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Bel Ami by Guy de Maupassant.

Bel-Ami

Title: Bel Ami.
Author: Guy de Maupassant.
Genre: Fiction, literature, romance.
Country: France.
Language: French.
Publication Date: 1885.
Summary: Young, attractive and very ambitious, George Duroy, known to his friends as Bel-Ami, is offered a job as a journalist on La Vie francaise and soon makes a great success of his new career from a poor ex-NCO to one of the most successful men in Paris, most of which he achieves by manipulating a series of powerful, intelligent, and wealthy mistresses. He comes face to face with the realities of the corrupt society in which he lives - the sleazy colleagues, the manipulative mistresses and wily financiers - and swiftly learns to become an arch-seducer, blackmailer and social climber in a world where love is only a means to an end.

My rating: 8/10.
My Review: I literally did not put this book down until I read all the way through it. The only criticism I actually had was that the translation I read modernized the language, which I really dislike in translations, because it throws me out of the time period it's supposed to be set in.


♥ "It's not difficult to appear bright, don't worry. The main thing is never to show obvious ignorance of anything. You prevaricate, avoid the difficulty, steer clear of the problem and then catch other people out by using a dictionary. All men are stupid oafs and ignorant nincompoops."

♥ His mates used to say: "He's crafty and artful, he'll be smart enough to keep out of trouble." And he had vowed that he would indeed be crafty and artful and smart. His native Norman wit, sharpened by garrison life and broadened by looting in Africa, illicit perks and dubious dealings, as well as picking up ideas of honour in the army, together with military bravado, patriotic sentiment, deeds of derring-do retailed in the sergeants' mess and the kudos of his profession, had turned him into a sort of box with several false bottoms, in which you could find bits of practically everything.

♥ And the conversation turned to love. Though he would not agree that it could ever be eternal, Duroy considered that it should nevertheless be lasting and create a bond of tenderness, friendship and trust. The union of two bodies was only the seal set on the union of two souls. But he strongly critisized the torments of jealousy, the tragedies, the scenes and heartbreak that almost always accompany the end of an affair.

♥ They had reached the stage of witty suggestiveness, of words, veiled yet revealing, that are like a hand lifting up a skirt, the stage of clever allusions, skilfully hidden impropriety, shamelessly brazen hypocrisy, cryptic words that cover naked images and which fill the eye and the mind with a sudden vision of what dare not be said openly and enables smart society to enjoy a subtle, mysterious sort of lovemaking, a sort of marriage of impure minds, by simultaneously conjuring up, with words as sensual and disturbing as a sexual embrace, the secret, shameful desire for body to clasp body.

♥ As if one can control one's feelings!"

She turned toward him:

"My dear Monsieur Duroy, for me a man in love no longer exists. He becomes an idiot and a dangerous idiot at that. I stop having any close relationship with men who love me or claim to, first because they bore me and secondly because I feel as suspicious of them as I would of a mad dog that may suddenly have a fit. So I put them in quarantine until they've got over their attack. Don't forget that. I know perfectly well that for you love is merely a sort of appetite whereas for me it would be more a sort of... of... of communion of souls which doesn't exist in a male's religion. You understand the letter and I understand the spirit."

♥ Like everyone else, for the space of a few years he had lived, eaten, laughed and hoped. And now everything was over for him for ever. What is life? A few days and then nothing more. You're born, you grow up, you're happy, you wait and then you die. Goodbye! Whether you're a man or a woman, you'll never come back on earth. And yet everyone bears within himself the feverish, hopeless wish to be eternal, each person is a sort of universe within the universe and yet each person is soon completely annihilated on the dunghill where lie the seeds of new life to come. Plants, animals, men, stars, worlds, everything takes on life and then dies and is transformed. And no creature ever comes back, whether it be a man, an insect or a planet!

Duroy was gripped by an immense, bewildered, overwhelming terror, the terror of this ineluctable, limitless void which unceasingly destroys each short, miserable life. He could feel the threat already weighing him down. He was thinking of flies, which live a few hours, of animals which live a few days, of men who live a few years, of planets which live a few centuries. What difference was there then between them? A few extra dawns, that was all.

♥ He was rubbing his hands together gleefully as he walked along, full of the private pleasure of achieving everything he wanted, the glee of the skilful egoist for whom everything is turning out well and the subtle mixture of flattered vanity and satisfied sensuality that comes from a woman's love.

♥ "How nice to be able to use religion as an en-tout-cas. If it's fine, you've got a walking-stick; if the sun's shining, a sunshade; if it's raining, an umbrella and if you stay at home, you leave it in the hall."

♥ For a whole year she had been struggling every day and every night against this growing obsession, against this image haunting her dreams and her body for many a long, sleepless night. She felt caught like a rat in a trap, bound hand and foot and thrown to the tender mercies of this male who had subdued and conquered her by nothing more substantial than the hair on his lip and the colour of his eyes.

And now, in this church, close to God, she felt even weaker, more deserted and more lost than in her home. She could not pray, she could only think of him. She was even suffering already because he had gone away. Yet she was struggling like a desperate creature, trying to defend herself, crying for help from the depths of her soul. She would rather have died than be unfaithful in this way, she who had never faltered in her duty. Her lips were wildly beseeching God; but her ears were listening to Georges' footsteps dying away beneath the distant vaulting of the church.

She realized that it was all over, that it was pointless to struggle. Yet she did not want to give in; and she was gripped by the sort of hysterical feeling that makes women drop, screaming, trembling and writhing on to the floor. She was shaking in every limb and feared that she was going to fall over and be found squirming and shrieking amongst the chairs.

♥ "Do stand up, I happen to have the key of the confessional on me." And fumbling in his pocket, he pulled out a key-ring and went quickly towards one of the little wooden huts, a sort of dustbin for the soul into which believers tip their sins.

♥ Clotilde also called him: "My darling, my cherub, my sweetie-pie," and he found such expressions affectionate and gentle. When spoken by the other woman earlier on, they had irritated and nauseated him. For loving words, which are always the same, take their flavour from the lips by which they are uttered.

♥ He stopped in front of her and once again they stood eye-ball to eye-ball, each endeavouring to pierce the impenetrable secrets of the other's heart, to probe each other's thoughts to the quick. Without speaking, they interrogated each other in a passionate attempt to lay bare what was in their two minds: a tussle between a couple who, although they live side by side, never really know each other, who suspect each other, sniff round and spy on each other without ever fathoming the murky depths of their two souls.

♥ Not that she fully understood what was happening. She was merely suffering.
Tags: 1880s, 19th century - fiction, 3rd-person narrative, class struggle (fiction), fiction, foreign lit, french - fiction, infidelity (fiction), literature, my favourite books, romance, translated
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