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

Friday, July 3, 2015

"Two Friends" by Guy de Maupassant ("Deux Amis", 1883, translated by Sandra Smith, 2015)

I was very happy to see  Thyme for Tea's post announcing that she be hosting once again an event devoted to all things related to Paris, Paris in July # 6.   This will be my fourth year as a participant.  You can participate in a lot of ways  besides posting on literature related to Paris.  Pretty much anything tied into Paris is very welcome.  Her webpage has lots of suggestions. 

Guy de Maupassant published  just over 300 short stories and six novellas.  He is widely considered one of the founders of the modern short story.  His work and his life was very much Paris centered.

I was recently given a copy of a forthcoming soon anthology of selected short stories by Guy de Maupassant.  The stories are newly translated by Sandra Smith whose previous work was her award winning translation of Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovskyn.  Her objective is to take produce modern versions of the archaic translations of de Maupassant that have limited his readership in the anglophone literary world.  The publisher's blurb says the goal  is to do what Lydia Davis did for Madame Bovary.

The collection is well introduced and the translations are a delight to read.  Maupassant wanted to produce stories that would make people buy his work.  He lived from his writings.  I think Smith has caught this.  I do have an E Book of his complete works and the language in the 100 year old plus translations there is very old fashioned.  Smith divides the stories into three sections, French Life, Prussian War Stories and occult stories.  

"Two Friends", reading time five minutes, is set during the German occupation of Paris during the Franco-Prussian War, 1870.  This was a terribly dark and traumatic  period  for Paris and some of his acknowledged master works are set in this period.  The story focuses on two middle aged men living in Paris during the occupation.  The men have not seen each other for a long time and have a chance encounter on the streets of Paris.  They talk briefly, they seem afraid to say too much, about his bad things are now but soon talk of happier times when they used on every Sunday to fish in the river.  On an impulse, it being Sunday, they decide to go fishing.  After going to their houses to get poles, each man has a family now, they proceed toward the river.  A French army officer in an unoccupied part of the city gives them the password they will need to give to French troops to get to the river.  As they fish happily and talk of the futility of war, a troop of twenty Germans take them captive.  The German Colonel chats in a cordial way with them about fishing then tells them unless they give him the password he will have them shot as spies.  I don't want to tell the close but it had to be hard for the French to read.

I think I will post on more of the stories in the new translations.  

Mel u


Anonymous said...

I only know a handful of de Maupassant's stories. I think I should get a volume for my third round of the Deal Me In Short Story Challenge which is something I've come to love doing in between longer works.

I'm not signed up for Paris in July this year, but I have had fun with it in the past. And I spent a real July in Paris on year. Loved it. ;-)

Mel u said...

Jamesteadsbooks. He has ten to twenty great stories. The anthology I mentioned is not a bad choice. Thanks as always for your comments.

Deb Nance at Readerbuzz said...

A new translation should open up this book to a whole group of new readers. Very exciting!

Here's my Paris in July post!

Mae Travels said...

Interesting that his stories could be re-translated to make them more appealing to a modern reader.
I wonder if his style could catch on again with modern writers. Thanks for the post!

Nadia said...

I've never read any Maupassant, but sounds like I need to. This story you wrote about sounds intriguing in its ability to say so much in such a short time. I definitely have to read it. Great post!

Tamara said...

Welcome Back Mel U - love your critical and educational reviews. I think Guy de Maupassant is on many participants lists this year. I am intrigued, like Mae, that translations can be so different. Lydia Davis (who also translated Madam Bovary) wrote a piece for the Paris Review about translations which is interesting to read. Thanks Mel, look forward to your other reviews, and perhaps seeing the conversations that occur as other bloggers also read Maupassant.

Louise said...

This sounds very interesting, I've never read any de Maupassant, but a five minute read sounds doable! Short stories can be an interesting introduction to a writer.

Matthew Selwyn said...

This looks like an anthology worth investing in - I've only read a few of his stories but this looks like a good opportunity to read them in as accessible form as they're ever likely to take in my lifetime! One of my friends is a big reader of French literature and I always feel very English-centric when talking to him about literature - any strong translation is always worth a look!

Mel u said...

Debbie Nance at Readerbuzz-the translations read a lot better than the old ones now in the public domain

Mae Travels- I guess English has changed a lot in the last 125 years so new translations are needed so the stories don't seem stilted

Nadia. Maupassant's stories for sure worth the few minutes it takes to read them

Tamara. Thanks so much for hosting this weekend wonderful event. I know it is time consuming

Louise. Short stories are good introductions.

Mel u said...

Matthew Selwyn. I agree, these will be the best translations we are likely to get. I now follow your very well done blog