was born at the Château de Miromesnil, near Dieppe in the
Seine-Maritime department. He became a writer of short stories and
novels. His short stories are characterised by their economy of
style and the efficient way in which the various threads within
them are neatly resolved. Some of his stories would now be considered
to be horror fiction.
Maupassants were an old Lorraine family who had settled in Normandy
in the middle of the 18th century. In 1846 his father had married
a young lady of the well-to-do bourgeoisie, Laure Le Poittevin.
With her brother Alfred, she had been the playmate of Gustave
Flaubert, the son of a Rouen surgeon, who was destined to have
a directing influence on her son's life. She was a woman of no
common literary accomplishments, very fond of the classics, especially
Shakespeare. Separated from her husband, she kept her two sons,
Guy and his younger brother Hervé.
he was thirteen years old Guy lived with his mother at Étretat,
in the Villa des Verguies, where between the sea and the luxuriant
country, he grew very fond of nature and outdoor sports; he went
fishing with the fishermen off the coast and spoke patois with
the peasants. He was deeply devoted to his mother.
first entered a seminary at Yvetot, but deliberately managed to
have himself expelled. From his early religious education he retained
a marked hostility to religion.
Then he was sent to the Rouen Lycée, where he proved a
good scholar indulging in poetry and taking a prominent part in
Franco-Prussian War broke out soon after his graduation from college
in 1870; he enlisted as a volunteer and fought gallantly. After
the war, in 1871, he left Normandy and came to Paris where he
spent ten years as a clerk in the Navy Department. During these
ten tedious years his only recreation was canoeing on the Seine
on Sundays and holidays.
Flaubert took him under his protection and acted as a kind of
literary guardian to him, guiding his debut in journalism and
literature. At Flaubert's home he met Émile Zola and the
Russian novelist Ivan Turgenev, as well as many of the protagonists
of the realist and naturalist schools. He wrote considerable verse
and short plays.
1878 he was transferred to the Ministry of Public Instruction
and became a contributing editor of several leading newspapers
such as Le Figaro, Gil Blas, Le Gaulois and l'Echo de Paris. He
devoted his spare time to writing novels and short stories. In
1880 he published his first masterpiece, "Boule de Suif",
which met with an instant and tremendous success. Flaubert characterized
it as "a masterpiece that will endure".
decade from 1880 to 1891 was the most fertile period of Maupassant's
life. Made famous by his first short story, he worked methodically
and produced two or sometimes four volumes annually. He combined
talent and practical business sense, which brought him affluence
1881 he published his first volume of short stories under the
title of La Maison Tellier; it reached its twelfth edition in
two years; in 1883 he finished his first novel, Une Vie (translated
into English as A Woman's Life), twenty-five thousand copies of
which were sold in less than a year. In his novels, he concentrated
all his observations scattered in his short stories. His second
novel Bel-Ami, which came out in 1885, had thirty-seven printings
in four months. His editor, Havard, commissioned him to write
new masterpieces and, without the slightest effort, his pen produced
works of style, description, conception, and penetration. At this
time he wrote what many consider to be his greatest novel, Pierre
a natural aversion for society, he loved retirement, solitude,
and meditation. He traveled extensively in Algeria, Italy, England,
Brittany, Sicily, Auvergne, and from each voyage he brought back
a new volume. He cruised on his private yacht "Bel-Ami",
named after his earlier novel. This feverish life did not prevent
him from making friends among the literary celebrities of his
day: Alexandre Dumas, fils had a paternal affection for him; at
Aix-les-Bains he met Taine and fell under the spell of the philosopher-historian.
continued to act as his literary godfather. His friendship with
the Goncourts was of short duration; his frank and practical nature
reacted against the ambience of gossip, scandal, duplicity, and
invidious criticism that the two brothers had created around them
in the guise of an 18th-century style salon. He hated the human
comedy, the social farce.
his latter years he developed an exaggerated love for solitude,
a predilection for self-preservation, and a constant fear of death
and mania of persecution, compounded by the syphilis he had contracted
in his early days. He was considered insane in 1891 and died two
years later, a month short of his 43rd birthday, on July 6, 1893.
de Maupassant is buried in the Cimetière du Montparnasse,
is one of the fathers of the modern short story. Unlike the more
psychologically oriented Turgenev and Chekhov, Maupassant delights
in clever plotting, and served as a model for Somerset Maugham
and O. Henry in this respect. His stories about real or fake jewels
("La parure", "Les bijoux") are imitated with
a twist by Maugham ("Mr Know-All", "A String of
Beads") and Henry James ("Paste"). As a stylish
writer with a huge popular appeal he may be compared to Georges