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Bel Ami

Bel Ami

3.7 63
by Guy de Maupassant

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Bel Ami, written at the height of Guy de Maupassant’s powers, is a classic novel of seduction, intrigue, and ruthless social climbing in belle époque Paris.

Georges Duroy is a down-and-out journalist from a humble background who engineers a stunning rise to the top of Parisian society through his relationships with influential and


Bel Ami, written at the height of Guy de Maupassant’s powers, is a classic novel of seduction, intrigue, and ruthless social climbing in belle époque Paris.

Georges Duroy is a down-and-out journalist from a humble background who engineers a stunning rise to the top of Parisian society through his relationships with influential and wealthy women. Making the most of his charm and good looks (his admirers nickname him “Bel Ami”), Duroy exploits the weaknesses of others to his own advantage—in the process betraying the woman who has most selflessly supported him. Published in 1885, Bel Ami is not only a vivid portrait of a glamorously corrupt and long-vanished Paris, but also a strikingly modern exposé of the destructiveness of unconstrained ambition, sex, and power.
Translated from the French by Ernest Boyd

Product Details

Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
Vintage Classics
Sold by:
Random House
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File size:
2 MB

Read an Excerpt


WHEN the cashier had given him the change out of his five-franc piece, George Duroy left the restaurant.  

As he had a good carriage, both naturally and as an ex-soldier, he threw out his chest, twirled his moustache with a familiar, military gesture, and threw upon the lingering customers a rapid and sweeping glance—one of those self-assured glances which take in everything, like a casting net.  

The women looked up at him—three little working girls, a music mistress of uncertain age, disheveled, untidy, and wearing a bonnet always dusty and a dress always awry; and two women of the middle class dining with their husbands, all regular customers at this cheap chop-house.  

When he got outside on the footpath, he stood still for a moment, and wondered what he would do. It was the 28th of June, and he had just three francs forty centimes in his pocket to carry him to the end of the month. This meant a choice between two dinners without lunch and two lunches without dinner. He reflected that, as the earlier meals cost twenty sous apiece, and the later thirty, if he were content with the lunches, he would be one franc twenty centimes to the good, which would further represent two snacks of bread and sausage and two bocks of beer on the boulevards. The latter was his greatest extravagance and his chief pleasure at night.  

He began to descend the Rue Notre-Dame de Lorette. He walked as in the days when he had worn a hussar uniform, his chest thrown out and his legs slightly apart, as if he had just left his horse, and he shoved his way through the crowded street, pushing and shouldering people rather than step aside. He wore his rather shabby tall hat slightly to one side, and brought his heels smartly down on the pavement. He always seemed to be defying somebody or something, the passers-by, the houses, the whole city, with the swagger of a dashing military man turned civilian.  

Although wearing a sixty-franc suit, he was not without a certain loud elegance which was a little vulgar. Tall, well-built, fair, with a curly moustache twisted up at the ends, bright blue eyes with small pupils, and reddish-brown hair curling naturally and parted in the middle, he bore a strong resemblance to the dare-devil of· popular romances.  

It was one of those summer evenings on which there is no air in Paris. The city, hot as an oven, seemed to swelter in the stifling night. The sewers breathed out their poisonous breath through their granite mouths, and the underground kitchens gave forth to the street through their windows the stench of dishwater and stale sauces. The concierges in their shirtsleeves, astride strawbottomed chairs within the carriage entrances, were smoking their pipes, and the pedestrians were walking with flagging steps and bare heads, their hats in their hands.  

When George Duroy reached the boulevards he paused again, undecided as to what he should do. He now thought of going on to the Champs Elysées and the Avenue du Bois de Boulogne to get a little fresh air under the trees, but another wish also assailed him, a desire for a love affair.  

What shape would it take? He did not know, but he had been awaiting it for three months, night and day. Occasionally, thanks to his good looks and gallant bearing, he stole a few crumbs of love here and there, but he was always hoping for something more and better.

With empty pockets and his blood in a ferment, he kindled at the contact of the prowlers who murmur at street corners: "Will you come home with me, dear?" but he dared not follow them, not being able to pay them, and, besides, he was waiting for something else, other less vulgar kisses.  

He liked, however, the localities in which women of the town swarm — their balls, their cafés, and their streets. He liked to rub shoulders with them, speak to them, make love to them, inhale their strong perfumes, feel himself near them. They were women at any rate, women made for love. He did not despise them with the innate contempt of a well-born man.  

He turned towards the Madeleine, following the flux of the crowd which flowed along, overcome by the heat.. The chief cafés, filled with customers, were overflowing on to the footpath, and displayed their drinking public under the dazzling glare of their illuminated windows. In front of them, on little tables, square or round, were glasses holding liquids of every shade, red, yellow, green, brown, and inside the decanters glittered the large transparent cylinders of ice, serving to cool the bright, clear water. Duroy had slackened his pace, and a longing to drink parched his throat.  

A hot thirst, a summer evening's thirst assailed him and he thought of the delightful sensation of cool drinks flowing down his throat. But if he even drank two bocks of beer in the evening, farewell to the slender supper of the morrow, and he was only too well acquainted with the hungry hours of the end of the month.  

He said to himself: "I must hold out till ten o'clock, and then I'll have my bock at the Café Américain. Confound it, how thirsty I am, though." And he scanned the men seated at the tables drinking, and the people who could quench their thirst as much as they pleased. He went on, passing in front of the cafés with a sprightly, swaggering air, and guessing at a glance, from their dress and bearing, how much money each customer must have about him. Wrath against these people quietly sitting there rose up within him. If their pockets were rummaged, gold, silver, and coppers would be found in them. On an average each one must have at least two louis. There were certainly a hundred to a café, a hundred times two louis is four thousand francs. He murmured "the swine," as he walked gracefully past them. If he could have got hold of one of them at a nice dark corner he would have twisted his neck without scruple, as he used to do the country-folk's fowls during manoeuvres.  

And he recalled his two years in Africa and the way in which he used to pillage the Arabs when stationed at little out-posts in the south. A bright and cruel smile flitted across his lips at the recollection of an escapade which had cost the lives of three men of the Ouled-Alane tribe, and had furnished him and his comrades with a score of fowls, a couple of sheep, some gold, and food for laughter for six months.  

The culprits had never been found, and, what is more, they had hardly been looked for, the Arab being looked upon as somewhat in the light of the natural prey of the soldier.  

In Paris it was different. One could not plunder prettily, sword by side and revolver in hand, far from civil authority, at liberty. He felt in his heart all the instincts of a corporal let loose in a conquered country. He certainly regretted his two years in the desert. What a pity he had not stopped there. But, then, he had hoped for something better on returning home. And now—ah! yes, now it was lovely!  

He clicked his tongue as if to verify the parched state of his palate.  

The crowd moved past him slowly and exhaustedly, and he kept thinking. "Set of hogs — all these idiots have money in their pockets." He pushed against people and softly whistled a lively tune. Gentlemen whom he thus elbowed turned grumbling, and women murmured: "What a brute!"  

He passed the Vaudeville Theatre and stopped before the Café Américain, wondering whether he should not take his bock, so greatly did his thirst torture him. Before making up his mind, he glanced at the illuminated clocks in the middle of the street. It was a quarter past nine. He knew himself: as soon as the glass full of beer was before him he would gulp it down. What would he do then up to eleven o'clock?  

He thought for a moment. "I will go as far as the Madeleine," he said, "and walk back slowly."

Meet the Author

The French writer Guy de Maupassant (1850-93), a protégé of Flaubert, was known for his hugely influential short stories and the vivid realism of his novels. He was born in Normandy and served in the Franco-Prussian War, which would become the subject of some of his best-known stories. Maupassant wrote six novels and nearly three hundred stories, among them “The Necklace,” “Boule de Suif,” “The Horla,” and “Mademoiselle Fifi.” His financial and critical success as a writer made him a prominent figure in fashionable society, but in his last few years he suffered mental and physical symptoms of the syphilis he had contracted in his early years. After a suicide attempt in 1892 he was committed to a private asylum, where he died the following year at the age of 42.

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Bel-Ami 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 63 reviews.
Shakespeare527 More than 1 year ago
I found this book to be one of those books that cause me great sadness when I finish it because I'm sad it's over. I miss the characters and wonder what happens next in their lives. Georges is by far one of the most disgusting creatures ever put to paper. Just when you think he can't sink any lower, he does. I thought the characters overall were wonderful and I really liked the fact that this book doesn't resolve into a moral lesson and that the author chose just to show us the characters without trying to preach to us. At the same time, there was so much there that it's a perfect book for a book club or discussion with friends. I found myself wondering how different this story might be if the women in this story were the women of today. Anyway, great book. A note on the upcoming movie: Robert Pattinson as Georges is perfect casting but that's a tall order - he's going to have to work hard to pull this off - Christina Ricci seems a good choice for Clotilde but I'm not sold on Uma as Mme Forestier at all. Nicole Kidman would have been absolutely perfect but what can you do? Also, so-so on Kristen Scott Thomas but she's a great actress so...Anyway, I'm excited to see this great book brought to life (again). Do yourself a favor though - read the book before seeing the movie! It's truly brilliant writing!
sholehCA More than 1 year ago
Slow start; However as the story progressed and developed I could not let it go with out knowing the ending.I am sure the inspired 2010 movie(filming in Budapest Hungary) should be very interesting not to mention Robert Pattinson will play George De Roy.Excellent reading.
ReddTwilight More than 1 year ago
I haven't finished this yet, but I've gotten through a good portion of it and I'm in love. I can see why Robert Pattinson was chosen to play Georges Duroy in the film adaptation. This book is sexy and thrilling. Definitely worth reading!
StonyCreekCT More than 1 year ago
Having read this book during bright college days some 30 years ago for French lit (yes, back in the day when there were core requirements like history, art, & literature), I remember Bel Ami as a great book, vividly depicting Paris, circa 1880. I am now enjoying rereading. This is a first-class book, which should not be missed since the culture it presents is not a far cry from our world today. It is sensual and earthy, looking at social position, money, love, marriage, morality, courage, and athleticism. For those who are interested, the story also reflects bits of Maupassant's life. The story of Georges Duroy could be 2012 as easily as circa 1880. Cheers to Robert Pattinson for being part of this upcoming film version! I consider him to be an amazing young actor, with tremendous talent,range, & charisma, inspiring people to read & to see the films while apparently remaining humble & off the radar. Hope he keeps his head & continues to grow & flourish in his craft. Highly recommend this book.
Nooking-For-A-Good-Book More than 1 year ago
This is a very interesting book, you were transported back in time. I couldn't help but picture Robert Pattinson while reading about Duroy, since he is going to be playing Duroy in the movie. I couldn't put it down. The ending was a bit confusing, I guess I'll wait for the movie to see what that was all about.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a newer version, which I found to be a very easy and enjoyable read. Yes...I read it because of the upcoming movie, but this is well worth the read.
contradictionofsorts More than 1 year ago
Maupassant took advantage of his mesmerizing literary capabilities and created a classic dripping with satire. Well thought out and well written, one will find themselves captivated by the beautifully descriptive thoughts and actions, enveloping you whole into a world of deceit and greed, while riding a roller coaster of emotions felt for anybody and everybody. It is not until the end, when the beautifully written book comes to an end, that you are snapped back into reality. Then you fully realize the exposee on the ugly side of society (as well as humans as individuals) has a heavy hand in defining the norms and standards of everyday living.*
ReaderIam More than 1 year ago
If you are looking for a book with great characters, this is the book for you. The characters actions are subtle enabling you to read slowly and enjoy human nature. We all know characters like George DuRoy. A ruthless individual who feels he is entitled to bigger and better things in life. He is never satisfied with his possessions once he gets them, which is why I enjoyed reading the book so much. There is never a difinitive moment in the book where you think you have figured himm out. It is ongoing and evolves. Even in the end, there is still more to uncover. The beginning of the book was a bit slow and it took me a while to get involved but the middle and end engaged my intellect. Very thought provoking and great for book club discussions or even just to read for the pure joy of reading.
I-Love-Italy More than 1 year ago
Fantastic story, although this version was summed up.
Naulakha More than 1 year ago
Bel-Ami is most definitely a novel that pertains to our present times. Although it is set in the 1800's in Paris- the story that it weaves, of deceit, financial greed, and sexual desires, runs parallel to many of the stories that headline our news. Money, sex and power, govern the story of an ambitious young man of no particular talent or background, who manages to move up in society by no special means other than that of his alluring sexual charm with women, together with his charismatic influence with men. Using his unyielding and steady pursuit of material gain and acceptance into society- often executed through more than dubious maneuvers- by 'fair means or foul', Bel-Ami becomes a elite and respected member of society. Georges Du Roy (Bel-Ami) will stop at nothing in order to obtain what he perceives as his due. As such, this novel makes for a compelling read- perhaps a Desperate Housewives of the 1880's?
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was a very interesting and easy read. The main character Georges Duroy lives the life most men would kill for. After coming from a poor family Duroy finds fame, fortune, and women in the aristocratic city of Paris, France. Duroy gets a job through a friend, with a newspaper. This allows him to make money as well as get his ideas and views out to the masses. Once this occurs Duroy obtains a status of fame, along with making a pretty penny for himself. This then leads to the women, all of them. Duroy goes from paying for sex to having relations with all sorts of women. The first of which, Madame de Marelle, is a beautiful, rich, married woman whom Duroy has an on and off affair throughout the story. He then goes on to remarry his dead bosses wife, the wife of the owner of the newspaper in which he works, and then he moved on to the owners daughter. Needless to say Duroy has many qualities that make him a character to respect and enjoy.
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Shannon Artigiani More than 1 year ago
This book is one of my all time favorites!
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