Guy de Maupassant
Guy de Maupassant (1850-1893), journalist, novelist, poet, memoirist, playwright, and short-story writer, was one of the most notable men of letters of nineteenth-century France. He was born in Normandy to a middle-class family that had adopted the noble “de” prefix only a generation earlier. An indifferent student, Maupassant enlisted in the army during the Franco-Prussian war—staying only long enough to acquire an intense dislike for all things military—and then went on to a career as a civil servant. His entrée into the literary world was eased by Gustave Flaubert, who had been a childhood playmate of his mother’s and who took the young man under his wing, introducing him into salon society. The bulk of Maupassant’s published works, including nearly three hundred short stories and six novels, were written between 1880 and 1890, a period in which he also contributed to several Parisian daily newspapers. Among his best-known works are the novels Bel-Ami
and Pierre and Jean
and the fantastic tale La Horla
; above all, he is celebrated for his stories, which transformed and defined the genre for years. In 1892, after attempting suicide to escape the hallucinations and headaches brought on by syphilis, Maupassant was committed to an asylum. He died eighteen months later.