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Guy de Maupassant

The most celebrated French storyteller of the nineteenth century, Guy de Maupassant was a master of the modern short story. Offering an intriguing picture of French life, his stories derive their enduring appeal from understated artistry, extreme craftsmanship, and the universality of his characters and their aspirations and misfortunes. His career as a professional writer lasted only twelve years before it was brutally cut short by the dreadful consequences of untreatable syphilis: chronic sickness, a failed suicide attempt, insanity, paralysis, and death after eighteen months’ confinement in a clinic.
In this insightful and compelling biography, the only one in English currently available, Christopher Lloyd situates Maupassant’s life and work in the literary and social context of nineteenth-century France. He skillfully introduces the reader to Maupassant’s most famous works, such as Boule de suif, Bel-Ami, and Pierre et Jean, as well as highlights the important stages and achievements of his life and legacy.

224 pages | 30 halftones | 5 x 7 3/4

Critical Lives

Biography and Letters

History: General History

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"Lloyd’s compact but wide-ranging study provides an up-to-date survey of this career. He situates Maupassant’s work in various late nineteenth-century contexts—the social and political worlds, and those of literature and ideas and of journalism in particular. . . . Lloyd brings out the complexity of the short stories and gives a spirited defense of their style. . . . [A] crisp, witty, balanced, and well-informed guide."

Times Literary Supplement

"Celebrated as a popular nineteenth-century author and master of the modern short story, Maupassant (1850–93) has endured more than a century of prudish critics, condescending biographers, unscrupulous editors, and inaccurate translators. Lloyd’s goal in this succinct volume, one of the best in Reaktion’s Critical Lives series, is to set the record straight. . . . Favoring material evidence over speculation and close analysis over generalization, Lloyd delves into selected letters, newspaper articles, and novels and short stories to highlight the impressive range of a writer too often reduced to a handful of safe classics. . . . Lloyd skillfully bridges the gap between the nineteenth and twenty-first centuries, offering fresh interpretations of incidents in Maupassant’s life and lamenting that his work has been ‘relentlessly pillaged’ by the film and television industries. This is an engrossing biography, all the more important since it is, shockingly, the only biography of Maupassant currently available in English. Essential."


"‘One of the strengths of Lloyd’s book is the way in which the life and the work intersect in more subtle variants than mere replication. He refuses to indulge in psychoanalytical theorizing. His portrait is an overwhelming sympathetic one, arguably at the expense of reflecting more brutally on Maupassant’s sexual promiscuity and exhibitionism. But we are left in no doubt about the sheer energy, both physical and creative, of the man. . . . [Lloyd's] intelligent analyses, however, are informed by a specialist’s familiarity with the work as a whole. . . . [The book] is lively, engaging, and consistently reliable. Its own long 'afterlife' is assured as the best available introduction for readers of English (only) to Maupassant’s life and work."

Journal of European Studies

"Lloyd’s study of Maupassant, part of Reaktion’s concise Critical Lives series, contains a wealth of information about the life, works, and legacy of its subject. . . . The analysis is scrupulously balanced from start to finish. . . . It is hard to imagine a more comprehensive treatment of Maupassant in this format. . . . Lloyd expertly condenses a maximum of content, about both Maupassant’s own writing and the responses it has elicited, into around two hundred pages. As a result, Guy de Maupassant will no doubt serve as both a helpful teaching aid and an introduction to Maupassant for interested amateurs for years to come."

Modern Language Review

"Lloyd’s biography delves into de Maupassant’s life and explores his key works and influences. It is the only biography of the writer available in English. In the same vein as de Maupassant’s writing style, this biography is succinct and precise. . . . A clear picture of the writer for anyone new to de Maupassant and also enough complexities to add more depth of understanding for those more familiar with his work."


"Lloyd writes with understated scholarship and always with the reader in mind. He is a clear, patient, and shrewd guide to Maupassant and his work."

David Coward, University of Leeds

“In keeping with the aims of Reaktion’s excellent series, Lloyd’s Guy de Maupassant explores the life of the writer in relationship to his major works. Lloyd’s pleasantly readable style, characterized by the same clarity and precision attributed to Maupassant himself, guarantees that even seasoned readers of Maupassant will discover afresh the brilliance and complexity of an author they thought they knew well.”

Mary Donaldson-Evans, University of Delaware

Table of Contents

1 A Life
2 Journalist
3 Writer
4 Storyteller
5 Novelist
6 Ironist
7 Afterlives

Select Bibliography
Photo Acknowledgements

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