Tuesday, July 31, 2012

"[...] make me see, by means of a single word..."

Marlo Johnston's 1,336 page biography

"[Guy de] Maupassant’s life has long proved attractive to biographers. Johnston’s book is not the only account of his life to appear this year. A somewhat shorter volume was published by Frédéric Martinez in February. They describe a life of extremes: success, failure; creativity, morbidity; joie de vivre and jadedness. Maupassant was a writer who worked hard and played even harder. His career was characterized by a rapid rise to acclaim and fortune, but also by bouts of illness caused by the syphilis he contracted as a young man. [...]
     Maupassant frequently acknowledged the influence of his master [Gustave Flaubert], as in his well-known essay, 'The Novel,' published as a preface to the novel Pierre et Jean. Here he cites Flaubert’s advice on the need for a singularity of vision, concisely expressed through style: 'make me see, by means of a single word, wherein one cab-horse does not resemble the fifty others ahead of it or behind it.' This concern for originality underlies Maupassant’s discussion of the novel. Often associated with realism, naturalism or psychological innovations which would anticipate Proust and Modernism, in 'The Novel' Maupassant distances himself from recognizable movements.
     He insists on the primacy of the artist’s necessarily subjective vision, arguing that the relativity of perspective makes 'reality' and 'illusion' one and the same thing. In the essay’s most celebrated statement, Maupassant concludes that 'gifted Realists should really be called Illusionists.' Instead of absolute truth, writers should instead aim to communicate to the reader the intensity of their unique interpretation of reality: they should offer not so much a 'banal photograph of life' as 'a vision that is at once more complete, more startling and more convincing than reality itself.'”
— Kate Rees, The Times Literary Supplement

No comments:

Post a Comment