Posts So Far for Paris in July 10
1. Colette- Two Early Short Stories
2. The Black Notebook by Patrick Modiano
3. "A Duel" by Guy de Maupassant ( A Franco-Prussian War Story)
4. Life, Death, and Betrayal at The Hotel Ritz in Paris by Tilar Mazzeo (non fiction)
5. How the French Invented Love by Marilyn Yolem (literary history)
6. "The Lost Child" by Francois Coppée
During Paris in July Year Eight in 2015 I read and posted upon one of the short stories of Francois Coppée, "A Piece of Bread". In this story an affluent young Parisian Born to wealth joins the French Army during the Franco-Prussian War (1870. - 1871). He learns a very valuable lesson from a poor soldier with whom he unexpectedly becomes friends which makes him a better man, more sensitive to the sufferings of others.
Coppeé has fallen out of fashion due to his participation in anti-Semitic societies and his anti-Dreyfus views. I admit this does somewhat turn me against him but still he is a good, if kind of sentimental writer. I have read now two of his stories and enjoyed them both. Both have a common theme, a wealthy self-absorbed man comes into very close contact with a very good hearted poor person, the common man, and is transformed into a better more emphatic man through this contact.
As I read Coppée very enjoyable but maybe a bit cliched story, "The Lost Boy", set in Paris, my first reaction was, "aha, The French answer to Dickens' A Christmas Carol". The main character is a very
rich French businessman, he deals in the stock market, he produces nothing and his only goal is to become richer. His associates are all of the same mind, his latest project is a public sale of stock in a company he knows will soon be out of business, leaving no value for those who bought the stock. Maybe ten years ago he married a very nice younger woman, he paid of her father's substantial debts. She soon has a son and dies when the boy is six month old. The man totally loves the boy but he can find only 15 minutes a day to spend with him. Of course he has servants to care for the boy, including a dedicated to him German woman (hint Germans were not popular in France in 1909). When he goes to work on Christmas Eve he tells his servants to buy the boy a lot of presents, giving them money.
I don't want to spoil the plot too much as this is a good fun to read story. The man's valet, and the boy's yaya burst into his office, the maid is hysterical. The valet tells his boss that the son, now ten or so, is missing. They have reported it to the police. The man in a wild panic runs to the police station nearest his mansion. Leaving more untold but to say it ends well and the man is forever changed by his contact with a near saintly working man, a widower just like him.
Yes this is very sentimental but I think you will enjoy it, I know I did. You can find it online.
I read this in a brand new anthology, A Very French Christmas: The Greatest French Holiday Stories of All times, published last month by New Vessel Press. I will post in detail on this book soon. I will read this month at least three more stories from this collection, which the publisher kindly gave me, including one by Irene Nemirovsky.
There is another story by Coppée in this collection and I hope to read it for Paris in July 11 in 2018.