Barnes on Maupassant
Julian Barnes reviews Guy de Maupassant's Afloat (ranslated by Douglas Parméen) and Alien Hearts (translated by Richard Howard), both published by NYRB. "On We Sail" London Review of Books, 31.21, 5 November 2009: 25-28.
One of the great examples of literary advice-giving took place in the summer of 1878. Guy de Maupassant was on the verge of becoming famous. As Flaubert’s literary nephew, and a member of the new group calling themselves Naturalists, he was already well known in Paris; three years previously, he had made his first appearance – as ‘le petit Maupassant’ – in the Goncourt Journal, delighting a company of already famous writers with a long story about Swinburne's decadent behaviour in Etretat. He had written poems, stories and journalism, coauthored a lewd play, and was working on his first novel, Une Vie. He was socially and sexually successful, and physically very fit: the previous summer, having bought a small boat on Zola's behalf, he had rowed it the 50 kilometres from Bezons to Zola’s house at Médan. Yet on 3 August, two days before his 28th birthday, he made the following complaints to Flaubert about life: 'Fucking women is as monotonous as listening to male wit. I find that the news in the papers is always the same, that the vices are trivial, and that there aren't enough different ways to compose a sentence.'Read the rest of Barnes's review online at the London Review of Books website.