Synopses & Reviews
Widely considered to be the greatest short story writer in all of French literature, Guy de Maupassant helped define the modern short story, deeply influencing the likes of Chekhov, Maugham, Babel, and O. Henry. Yet despite his mastery of the form, existing English translations continue to render his prose in an archaic, nineteenth-century style. Convinced that this Parisian civil servant and protégé of Flaubert deserved to be modernized in the same way that Lydia Davis had brought Madame Bovary to coruscating life, Sandra Smith selected twenty-eight classic Maupassant short stories, including "The Necklace," his devastating depiction of aspiration and ruin, as well as two novellas, "Le Horla" and "Boule de Suif," widely considered his masterpiece. All written between 1880 and 1890--three years before Maupassant's death at the age of forty-three--and divided thematically into tales of French life, war, and the supernatural, promises to reintroduce Maupassant to twenty-first-century readers.
"Smith successfully captures Maupassant's depiction of 19th-century French culture using terminology that allows these wonderful texts to reach a fresh generation of readers. A solid translation of some wonderful short stories." Erica Swenson Danowitz
"Sandra Smith has a sterling reputation for shaking the dust off previous translations while leaving the meaning and the feeling of a classic work of literature intact. She has succeeded again with this beloved collection of stories by Maupassant and delivered in English the vitality and excitement his first nineteenth-century French readers appreciated." Richard Howard
"It is a great relief to lovers of literature (including, I should imagine, the ghost of Guy de Maupassant) to read Sandra Smith's superb translation of thirty of the three hundred Maupassant stories in an arrangement suggesting a culture of relation, of structure, of completion. It is my hope that this sensitive selection of Maupassant's stories will move readers on to Maupassant's novels, a literary form with not only the tyronic connection of shorter to longer, but the attributes of range, development, and consummation." Library Journal, Starred review
"Maupassant may have known more about venality and lust than any writer of his age, and yet he remains an artist of surprising delicacy and extraordinary range. The nightmares of war and of one's own obsessions, the sorrows of marriage and love, the delusions of pride: Sandra Smith's masterful new translations show it all to us, in a language as supple and brisk as the French original itself, and her selection includes many little-known masterpieces alongside some of his most famous tales." Alice Kaplan, John M. Musser Professor of French, Yale University or author of Dreaming in French
"This new translation of Guy de Maupassant's short stories sings. No one has rendered Maupassant's quick, compact, genteel style better than Sandra Smith... is a superb introduction to what it must have felt like to live at the end of the nineteenth-century in and around Paris: a must-read alongside the world of Impressionist painting and music, a delightful 'day in the country' without leaving home." Michael Gorra, author of Portrait of a Novel: Henry James and the Making of an American Masterpiece
"Sandra Smith's new translation gives us a Maupassant for the twenty-first century: lively, sparkling, and sharp-edged. Smith brings Maupassant out of the museum and makes him our contemporary." R. Howard Bloch, Sterling Professor of French at Yale University
From the best-selling translator of Némirovsky's comes this bold new translation that reinterprets Guy de Maupassant's best works for a new generation.
A Parisian civil servant turned protege of Flaubert, Guy de Maupassant is considered not only one of the greatest short story writers in all of French literature but also a pioneer of psychological realism and modernism who helped define the form. Credited with influencing the likes of Chekhov, Maugham, Babel, and O. Henry, Maupassant had, at the time of his death at the age of forty-two, written six novels and some three hundred short stories. Yet in English, Maupassant has, curiously, remained unappreciated by modern readers due to outdated translations that render his prose in an archaic, literal style.
In this bold new translation, Sandra Smith the celebrated translator of Irene Nemirovsky's Suite Francaise brings us twenty-eight of Maupassant's essential stories and two novellas in lyrical yet accessible language that brings Maupassant into vibrant English. In addition to her sparkling translation, Smith also imposes a structure that captures the full range of Maupassant's work. Dividing the collection into three sections that reflect his predominant themes nineteenth-century French society, the Franco-Prussian War of 1870 71, and the supernatural Smith creates "an arrangement suggesting a culture of relation, of structure, of completion" (Richard Howard).
In "Tales of French Life," we see Maupassant explore the broad swath of French society, not just examining the lives of the affluent as was customary for writers in his day. In the title story of the collection, "The Necklace," Maupassant crafts a devastating portrait of misplaced ambition and ruin in the emerging middle class.
The stories in "Tales of War" emerge from Maupassant s own experiences in the devastating Franco-Prussian War andcreate a portrait of that disastrous conflict that few modern readers have ever encountered. This section features Maupassant's most famous novella, "Boule de Suif."
The last section, "Tales of the Supernatural," delves into the occult and the bizarre.While certain critics may attribute some of these stories and morbid fascination as the product of the author's fevered mind and possible hallucinations induced by late-stage syphilis, they echo the gothic horror of Poe as well asanticipate the eerie fiction of H. P. Lovecraft.
The result takes readers from marriage, family, and the quotidian details of life to the disasters of war and nationalism, then to the gothic and beyond, allowing us to appreciate Maupassant in an idiom that matches our own times.The Necklace and Other Storiesenables us toappreciate Maupassant as the progenitor of the modern short story and as a writer vastly ahead of his time.
About the Author
Born in Normandy, Guy de Maupassant (1850-1893) is the author of over three hundred short stories and six novels, including Bel Ami and Pierre et Jean. He is widely considered to be one of the fathers of the modern short story.Sandra Smith is the translator of Camus' The Stranger and Nemirovsky's Suite Française, which won her the French American Foundation and Florence Gould Foundation Translation prize (2006) and the PEN/Book-of-the-Month-Club Translation Prize (2007). She lives in New York.