Henri-René-Albert-Guy de Maupassant, 1850 - 1893
Portrait by Felix Nadar, 1888
Born: 5 August 1850, near Dieppe, Seine-Inférieure, France
Died: 6 July 1893, Paris, France
de Maupassant's parents separated when he was eleven, his mother taught him to love the classics, particularly Shakespeare. Living on the Normandy coast, he also took to boats, a love he continued when living at Paris where he would regularly row for an hour or more a day. He was sent to a seminary but deliberately caused his own expulsion, then was sent to the Rouen lycéee where he did well and was active in student theatre. He enlisted at the start of the Franco-Prussian war and served with distinction, then spent ten years as a clerk in the Navy Department. After being transferred to the Ministry of Public Instruction in 1878 he became a contributing editor to several magazines and devoted his spare time to novels and short stories. His work met with both critical and commercial success, and he appeared to be able to crank out high-quality literature with ease and became very wealthy over the next decade. One of the few Parisiennes who didn't admire the Eifel Tower, de Maupassant actively hated seeing it; his favorite restaurant was at the base of the tower, he ate there because it was one of the few places where the view did not include the familiar profile. He had had syphilis in his twenties and it eventually drove him mad. Always uneasy in society, he sought solitude more as he aged and became paranoid. On 2 January 1892 he attempted to commit suicide by slashing his throat, he was confined to a private asylum where he died a year and a half later.
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Guy de Maupassant quotes:
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- A human being — what is a human being? Everything and nothing. Through the power of thought it can mirror everything it experiences. Through memory and knowledge it becomes a microcosm, carrying the world within itself. A mirror of things, a mirror of facts. Each human being becomes a little universe within the universe! permalink
- A legal kiss is never as good as a stolen one. permalink
"A Wife's Confession"
- A man forced to spend his life without ever having the right, without ever finding the time, to shut himself up all alone, no matter where, to think, to reflect, to work, to dream? Ah! my dear boy, a key, the key of a door which one can lock — this is happiness, mark you, the only happiness! permalink
"The Question of Latin"
- A sick thought can devour the body's flesh more than fever or consumption. permalink
- And taking her friend's hand, she put it on her breast, on that firm round covering of a woman's heart which the male often finds so satisfying that he makes no attempt to find what lies beneath it. permalink
- Anguish of suspense made men even desire the arrival of enemies. permalink
"Boule de Suif" (Ball of Fat, 1880)
- Any government has as much of a duty to avoid war as a ship's captain has to avoid a shipwreck. permalink
Sur l'eau (On Water, 1888)
- Broad daylight does not encourage the apprehension of horror. permalink
- Certainly solitude is dangerous for active minds. We require around us men who can think and talk. When we are alone for a long time, we people space with phantoms. permalink
- Conversation. What is it? A Mystery! It's the art of never seeming bored, of touching everything with interest, of pleasing with trifles, of being fascinating with nothing at all. permalink
Sur l'Eau (On the Water) (1888)
- Everything is false, everything is possible, everything is doubtful. permalink
- Great minds that are healthy are never considered geniuses, while this sublime qualification is lavished on brains that are often inferior but are slightly touched by madness. permalink
"The Englishman of Etretat"
- I entered literary life as a meteor, and I shall leave it like a thunderbolt. permalink
- I have come to the conclusion that the bed comprehends our whole life; for we were bom in it, we live in it, and we shall die in it. permalink
- I have coveted everything and taken pleasure in nothing. permalink
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