Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

"Idylle" by Guy de Maupassant-I need Some Help on this story!

"Idylle" by Guy de Maupassant (1881, 4 pages)

I need some help on this one!
woman breastfeeds a stranger on a train
how should we see this story

"Idylle" is open to several interpretations.   The facts of the story are fairly simple.    A man is riding on a train in the same compartment of a corpulent young woman (this was an acceptable even desirable body style in the times) with quite large breasts.     The man can see that the woman is lactating as her milk is flowing out and staining her clothes.    We are told the man is hungry and cannot help but stare at the large breasts of the woman.   We are told that the man is a carpenter by trade.   The woman is embarrassed by her condition and says unless her breasts are drained three times a day she will have considerable pain.   (We do not know if the woman is nursing her own child or is a wet nurse.)   The man is described for us as thin, dark, and carrying his carpenter tools.   

In the train compartment with them are an Italian farmer and his wife.   As the train enters a tunnel they open a large basket and have a feast.    As the pass through the tunnel the woman opens her blouse and lets her "huge" breasts out saying she can no longer stand the pain.   The man offers to relief her.

"The young man, confused, stammered: "But ... Madame ... ... I could relieve you."

She replied in a broken voice: "Yes, if you want. You will do me good service. I can not hold out, I can not."

He knelt in front of her, and she leaned toward him, carrying to his mouth in the gesture of a nurse, the dark tip of her breast. In the movement she made by taking her two hands to bring it towards this man, a drop of milk appeared at the top. He began to drink it eagerly, seizing that heavy breast in his mouth like a fruit. And he began to suckle in a greedy and regular way.

He had passed both his arms around the waist of the woman that he was holding to approach her, and he drank with slow sips with a movement of the neck, similar as the children one.
Suddenly she said: "That's enough for this one, take the other one now."
And he took the other with docility.
She had placed her hands on the back of the young man, and she was breathing forcefully now, happily, enjoying the breath of flowers mixed with blasts of air movement being thrown into the cars."
The question then becomes is the woman to be see as a Mary Magdalene type of woman feeding a Christ like figure with the flesh of her body in a kind of reversed Eucharist.    Is it a metaphor for the treatment and condition of the poor in France?
Is there a sexual element in this story?    The man's description seems to put him in the role of both child and sexual supplicate.    Interestingly, when I Googled this story,  I could find it translated only  on a web page that seems to be devoted to those who have a fetish for lactating women. Perhaps it is translated into English with another title but given that I could find about 300 of his other stories translated into English I wondered if this story is considered by some too sexual or near pornographic to place online.  
Guy de Maupassant (1850 to 1893-France-there is some background information on  him in my prior five posts on him) wrote about 300 short stories.   I have isolated (I think) about 10 of his most highly regarded stories and hope to post on them.   I think one of the best chapters in Frank O'Connor's The Lonely Voice-A Study of the Short Story is on de Maupassant and I will be initially concentrating on the stories he endorses as well as a few from book blogs I respect greatly.    I will also be taking a closer look at this chapter in O'Connor's book.   

I do not know if I am up for reading all 300 or so of his stories.   I have already read some I did not feel motivated to post on.   

Not long ago I read Issac Babel's short story "Guy de Maupassant", a very good work.   Babel said if he were asked to do an anthology of world's best short stories half of them would be by Anton Chekhov and half by Guy de Maupassant.

What is your favorite de Maupassant story or short novel?

You can read the story in English HERE-just keep in mind the web page is close to R-Rated-it is also available online in French

Mel u


Amateur Reader (Tom) said...

Your discovery of the use of this story by fetishists is hilarious. I'll take your word about that website!

I think you've got it - the final action is both a symbolic protest or statement about lack of sympathy for the poor and downtrodden, O'Connor's marginalized people (note the similarity with the use of food in Boule de Suif) and a piece of clever smut. The reader can feel both titillated and smart. And maybe virtuous and sophisticated, too.

Mel u said...

Amateur Reader-yes I sense de Maupassant equated food and sex somehow -some of the prostitutes in his stories are described as being very corpulent and their body parts are described with food metaphors. thanks as always for your comments and I hope you had a nice few days on the Prairie

Song said...

I've only ever read The Necklace by Maupassant, and another story that I cannot recall. I hadn't realised he wrote stories that were so sexually explicit!

I honestly didn't know what to think about what you'd written in your post on the story - except that I couldn't help cringing.

Amateur Reader's comment sounds like a good one...or maybe Maupassant was a bit of a creep? Either way I'm not really qualified to say anything as I haven't read more than one or two of his works...

Mel u said...

Risa-de Maupassant did have attitudes toward women that are not acceptable now, for sure-it is a story to make us think-

Suko said...

I would also need help understanding or interpreting this story!

Anonymous said...

There has recently been a short film that adapts this story for today:

Unknown said...

We read this story at school in Ireland in the late 1970s, therefore I am going to have to assume the clergy (went to private non-denominational school)
or my English teacher thought it appropriate for young teens 😳