Best Short Stories / Les Meilleurs Contes: A Dual-Language Book

Overview

In his stories Guy de Maupassant (1850–1893) blended brilliantly realistic depictions of characters moving against carefully described backgrounds with an objectivity and universality that has earned him a place among the finest of all short-story writers. In this collection of seven of his most popular stories, each tale reflects both the author's intimate familiarity with Paris and the provinces in the Belle Epoque, as well as a nonjudgmental humanism that is one of ...
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Best Short Stories: A Dual-Language Book

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Overview

In his stories Guy de Maupassant (1850–1893) blended brilliantly realistic depictions of characters moving against carefully described backgrounds with an objectivity and universality that has earned him a place among the finest of all short-story writers. In this collection of seven of his most popular stories, each tale reflects both the author's intimate familiarity with Paris and the provinces in the Belle Epoque, as well as a nonjudgmental humanism that is one of Maupassant's most attractive qualities.
Included in this volume are his celebrated masterpiece "Boule de Suif," along with six other finely crafted selections: "La Parure," "Mademoiselle Fifi," "La Maison Tellier," "La Ficelle," "Miss Harriet," and "Le Horla." The stories are printed in French with excellent new word-for-word English translations on the facing pages.
Students of both French and English will find here an excellent resource for upgrading their language skills. Admirers of fine literature will enjoy the conciseness, strength, and rigorous economy that characterize Maupassant's art.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780486289182
  • Publisher: Dover Publications
  • Publication date: 3/27/1996
  • Series: Dover Dual Language French Series
  • Edition description: Dual Language Edition
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 386,292
  • Lexile: 1080L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.51 (h) x 0.54 (d)

Read an Excerpt

Best Short Stories Les Meilleurs Contes

A Dual-Language Book


By Guy de Maupassant, Steven Jupiter

Dover Publications, Inc.

Copyright © 1996 Dover Publications, Inc.
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-486-28918-2



CHAPTER 1

BOULE DE SUIF


Pendant plusieurs jours de suite des lambeaux d'armée en déroute avaient traversé la ville. Ce n'était point de la troupe, mais des hordes débandées. Les hommes avaient la barbe longue et sale, des uniformes en guenilles, et ils avançaient d'une allure molle, sans drapeau, sans régiment. Tous semblaient accablés, éreintés, incapables d'une pensée ou d'une résolution, marchant seulement par habitude, et tombant de fatigue sitôt qu'ils s'arrêtaient. On voyait surtout des mobilisés, gens pacifiques, rentiers tranquilles, pliant sous le poids du fusil; des petits moblots alertes, faciles à l'épouvante et prompts à l'enthousiasme, prêts à l'attaque comme à la fuite; puis, au milieu d'eux, quelques culottes rouges, débris d'une division moulue dans une grande bataille; des artilleurs sombres alignés avec ces fantassins divers; et, parfois, le casque brillant d'un dragon au pied pesant qui suivait avec peine la marche plus légère des lignards.

Des légions de francs-tireurs aux appellations héroïques: «les Vengeurs de la Défaite—les Citoyens de la Tombe—les Partageurs de la Mort»—passaient à leur tour, avec des airs de bandits.

Leurs chefs, anciens commerçants en draps ou en graines, exmarchands de suif ou de savon, guerriers de circonstance, nommés officiers pour leurs écus ou la longueur de leurs moustaches, couverts d'armes, de flanelle et de galons, parlaient d'une voix retentissante, discutaient plans de campagne, et prétendaient soutenir seuls la France agonisante sur leurs épaules de fanfarons: mais ils redoutaient parfois leurs propres soldats, gens de sac et de corde, souvent braves à outrance, pillards et débauchés.

Les Prussiens allaient entrer dans Rouen, disait-on.

La Garde nationale qui, depuis deux mois, faisait des reconnaissances très prudentes dans les bois voisins, fusillant parfois ses propres sentinelles, et se préparant au combat quand un petit lapin remuait sous des broussailles, était rentrée dans ses foyers. Ses armes, ses uniformes, tout son attirail meurtrier dont elle épouvantait naguère les bornes des routes nationales à trois lieues à la ronde avaient subitement disparu.

Les derniers soldats français venaient enfin de traverser la Seine pour gagner Pont-Audemer par Saint-Sever et Bourg-Achard; et, marchant après tous, le général, désespéré, ne pouvant rien tenter avec ces loques disparates, éperdu lui-même dans la grande débâcle d'un peuple habitué à vaincre et désastreusement battu malgré sa bravoure légendaire, s'en allait à pied, entre deux officiers d'ordonnance.

Puis un calme profond, une attente épouvantée et silencieuse avaient plané sur la cité. Beaucoup de bourgeois bedonnants, émasculés par le commerce, attendaient anxieusement les vainqueurs, tremblant qu'on ne considérât comme une arme leurs broches à rôtir ou leurs grands couteaux de cuisine.

La vie semblait arrêtée; les boutiques étaient closes, la rue muette. Quelquefois un habitant, intimidé par ce silence, filait rapidement le long des murs.

L'angoisse de l'attente faisait désirer la venue de l'ennemi.

Dans l'après-midi du jour qui suivit le départ des troupes françaises, quelques uhlans, sortis on ne sait d'où, traversèrent la ville avec célérité. Puis, un peu plus tard, une masse noire descendit de la côte Sainte-Catherine, tandis que deux autres flots envahisseurs apparaissaient par les routes de Darnétal et de Bois-Guillaume. Les avant-gardes des trois corps, juste au même moment, se joignirent sur la place de l'Hôtel-de-Ville; et, par toutes les rues voisines, l'armée allemande arrivait, déroulant ses bataillons qui faisaient sonner les pavés sous leur pas dur et rythmé.

Des commandements criés d'une voix inconnue et gutturale montaient le long des maisons qui semblaient mortes et désertes, tandis que, derrière les volets fermés, des yeux guettaient ces hommes victorieux, maîtres de la cité, des fortunes et des vies de par le «droit de guerre». Les habitants, dans leurs chambres assombries, avaient l'affolement que donnent les cataclysmes, les grands bouleversements meurtriers de la terre, contre lesquels toute sagesse et toute force sont inutiles. Car la même sensation reparaît chaque fois que l'ordre établi des choses est renversé, que la sécurité n'existe plus, que tout ce que protégeaient les lois des hommes ou celles de la nature, se trouve à la merci d'une brutalité inconsciente et féroce. Le tremblement de terre écrasant sous les maisons croulantes un peuple entier; le fleuve débordé qui roule les paysans noyés avec les cadavres des bœufs et les poutres arrachées aux toits, ou l'armée glorieuse massacrant ceux qui se défen dent, emmenant les autres prisonniers, pillant au nom du Sabre et remerciant un Dieu au son du canon, sont autant de fléaux effrayants qui déconcertent toute croyance à la justice éternelle, toute la confiance qu'on nous enseigne en la protection du ciel et la raison de l'homme.

Mais à chaque porte des petits détachements frappaient, puis disparaissaient dans les maisons. C'était l'occupation après l'invasion. Le devoir commençait pour les vaincus de se montrer gracieux envers les vainqueurs.

Au bout de quelque temps, une fois la première terreur disparue, un calme nouveau s'établit. Dans beaucoup de familles, l'officier prussien mangeait à table. Il était parfois bien élevé, et, par politesse, plaignait la France, disait sa répugnance en prenant part à cette guerre. On lui était reconnaissant de ce sentiment; puis on pouvait, un jour ou l'autre, avoir besoin de sa protection. En le ménageant on obtiendrait peut-être quelques hommes de moins à nourrir. Et pourquoi blesser quelqu'un dont on dépendait tout à fait? Agir ainsi serait moins de la bravoure que de la témérité.—Et la témérité n'est plus un défaut des bourgeois de Rouen, comme au temps des défenses héroïques où s'illustra leur cité.—On se disait enfin, raison suprême tirée de l'urbanité française, qu'il demeurait bien permis d'être poli dans son intérieur pourvu qu'on ne se montrât pas familier, en public, avec le soldat étranger. Au dehors on ne se connaissait plus, mais dans la maison on causait volontiers, et l'Allemand demeurait plus longtemps, chaque soir, à se chauffer au foyer commun.

La ville même reprenait peu à peu de son aspect ordinaire. Les Français ne sortaient guère encore, mais les soldats prussiens grouillaient dans les rues. Du reste, les officiers de hussards bleus, qui traînaient avec arrogance leurs grands outils de mort sur le pavé, ne semblaient pas avoir pour les simples citoyens énormément plus de mépris que les officiers de chasseurs, qui, l'année d'avant, buvaient aux mêmes cafés.

Il y avait cependant quelque chose dans l'air, quelque chose de subtil et d'inconnu, une atmosphère étrangère intolérable, comme une odeur répandue, l'odeur de l'invasion. Elle emplissait les demeures et les places publiques, changeait le goût des aliments, donnait l'impression d'être en voyage, très loin, chez des tribus barbares et dangereuses.

Les vainqueurs exigeaient de l'argent, beaucoup d'argent. Les habitants payaient toujours; ils étaient riches d'ailleurs. Mais plus un négociant normand devient opulent et plus il souffre de tout sacrifice, de toute parcelle de sa fortune qu'il voit passer aux mains d'un autre.


BOULE DE SUIF


For several days in a row, remains of the routed army had been crossing through the town. They weren't in troops, but in disbanded hordes. The men had long and dirty beards, ragged uniforms, and they moved ahead with a lifeless look about them, with no flag, with no regiment. They all seemed spent, worn out, incapable of a thought or a resolution, marching only out of habit, and collapsing from exhaustion as soon as they stopped. More than anything, one saw reservists, peaceful folk who'd been living quietly on their private income, bent double under the weight of their rifles; alert little militiamen, easily frightened and open to enthusiasm, as ready to attack as to run away; then, in their midst, some regulars in red breeches, leftovers from a division pulverized in a great battle; grim artillerymen were mixed in with these diverse footsoldiers; and, sometimes, the shiny helmet of a lumbering dragoon who could barely keep up with the easier progress of the rank and file.

Legions of volunteers with heroic titles—"Avengers of Defeat," "Citizens of the Tomb," "Partners in Death"—also passed by in turn, looking like bandits.

Their leaders, former tradesmen in cloth or in grain, erstwhile merchants of tallow or of soap, improvised warriors, who had been appointed officers by dint of their money or the length of their mustaches, laden with weapons, flannel and gold braid, would speak in a resounding voice, discuss battle plans and claim that they alone supported their suffering France on their braggarts' shoulders; but they sometimes feared their own soldiers, gallows birds who were often brave to the death, who pillaged and debauched.

The Prussians were going to enter Rouen, people said.

The National Guard, who for two months now had been doing very cautious reconnaissance work in the neighboring woods, sometimes shooting their own sentinels, and preparing themselves for combat whenever a little rabbit stirred in the underbrush, had returned home. Their weapons, their uniforms, all their murderous trappings, which had recently been terrorizing the milestones of the national highways for three leagues in every direction, had suddenly disappeared.

The last French soldiers had finally just crossed the Seine to reach Pont-Audemer by way of Saint-Sever and Bourg-Achard; and, marching behind everyone, the general—desperate, unable to attempt anything with that motley rag-tag bunch, himself bewildered by this great debacle that had befallen a people accustomed to winning and, despite their legendary bravery, disastrously beaten—was going along on foot, between two aides-decamp.

Then a profound calm, a fearful and silent period of waiting had settled on the city. Many well-fed members of the bourgeoisie, emasculated by the commercial life, awaited the conquerors anxiously, trembling with the fear that their roasting spits or their big kitchen knives might be perceived as weapons.

Life seemed to come to a halt; the shops were closed, the streets soundless. Sometimes an inhabitant, intimidated by this silence, scampered quickly along the walls.

The anguish of waiting created a longing for the arrival of the enemy.

In the afternoon of the day following the departure of the French troops, a few Uhlans, coming from who knows where, crossed the city quickly. Then, a little later, a black mass descended from Saint Catherine's Hill, while two other waves of invaders appeared via the roads from Darnétal and Bois-Guillaume. The front lines of the three corps, at exactly the same moment, came together in the Place de l'Hôtel-de-Ville; and, from all the neighboring streets, the German army was arriving, unleashing its battalions that made the pavement ring under their hard and rhythmic steps.

Commands shouted in an unfamiliar, guttural tongue rose up along the houses, which seemed dead and deserted, while, behind the closed shutters, eyes were watching these victorious men who were masters of the city, of fortunes and of lives by the "right of war." The inhabitants, in their darkened rooms, suffered that panic brought on by cataclysms, by the great murderous tremblings of the earth, against which all wisdom and all strength are useless. For the same sensation occurs each time the established order of things is overturned, when security no longer exists, when all that was protected by the laws of man or of nature finds itself at the mercy of a mindless and violent brutality. The earthquake that crushes an entire populace beneath their crumbling houses; the overflowing river that carries away the drowned country-folk with the carcasses of steer and beams ripped from roofs, or the victorious army massacring those who defend themselves, leading away the others as prisoners, looting in the name of the Sword and thanking a God to the sound of a cannon, these are all horrible scourges that unsettle all belief in eternal justice and all the faith that we are taught to have in the protection of heaven and in the reason of man.

But little detachments were knocking at every door, then disappearing inside the houses. It was the occupation after the invasion. The obligation had begun for the conquered to show themselves hospitable towards the conquerors.

After some time, once the first terror had disappeared, a new calm was established. In many families, the Prussian officer would eat at the table. He would sometimes be well-bred and, out of politeness, would pity France, would tell of his repugnance in taking part in this war. The family was grateful to him for this sentiment; besides, one day or another, they might have need of his protection. By humoring him they might perhaps obtain a few less men to feed. And why offend someone on whom you totally depend? To act thus would be less a matter of bravery than of recklessness.—And recklessness is no longer a fault of the citizenry of Rouen, as it was in the times of the heroic defenses that won renown for their city.—Finally, they told themselves, as a supreme rationalization drawn from notions of French civility, that it was all right to be polite indoors as long as one didn't show oneself on familiar terms with the foreign soldier in public. Outside they no longer knew each other, but in the house they would chat willingly, and the German would spend more time each evening warming himself at the hearth.

The town itself reclaimed its usual appearance little by little. The French still hardly ever went out, but the Prussian soldiers were teeming in the streets. Furthermore, the officers of the Blue Hussars, who arrogantly dragged their big implements of death on the pavement, didn't seem to have much more contempt for the common citizenry than had the French light-cavalry officers who, the year before, had drunk in the same cafés.

There was, however, something in the air, something subtle and mysterious, an intolerable foreign atmosphere, like a spreading odor, the odor of invasion. It filled the houses and the public squares, altered the taste of food, gave the impression that one was on a journey, very far away, among barbaric and dangerous tribes.

The conquerors demanded money, lots of money. The inhabitants always paid; they were rich, after all. But the more a Norman businessman becomes well-off, the more he suffers from any kind of sacrifice and from seeing any part of his fortune pass into another's hands.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Best Short Stories Les Meilleurs Contes by Guy de Maupassant, Steven Jupiter. Copyright © 1996 Dover Publications, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Dover Publications, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

Introduction
Boule de suif
Boule de Suif
La Tellier
The Tellier Establishment
Mademoiselle Fifi
Mademoiselle Fifi
Miss Harriet
Miss Harriet
La Ficelle
The Piece of String
La Parure
The Necklace
Le Horla
The Horla
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