27 September 2016

Guy de Maupassant: Contes de la bécasse | Tales of the Woodcock (1883)

I'll pass up on describing the exact nature of the signification of Contes de la bécasse, or Tales of the Woodcock as the book's title is translated in English. It's sufficient to say that it's pretty gruesome and involves eating woodcocks, and that the 'tales' involve a collection of stories told by a particular member of the meat-eating fraternity.

There are sixteen short stories here, a number involving cruelty to others (including animals as in the case of 'Pierrot'), several involving cruelty within the family. There are also a few really gruesome tales, as in the case of 'En mer', where the older Javel allows his younger brother to lose his arm as the alternative is saving it and losing his own boat.

Yes, money counts a lot for the characters in Maupassant's literature, as in 'Le Testament', which again involves (slightly reminiscent of Pierre et Jean) 'illegitimate' half-brothers. People are avaricious to the point of being penny-pinching, they're violent, despicable, but the victims, the reader is made to feel, are certainly worthy of sympathy.

It's a long time since I've read any Maupassant, but the exercise has reminded me of his irony and his power in general as a writer, and I'm certainly grateful for the person who left two of his books at his grave. I shall return them to the place I found them, hoping that others will read them and do the same.

My other Guy de Maupassant post:

Maupassant: Pierre et Jean

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