Biography (Dictionary of World Biography: The 19th Century)
Article abstract: Maupassant was one of the major literary figures at the end of the nineteenth century to help move short fiction away from the primitive folktale form to the short story of psychological realism. His most significant contributions to the form may be found in such affecting realistic stories as “Boule de Suif” and such powerful tales of psychological obsession as “The Horla.”
Henri-René-Albert-Guy de Maupassant was born on August 5, 1850. He was the first son of Laure Le Poittevin and Gustave de Maupassant, both from prosperous bourgeois families. When Maupassant was eleven and his brother Hervé was five, his mother, an independent-minded woman, risked social disgrace to obtain a legal separation from her husband. With the father’s absence, Maupassant’s mother became the most influential figure in the young boy’s life.
At age thirteen, he was sent to a small seminary near Rouen for classical studies, but he found the place unbearably dreary and yearned for home, finally getting himself expelled in his next-to-last year. He returned home to the influence of his mother, as well as her brilliant brother Alfred and his student and friend Gustave Flaubert. At age eighteen, Maupassant was enrolled at the Lycée de Rouen, and he began law studies soon afterward in Paris, only to have these studies interrupted by the Franco-Prussian War, for which he enlisted. After the war, he gained a position in the Naval Ministry, but under the tutelage of Flaubert he began to publish poetry and stories in various small journals. He also became part of a group of literary figures, including Alphonse Daudet, Émile Zola, and Ivan Turgenev, who met regularly at the home of Flaubert.
Maupassant’s first published story, “La Main d’écorché” (1875; “The Skinned Hand,” 1909), which was reworked in 1883 as simply “La Main” or “The Hand,” belongs to a tradition of supernatural short fiction that is as old as legend itself; in reworking the story, however, Maupassant grounded it in the revenge-tale tradition popularized by his countryman Prosper Mérimée and at the same time managed to make the story an ironic comment on supernatural fictions.
With the publication of “Boule de Suif” (1880; English translation, 1903), a tale which Flaubert praised extravagantly, Maupassant ceased working for the government and devoted himself to a career as a writer, excelling especially in the genre of the conte, or short story, which was quite popular at the time in periodical magazines and newspapers. Before achieving this initial success, however, Maupassant contracted syphilis, which was to take his life after a relatively brief writing career of ten years.
After the success of “Boule de Suif,” the touching story of the prostitute who reluctantly goes to bed with a Prussian officer in order to procure the release of her traveling companions, only to be scorned by them, Maupassant began to write anecdotal articles for two newspapers, the practice of which served as preparation for writing the short stories that were to make him famous.
His first full volume of short fiction appeared in 1881 under the title of his second important story, “La Maison Tellier” (1881; “Madame Tellier’s Establishment,” 1903), a comic piece about a group of prostitutes who attend a First Communion. After the success of this book, Maupassant published numerous stories in newspapers and periodicals. These stories were reprinted in volumes containing other Maupassant stories. Many of his stories created much controversy among the French critics of the time because he dared to focus on the experiences of so-called lowlife characters.
In addition to the realistic stories of the lower classes, Maupassant experimented with mystery tales, many of which are reminiscent of the stories of Edgar Allan Poe. Instead of depending on the supernatural, these stories focus on some mysterious dimension of reality which is justified rationally by the central character. As a result, the reader is never quite sure whether this realm exists in actuality or whether it is a product of the narrator’s obsessions.
After having published as many as sixty of Maupassant’s stories, the newspaper Gil-Blas began the serialization of his first novel, Une Vie (A Woman’s Life, 1888), in February, 1883, which was published in...
(The entire section is 1841 words.)
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Maupassant’s contributions to literature have often been overshadowed by the facts of his life. His sexual promiscuity, profligate Parisian lifestyle, and tragic death from syphilis (which was later frequently cited as an example of the dangers of sex) have often received more attention than his work.
Maupassant began his literary career with the publication of “Boule de Suif,” a touching story of a prostitute who reluctantly beds a Prussian officer in order to secure release of her traveling companions, who then scorn her. His first full volume of short fiction appeared in 1881 under the title of his second important story, “La Maison Tellier”—a comic piece about a group of prostitutes who attend a Holy Communion. After this book’s success, Maupassant published numerous stories in newspapers and periodicals that were reprinted in books that appeared at a rate of about two volumes a year. Many of his stories created considerable of controversy among the French critics of the time because he dared to focus on the experiences of so-called lowlife characters.
Maupassant’s first brush with censorship law occurred in 1879 with the publication of his poem “La Mur,” which was attacked as an “outrage on public morality.” Maupassant asked his most important mentor, Gustave Flaubert,...
(The entire section is 438 words.)
Biography (Critical Survey of Short Fiction, Second Revised Edition)
Henri-René-Albert Guy de Maupassant was born on August 5, 1850, in the Château de Miromesnil in the French province of Normandy. He was the first child of Gustave and Laure de Maupassant. Guy de Maupassant spent his childhood and adolescence in Normandy. His parents grew to dislike each other intensely, and they eventually separated. Laure did not want Gustave to play any role in rearing either Guy or their second son, Hervé. She was an overly protective mother, and she did not allow Guy to attend school until he was thirteen years old. Until he became a student in 1863 at a Catholic seminary school, Guy’s only teacher was the local parish priest. Guy became indifferent to religion, and at the age of seventeen he was expelled from the seminary school because of behavior judged to be unacceptable by his teachers. He completed his secondary studies in 1869 at a boarding school in Rouen.
In 1867, Maupassant met the celebrated novelist Flaubert, whom Laure had known for almost twenty years. Some fanciful critics have suggested that Flaubert was not only Maupassant’s literary mentor but also his biological father. Although there is no evidence to support this hypothesis, Maupassant did react with extreme displeasure and perhaps with excessive sensitivity to the frequently repeated remark that Flaubert had been his father.
Maupassant began his law studies at the University of Paris in 1869, but with the outbreak of hostilities in the...
(The entire section is 567 words.)
Biography (Critical Survey of Mystery & Detective Fiction, Revised Edition)
Henri-René-Albert-Guy de Maupassant was born on August 5, 1850, the eldest son of Laure Le Poittevin and Gustave de Maupassant, both from prosperous bourgeois French families. When Maupassant was eleven, his strong-willed mother obtained a legal separation from her husband. In the absence of her husband, Maupassant’s mother assumed an exaggerated importance in his life. The most important masculine figures for Maupassant during his youth were Alfred, his mother’s brilliant brother, and Alfred’s literary student, Gustave Flaubert . With the death of Alfred at a relatively young age, Flaubert began to have an even more significant role, encouraging the young Maupassant to write.
Maupassant’s education was aimed...
(The entire section is 312 words.)
Biography (Magill's Survey of World Literature, Revised Edition)
Born on August 5, 1850, in the imposing Château de Miromesnil, near Dieppe, France, Henri-René-Albert-Guy de Maupassant (moh-puh-SAHN) was the first son of Laure Le Poittevin and Gustave de Maupassant. Although both parents were from fairly well-to-do families, they were only renting the château where Maupassant was born. According to biographers, he probably was born in a small house nearby but was immediately taken to the château so his birth announcements would look more impressive. When the boy was eleven, his parents were legally separated, and he spent most of his youth with his mother, who became a powerful influence on his life.
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Biography (Magill's Survey of World Literature, Revised Edition)
Guy de Maupassant had as much to do with the development of the short-story genre in the late nineteenth century as Anton Chekhov did, albeit in somewhat different ways. Yet because such stories as “The Necklace” are so deceptively simple and seem trivial, Maupassant’s experiment with the form has often been ignored. Not until the short story itself receives the recognition that it deserves as a respectable literary genre will Maupassant receive the recognition that he deserves for his contribution to the perfection of the form.
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Biography (Masterplots II: Short Story Series, Revised Edition)
Although unnamed, the protagonist is approximately identical with the author, as the latter was in the winter of 1916-1917: a young Jewish writer from Odessa who has moved to the capital illegally, on the eve of the February Revolution.
The young writer, though poverty-stricken and selling almost nothing he has written, is so supremely confident that he spurns an offer of a job as a clerk. He sees himself as superior to Leo Tolstoy, whose religion was “all fear. He was frightened by the cold, by old age, by death.”
The narrator finds acceptable employment when Bendersky’s publishing house decides to bring out a new edition of Guy de Maupassant’s works; Bendersky’s wife, Raisa, has begun some...
(The entire section is 764 words.)
Biography (Cyclopedia of World Authors, Fourth Revised Edition)
Henri-René-Albert Guy de Maupassant (moh-pah-sah), born on August 5, 1850, at Château de Miromesnil, was descended from an old French family; his grandfather was a wealthy landowner in Lorraine, and the writer’s father was a stockbroker in Paris. As a boy, Maupassant went to school at Yvetot, in Normandy, and later attended the lycée at Rouen. During his childhood and youth in Normandy he observed and absorbed a great deal of the life he was later to use so effectively in his fiction.
Significant in the author’s life was the separation of his parents when he was eleven years old. His mother, a sister of a...
(The entire section is 889 words.)
IntroductionGiven his short life (1850-1893), it is unsurprising that Guy de Maupassant’s work is often celebrated for its economy. Yet the praise applies more to the form and structure of his stories than his truncated career. Many cite de Maupassant as one of the progenitors of the modern short story. Much of his work is celebrated for its ability to create time, place, and character in succinct but rich detail. While he is best remembered for his piquant short fiction and clever novels (many of which feature war as a prominent theme), de Maupassant also wrote a tome of poetry as well as extensive travelogues. His travels throughout the continent affected both his fiction and nonfiction writing, marking de Maupassant as a true Renaissance man.
- As a young man, de Maupassant met Flaubert, author of the classic Madame Bovary. Flaubert’s influence was crucial to de Maupassant’s development as a writer.
- Early in his career, as de Maupassant began developing his own novels and short stories, he worked as a journalist for several prominent newspapers.
- Far from lighthearted, many of his short stories are detective or mystery tales that explore psychoses and psychological horrors.
- The impact of de Maupassant’s career is extensive, with O. Henry and W. Somerset Maugham among the many later authors whose careers were influenced by his work.
- Maupassant died prematurely at the age of 43. His last years were marked by a slow decline from syphilis, from which he suffered for many years.
Henri-Rene-Albert Guy de Maupassant was born on August 5, 1850, near Tourville-sur-Arques in Normandy France where he spent most of his early life. The oldest child of wealthy parents who eventually separated, Maupassant was not allowed to attend school until he was thirteen years old. Before then, the local parish priest acted as his tutor.
After being expelled from a Catholic seminary school, Maupassant finished his schooling at a Rouen boarding school before studying law at the University of Paris. His studies were soon interrupted by the 1870 Franco-Prussian War, and Maupassant became a soldier in Normandy. After the war, Maupassant did not return to the university and instead entered the civil service, working as a clerk in the Naval and Education Ministries.
Resigning from the Ministry of Education in 1880, Maupassant became a full-time writer. He began by imitating the style of Gustave Flaubert, a prominent French novelist who had been a close friend of Maupassant's mother for decades. Unsubstantiated rumors circulated at the time that Flaubert was Maupassant's true father; both parties always vehemently denied the allegations. Taken under Flaubert's wing, Maupassant became acquainted with some of the most prominent authors of his time, including Emile Zola, Ivan Turgenev, and Alphonse Daudet.
Following the publication of his first story, "Boule de suif'' ("ball of fat'' or "ball of suet''), in an 1880 collection of stories by several authors, Maupassant established himself as a prominent writer of both short stories and novels. During the next decade, he published six novels and nearly three hundred short stories, many of them in the Paris newspapers Gil-Blas and Le Gaulois. He also wrote plays, poetry, travel essays, and newspaper articles. ‘‘The Necklace" ("Laparure" ) appeared in Le Gaulois on February 17, 1884, and was included in Maupassant's 1885 collection Stories of Night and Day (Contes dujour et de la nuit).
During the 1880s, Maupassant's health declined, largely as a result of syphilis, which he had contracted in the 1870s but which physicians had not diagnosed. Following an unsuccessful suicide attempt on January 2,1892, Maupassant was placed in a sanitarium. He died a year and a half later of complications from the disease.