Includes The Necklace, Butterball, The Tellier House, On the Water, Mademoiselle Fifi, The Mask, The Inn, A Day in the Country, The Hand, The Jewels, The Model, The Entity (The Horla)
These stories--poignant scrutinies of social pretension, wicked tales of lust and love, and harrowing examinations of terror and madness--display the full genius of Guy de Maupassant in an enthralling new translation by Joachim Neugroschel. They reveal Maupassant's remarkable range, his technical perfection, his sexual realism, and his ability to create whole worlds and sum up intricate universes of feeling in a few pages
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February 18, 2003
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Excerpt from The Necklace and Other Tales by Guy de Maupassant
The Necklace She was one of those pretty and charming girls who, as if through some blunder of fate, are born into a family of pen pushers. She had no dowry, no prospects, no possibility of becoming known, appreciated, loved, of finding a wealthy and distinguished husband. And so she settled for a petty clerk in the Ministry of Education. Unable to adorn herself, she remained simple, but as miserable as if she’d come down in the world. For women have no caste or breed; their beauty, their grace, and their charm serve them in lieu of birth and family background. Their native finesse, their instinct for elegance, their versatile minds are their sole hierarchy, making shopgirls the equals of the grandest ladies. She suffered endlessly, feeling that she was meant for all delicacies and all luxuries. She suffered from the poverty of her apartment, the dinginess of the walls, the shabbiness of the chairs, the ugliness of the fabrics. All these things, which wouldn’t have even been noticed by any other woman of her station, tortured her and infuriated her. The sight of the Breton girl who did her humble housework aroused woeful regrets in her and desperate dreams. She fantasized about hushed antechambers with Oriental hangings, illuminated by high, bronze torchères, and with a pair of tall footmen wearing knee breeches and napping in spacious easy chairs because of the air made heavy by the heater. She fantasized about large drawing rooms lined with ancient silk, about fine furniture carrying priceless knickknacks, about small, fragrant, dainty parlors meant for five o’clock chats with the most intimate friends, well-known and sought-after men whose attention was envied and desired by all women. Whenever she sat down for supper at the circular table covered with the same tablecloth for three days, she faced her husband, who, removing the lid from the tureen, ecstatically declared: “Ah! A good stew! I don’t know of anything better!” But she fantasized about elegant dinners, about shiny silverware, about tapestries filling the walls with ancient figures and exotic birds in the midst of a magic forest; she fantasized about exquisite courses served in wondrous vessels, about gallantries whispered and listened to with sphinxlike smiles, while the diners consumed the rosy flesh of a trout or the wings of a grouse. She had no wardrobe, no jewels, nothing. And those things were all that she loved; she felt that they were what she’d been born for. She so dearly wanted to be liked, to be envied, to be seductive and in demand. She had a rich friend, from convent-school days, whom she stopped visiting because she suffered so deeply upon coming home. And she’d weep for entire days, weep with chagrin, with regret, with despair, and with distress. Now, one evening, her husband came home exuberantly, clutching a large envelope. “Look,” he said, “here’s something for you.” She ripped it open and pulled out a printed card bearing these words: The Minister of Education and Madame Georges Ramponneau ask Monsieur and Madame Loisel for the pleasure of their company at a soirée at the Ministry on Monday, 18th of January. Instead of being thrilled, as her spouse had hoped, she resentfully hurled the invitation on the table, muttering: “What do you want me to do with this?” “But darling, I thought you’d be pleased. You never go out, and this is an occasion, a wonderful occasion! I went to endless trouble to get our names on the list. Everyone wants an invitation. They’re greatly desired, and not too many clerks are invited. You’ll see the entire official world there.” She glared at him, irritated, and snapped impatiently: “What do you exp