Wednesday, December 21, 2005

DeMaupassant and Henry James

Guy de Maupassant is an undervalued writer. I've read all four of his novels, and they were fine.

As a child, I read his short story, Boule de Suif (Ball of Fat). I had been told that it was scandalous. I didn't understand it. I waited a few months, or maybe years, then read it again. I still didn't understand it. What had happened? The last time I read it, when I was grown up, I understood. It's about bourgeois ingratitude.

De Maupassant once said that marriage is an exchange of bad humors by day and bad odors by night.

I was startled by this story in the Literary Anecdotes book:

Guy, sitting in a restaurant in London with James, pointed to a woman sitting at a table and asked James to "go over and get her for me."

James explained that in England one had to be properly introduced.

Guy pointed to another woman. "Surely you know her, at least? Ah, if I only spoke English!"

When James declined, for about the fifth time, to introduce him, de Maupassant said, irritably, "Really, you don't sseem to know anyone in London."

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