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Guy de Maupassant

Guy de Maupassant Guy de Maupassant[2†]

Henri René Albert Guy de Maupassant (1850–1893), known as Guy de Maupassant, was a French master of the short story, emblematic of naturalism. Influenced by Gustave Flaubert, his works portray human existence and social dynamics in disillusioned tones. Set against the Franco-Prussian War backdrop, his narratives reveal the futility of conflict and its impact on innocent civilians. Maupassant's succinct style and impactful conclusions mark his 300 short stories, six novels, and other literary works. "Boule de Suif" (1880) stands as his renowned debut, epitomizing his literary prowess[1†][2†].

Early Years and Education

Guy de Maupassant was born on August 5, 1850, at the Château de Miromesnil, near Dieppe, France[1†][3†]. He was the elder of the two children of Gustave and Laure de Maupassant[1†]. His paternal ancestors were noble, and his maternal grandfather Paul Le Poittevin was the artist Gustave Flaubert’s godfather[1†][3†].

His parents separated when he was 11 years old after his mother, Laure Le Poittevin, left his father Gustave de Maupassant[1†][3†]. She took custody of Guy and his younger brother, and it was her influence that led her sons to develop an appreciation for literature[1†][3†].

In his youth, Maupassant was fond of fishing and boating and of writing verse[1†][4†]. He was educated at the Rouen lycée and at the University of Caen[1†][4†]. After serving in the Franco-Prussian War (1870–71), he went to Paris where his father found him a job as a government clerk[1†][4†].

In 1869, de Maupassant began studying law in Paris, but by the age of 20, he decided against a legal profession[1†][5†]. He volunteered to serve in the army during the Franco-Prussian War, and between the years 1872 and 1880, he was a civil servant, first at the ministry of maritime affairs, and then at the ministry of education[1†][5†].

Career Development and Achievements

After serving in the Franco-Prussian War from 1870-71, Guy de Maupassant began his career as a civil servant, first working in the French Navy Department and later in the Ministry of Public Instruction[3†][6†]. During this time, he also wrote under various pen names, including Guy de Valmont and Joseph Prunier[3†][6†].

Maupassant moved from Normandy to Paris after the war[3†]. It was here that he became a protégé of Gustave Flaubert, a renowned French novelist[3†][2†][7†]. Flaubert took him under his wing, guiding him in his development as a writer and introducing him to some of the leading French writers of the day, including Émile Zola and Ivan Turgenev[3†][2†].

Maupassant first gained attention with his story “Boule de Suif” (“Ball of Fat”), published in 1880[3†][1†][2†][7†]. This story, which is often considered his finest work, marked the beginning of his literary career[3†][2†][7†]. Over the next decade, Maupassant’s prolific output included some 300 short stories, six novels, and three travel books[3†][1†][2†][7†].

His stories are characterized by their economy of style and efficient, seemingly effortless dénouements[3†][2†]. Many of his works are set during the Franco-Prussian War, describing the futility of war and the innocent civilians who, caught up in events beyond their control, are permanently changed by their experiences[3†][2†].

Maupassant’s works, which depict human lives, destinies, and social forces in disillusioned and often pessimistic terms, have led him to be celebrated as a master of the short story and a representative of the naturalist school[3†][2†].

First Publication of His Main Works

Guy de Maupassant’s literary career spanned over a decade, during which he wrote 300 short stories, six novels, three travel books, and one volume of verse[2†]. His works are celebrated for their economy of style and efficient, seemingly effortless dénouements[2†].

Here are some of his main works:

Each of these works reflects Maupassant’s mastery over the short story and novel formats. His stories often depict the futility of war and the innocent civilians who, caught up in events beyond their control, are permanently changed by their experiences[2†].

Analysis and Evaluation

Guy de Maupassant is generally considered to be the most significant French short-story writer[8†]. Unlike other important nineteenth-century French prose writers such as Honoré de Balzac and Flaubert who are better known for their novels than for their short stories, Maupassant created an extensive corpus of short stories that reveals an aesthetically pleasing combination of wit, irony, social criticism, idealism, and psychological depth[8†].

His stories often depict the futility of war and the fear of death, hypocrisy, the search for happiness, the exploitation of women, and contrasts between appearance and reality[8†]. His characters illustrate the extraordinary diversity in modern society, from prostitutes to adulterous husbands and wives and from peasants to aristocrats[8†]. Even during his lifetime, his short stories were appreciated both within and beyond the borders of France[8†].

Maupassant’s work exerted a profound influence on many major short-story writers, including Thomas Mann, Katherine Mansfield, and Luigi Pirandello[8†]. His preface to Pierre and Jean has attracted a considerable amount of attention over the years because it reveals the profound influence that Gustave Flaubert exerted on Maupassant’s development as a writer[8†].

However, Maupassant occupies an ambiguous place in the history of modern literature. On the one hand, his short fiction has been disparaged as, at its best, mere trickery, and at its worst, probable pornography[8†][9†]. Despite these criticisms, his contribution to the sophistication of the traditional horror story by pushing it even further than did Edgar Allan Poe into the modern realm of psychological obsession and madness is undeniable[8†].

Personal Life

Guy de Maupassant’s personal life was marked by relationships and health struggles. It is widely believed that from 1880 to 1886, he was in a relationship with a woman named Gisele Estoc[6†]. He was also romantically involved with a woman named Josephine Litzelmann[6†]. He fathered three children - Honore Lucien Litzelmann, Jeanne Lucienne Litzelmann, and Marthe Marguerite Litzelmann[6†].

Maupassant was phenomenally promiscuous, and his health began to deteriorate due to syphilis before he was 25 years old[6†][7†]. His condition led him to attempt suicide in 1892, after which he was committed to an asylum[6†][7†]. He passed away at the age of 42[6†][7†].

Despite these personal challenges, Maupassant’s influence as a writer remained significant, and his works continue to be celebrated for their form and artistry[6†][1†][2†].

Conclusion and Legacy

Guy de Maupassant’s legacy is profound and enduring. He is often described as the father of the modern short story[3†], a literary form that’s more condensed and immediate than the novel[3†]. His work was admired by his contemporaries and imitated by those who came after him[3†]. His influence extended to a great number of writers including William Somerset Maugham, O. Henry, Anton Chekhov, Kate Chopin, and Henry James[3†][10†].

Despite his personal struggles and early death, Maupassant’s prolific and deeply admired body of work continues to be widely read and translated into many languages[3†][2†][1†]. His stories, characterized by their economy of style and efficient, seemingly effortless dénouements[3†][2†][1†][11†], remain a significant contribution to French literature and the short story genre.

Maupassant’s life and work serve as a reminder of the human capacity for creative expression, resilience, and enduring impact, even in the face of personal and health challenges[3†][10†]. His legacy continues to inspire and influence writers and readers alike[3†][10†].

Key Information

References and Citations:

  1. Britannica - Guy de Maupassant: French writer [website] - link
  2. Wikipedia (English) - Guy de Maupassant [website] - link
  3. ThoughtCo - Biography of Guy de Maupassant, Father of the Short Story [website] - link
  4. Britannica Kids - Guy de Maupassant [website] - link
  5. American Society of Authors and Writers - Guy de Maupassant [website] - link
  6. The Famous People - Guy De Maupassant Biography [website] - link
  7. Britannica - Guy de Maupassant summary [website] - link
  8. eNotes - Guy de Maupassant Analysis [website] - link
  9. eNotes - Guy de Maupassant World Literature Analysis [website] - link
  10. American Literature - Guy De Maupassant [website] - link
  11. Goodreads - Author: Guy de Maupassant (Author of Bel-Ami) [website] - link
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