The Fear of the Unknown: Unveiling the Dark Side of Guy de Maupassant’s Life and Literature

If the oldest and strongest human emotion is fear, it is only because fear stems from the unknown. The theme of “fear of the unknown” is like Maupassant’s “The Dark Side of the Moon”. It is not only the background of his passionate and absurd life, but also his buried treasure in the history of literature.

In 1890, Maupassant said to a friend: “I broke into the literary world like a meteor and left like thunder and lightning.” At this time, he was still three years away from his death. Although he still had unquenchable creative enthusiasm in his heart and was contemplating two novels at the same time, he obviously had a premonition that his life was coming to an end due to the double destruction of physical illness and mental madness.

Live passionately, work hard
Maupassant was a well-known teacher. His mother had a childhood friend, the great French writer Flaubert. When Maupassant was 12 years old, his mother read Flaubert’s works to him. When he was studying law at the University of Paris, he received direct guidance from Flaubert in his studies and writing, and the two became as close as father and son.

In addition to Flaubert, there was also a poet who guided Maupassant in writing. Later, the poet died unfortunately, and Flaubert “won” – he did not want Maupassant to indulge in lyric poetry, and taught him that art requires learning to observe, use reason, and learn to use In one sentence, describe the difference between one horse and other horses. This concept may seem inconspicuous, but it became the starting point of Maupassant’s unique artistic style.

Although this “social figure” in the literary world was corrupt in his private life, he insisted on his spiritual independence. He refused to join any group or believe in a certain doctrine, including the “naturalism” school founded by Zola; he also refused various awards, and even expressed disdain for Flaubert’s “opportunism”; he refused to accept any doctrine or money. Bow your head because you want to retain your right to criticize. He fears chains, “whether they come from a thought or a woman.” This spiritual independence means inner freedom, but it also means that he must bear the loneliness and fear of having no attachment to his soul.

In 1870, the Franco-Prussian War broke out, and Maupassant enlisted in the army. Two years later, he retired from the army and worked as a minor civil servant in the Navy Department, where he worked for 10 years. In the past 10 years, he attended the salon at Flaubert’s house almost every week and communicated with Daudet, Zola, Turgenev and other seniors. His poems, plays and novels can all be criticized by famous writers immediately. He continued to experiment with various themes. He followed Flaubert’s advice and was not in a hurry. He strived for precision and moderation in writing, intending to find his own style before making a big splash.

In 1880, a turning point in fate came. This year, Maupassant, with the help of Flaubert, moved to the education department to work as an editor, while continuing to work hard on writing. Although he was once again involved in a lawsuit for writing poetry, he finally suppressed his anger and wrote his breakthrough work “Ball of Suif”, which was included in the novel collection “A Night on the Plum Pond” together with other novels on the same theme.

Shortly thereafter, Flaubert suffered a stroke and died. Maupassant personally changed the teacher’s clothes and shaved his face, closed his eyes, and kept vigil like a son. He was empty with sadness and didn’t know what the future would hold. The following year, the collection of novels “The House of Tellier” was published, and Maupassant became famous – it took ten years to sharpen his sword.

Like “Ball de Suif”, “The House of Tellier” also uses a prostitute as the protagonist, and writes about secular life in a humorous and vivid way, but also contains a hidden resistance to order. This novel not only made the French literary circle take a new look at Maupassant, but also alarmed his Russian colleagues. Turgenev specifically told Tolstoy that Maupassant was good. In the next 10 years, fame and fortune gave Maupassant the freedom to write freely. He completed works such as “Moonlight”, “Miss Feifei”, “The Necklace”, “My Uncle Jules”, “Papa Milon” and “Two Friends”. There are also novels such as “Life”, “Beautiful Friend” and “Hot Springs”.

Uninhibited in body and independent in spirit
It is no exaggeration to say that Maupassant’s writing begins with physical experience and ends with spiritual experience. As early as the age of 16, when he was studying in a church middle school, he had his first taste of the joy of fish and water, and wrote a poem to record the experience: “A ball of happiness burned throughout our bodies.” Later, he fell in love with his cousin again and wrote a poem to express his love. The poem was widely circulated and he was expelled from the school. This made him feel the constraints of the world at a young age, as he lamented in a poem – “The sky is too low, the earth is too narrow, and the world is too small for me.”

During his years as a civil servant, Maupassant lived a double life of boredom and indulgence. In addition to working and writing, he organized a group of playboys to go speedboating on the Seine River and have fun in the bathhouse. He was fond of making dirty jokes and playing pranks, and he also organized a group for eating, drinking and having fun, named the “Fart God Association”. He pursues women feverishly, but does not invest in emotions, just to satisfy his primitive impulses. He even publicly counts the “results”, claiming that a man can have 300 women before the age of 40.

Maupassant’s writing style is to write how he lives, and almost all of his works are based on his own experience. His novels contain all kinds of living beings with different images: prostitutes, farmers, soldiers, as well as the upper class and the mentally ill – which shows his rich life experience and keen and detailed insight. French literary translator Zhang Yinglun once classified his short and medium-length works according to themes, and divided them into five volumes: “Strange”, “Love”, “War”, “Humorous” and “State of the World”.

When Maupassant published his debut novel, he also gained the “achievement” of an indulgent life: contracting syphilis. But he showed no concern for this: “Majestic syphilis, pure and simple; beautiful syphilis… I feel proud, damn the bourgeoisie.” Even in front of his mentors and seniors, he did not hide his unruly life, This gave Flaubert a headache, and he was always worried that this boy would indulge in lust and die. But he never interfered. After all, freedom is above all else for the French.

Syphilis continued to worsen, causing him to suffer from dizziness, headaches and eye problems before he was 30 years old. In severe cases, he would bang his head against the wall. After Maupassant became famous, he began to build villas, buy yachts, and travel around. He never married, but was merciful and gave birth to two illegitimate sons and an illegitimate daughter. However, the physical pain caused him to develop bipolar disorder.

The more Maupassant indulged in lust, the more emptiness he felt. Sometimes he was as manic as an angry bull and cared about fame and fortune; sometimes he fell into deep depression and felt that he was just a “worker who produces articles”. He had to risk his life to make money, but also felt that writing was boring.

Diary of a Madman Unknown Fear
At the age of 25, Maupassant published his first short story under a pseudonym, called “The Skinned Hand”, a horror story in the style of Edgar Allan Poe. The work was inspired by Maupassant’s own collection: a skinned severed hand.

Flaubert thought this novel was not worthy of elegance, but the teacher’s disdain could not stop Maupassant’s morbid hobby and obsession with fantasy. He has been writing fantasy stories throughout his life, involving hallucinations, death, hypnosis, dual personalities and aliens. He has written two works directly titled “Fear”. For the unbelieving Maupassant, expressing the knowable life and exploring the unknowable spiritual world are all explorations of “reality”. Therefore, fantasy novels are not only an important part of Maupassant’s work genealogy, but also closer to his heart than realistic themes.

In 1886, Maupassant wrote a novel called “Letter from a Madman”. The following year, he wrote an edition in conversational style, and later changed it to diary style, naming it “Horla” (the French “le Horla” is his own coinage, no one knows the exact meaning, it can be understood as “both something that exists and doesn’t exist”).

The protagonist of “Orla” always feels that there is a ghost in her home – a non-existent thing is staring at her. He wrote down what he saw and thought in his diary and called the thing Orla. The more guarded he is, the stronger Orla becomes, not only torturing him, but also invading his body and mind to replace her. Later, he had hallucinations, lost control of his body, and eventually went crazy, deciding to die with Orla.

Is this the narrator’s madman’s rant? No one can tell clearly, but in the last few years of his life, Maupassant’s central nervous system was damaged and he often couldn’t distinguish between reality and fantasy. One day in 1892, he first used a gun and then a knife, and finally jumped out of the window and killed himself three times in one breath. He had to be sent to a mental hospital. One day before his death, he inserted a wooden stick into the soil and told the nurse: Plant this and you will see some little Maupassants next year.

When Maupassant was eight or nine years old, he witnessed his father beating his mother like crazy and then escaping from the house and hiding in the woods for a night. The unknown wind blowing from the world.”

Throughout Maupassant’s life, this kind of fear and madness were almost always present, but they were often ignored because they were too difficult to understand and complicated. Just like when we talk about his literary achievements, we always mention his influence on mainstream writers such as Carver and Maugham, but few people mention his fantasy works, especially “Orla” on fantasy literature and “Csu”. “Lu’s Novels” had a profound impact.

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