nor did he express a cogent philosophy, and both omissions have harmed his name amongst the French who not only treasure all forms of abstraction, but indeed insist upon it in their great men. Furthermore Maupassant liked money and first published his work not in dignified books, but in newspapers and not always reputable magazines. There was, too, the difficulty that the variety of his subject matter created several . . .

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