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Like Death

Like Death

by Guy de Maupassant, translated from the French by Richard Howard

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Olivier Bertin is at the height of his career as a painter. After making his name as a young man with his Cleopatra, he has gone on to establish himself as “the chosen painter of Parisiennes, the most adroit and ingenious artist to reveal their grace, their figures, and their souls.” And though his hair may be white, he remains a handsome, vigorous, and engaging bachelor, a prized guest at every table and salon.

Olivier’s lover is Anne, the Countess de Guilleroy, the wife of a busy politician. Their relationship is long-standing, close, almost conjugal. The countess’s daughter is Annette, and she is the spitting image of her mother in her lovely youth. Having finished her schooling, Annette is returning to Paris. Her parents have put together an excellent match. Everything is as it should be—until the painter and countess are each seized by an agonizing suspicion, like death. . . . In its devastating depiction of the treacherous nature of love, Like Death is more than the equal of Swann’s Way. Richard Howard’s new translation brings out all the penetration and poetry of this masterpiece of nineteenth-century fiction.

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guy de maupassant, translated by richard howard

Additional Book Information

Series: NYRB Classics
ISBN: 9781681370323
Pages: 240
Publication Date:


A story of love’s descriptive irrational power—think Proust’s Swann in Love…Like other great psychological novelists (Henry James was an admirer, as was Tolstoy), Maupassant proves a master at the slow sea change of human emotions, and even more their complexity…[Maupassant] turns an impassioned chronicle of destructive love into a very modern-seeming portrait of aging, friendship, and loss.
—Martin Riker, The Wall Street Journal

You can practically hear the rustling of the ladies’ silks, or catch the sobs that are such a feature of the erotic lives of high society...And my God, is it sexy. This is a love in which intellect and emotion are at play at the same time. There is passion and there is calculation...Drink deeply of this intoxicating, heady work.
—Nicholas Lezard, The Guardian

Maupassant is the world’s most accomplished of narrators.
—Joseph Conrad

The psychoemotional precision of Maupassant in an 
elegant new translation. . . . A finely shaded portrait of desire, will, and the complex entanglements of love, set against cutting social commentary from a realist master.
Kirkus Reviews, Starred

A psychological novel par excellence.
—Lorin Stein, Harper's

Richard Howard's elegant translation of Like Death has the cool exactitude and passionate interplay of characters that readers expect from Guy de Maupassant, whose 1889 novel tells with ironic detachment and killing specificity the story of a portrait painter's great love.
Shelf Awareness

[Maupassant] is so relentlessly artistic that he puts the fear of philosophy in your heart.
The New York Times

[Maupassant] is brilliantly clever.
—Henry James

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