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Guy de Maupassant

Copyright 1989 Balance Publishing Company
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Henri Rene Albert Guy de Maupassant was born at the Chateau of Miromesnil in 1850 and died in Paris in 1893. His early life was not a happy one. His parents separated when he was 11. Fortunately for Maupassant, his mother's friend was the journalist and novelist Gustave Flaubert, who was Maupassant's godfather. Most of his education came informally from his godfather. Often Flaubert would instruct him to take a walk and then write 100 lines about what he saw. This type of training developed in Maupassant a keen sense of observation and detail, which he later put to use in his writing. Many times Flaubert would allow Maupassant to attend his Sunday gatherings with others in his literary circle, including Emil Zola and Ivan Turgenev.

For a few years, Maupassant was connected with the Ministry of Public Instruction. (It is interesting to note that Monsieur Loisel, a character in "The Necklace," was in the employ of the Ministry of Public Instruction.) He also served in the French army during the Franco-Prussian War. His favorite writing subjects were Norman peasants, civil servants, and the Franco-Prussian War. His youth in Normandy served as a basis for many of his stories.

At an early age, Maupassant started writing short stories, but was his own worse critic, apparently destroying a great number of manuscripts. In 1880, he allowed some of his work to be published and received wide acclaim for his story "Boule de Suif" (Ball of Tallow). With this success, he left the civil service to work full time on his writing. During the next ten years, he was not only productive, (he wrote over 300 stories, including six novels, three plays, books of travel, and a book of verse) but also financially successful. Among those in his literary circle he was considered brilliant.

His writing was classical in its simplicity. It avoided social commentary and sordid details. His works often portrayed a very real world and demonstrated an accurate knowledge of the subject. Although Maupassant wrote in many forms, he received widest recognition for his short stories which ranked among the best. By 1890, Maupassant was suffering the latter stages of syphilis, which ultimately left him insane. He was committed to an asylum where he died in 1893.

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