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Wednesday, July 31, 2013

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Flaubert to Maupassant in an 1878 letter: "You complain about fucking being ‘monotonous’. There’s a simple remedy: cut it out for a bit"

There's a long, great Guy de Maupassant review by Julian Barnes up at the London Review of Books that starts with this tidbit: "Fucking women," wrote Maupassant in a letter to his mentor Gustave Flaubert, two days before his 28th birthday, "is as monotonous as listening to male wit. I find that the news in the papers is always the same, that the vices are trivial, and that there aren’t enough different ways to compose a sentence."

Already amazing, and then Flaubert's reply:

You complain about fucking being ‘monotonous’. There’s a simple remedy: cut it out for a bit. ‘The news in the papers is always the same’? That’s the complaint of a realist – and besides, what do you know about it? You should look at things more carefully … ‘The vices are trivial’? – but everything is trivial. ‘There aren’t enough different ways to compose a sentence’? – seek and ye shall find … You must – do you hear me, my young friend? – you must work harder than you do. I suspect you of being a bit of a loafer. Too many whores! Too much rowing! Too much exercise! A civilised person needs much less locomotion than the doctors claim. You were born to be a poet: be one. Everything else is pointless – starting with your pleasures and your health: get that much into your thick skull. Besides, your health will be all the better if you follow your calling … What you lack are ‘principles’. There’s no getting over it – that’s what you have to have; it’s just a matter of finding out which ones. For an artist there is only one: everything must be sacrificed to Art … To sum up, my dear Guy, you must beware of melancholy: it’s a vice.

I need a Flaubert to set me straight like that ASAP. Also: "In 1884 [Maupassant] published more than a story a week; in 1886 three every two weeks." A blogger before his time.



34 Comments / Post A Comment

SarahP

Oh like Flaubert should be lecturing anyone about "too many whores."

SarahP

@SarahP I love this, though. Advice from writers and correspondence between writers is something I always read filled half with jealously and half with awe.

adorable-eggplant

@SarahP Takes one to know one.

gulleyjimson

Given that Maupassant died insane from syphilis, perhaps he should have taken some of that "less fucking" advice to heart. Still, in half a lifetime he cranked out more great fiction than most writers will in a full one. Did his appetites help or hinder that?

Yarnybarny

If someone could just tell me what I was born to be, I would appreciate it.

Faintly Macabre

It was probably easy for him to write so many stories, considering that like 80% of them were:

Pretty woman is somewhere
There's a bad man
Bad things--either bad man or illness or war
Woman dies

Unless my French Literature professor just secretly loved stories about dying women and purposely only gave us those to read...

gulleyjimson

@Faintly Macabre The two dozen or so of Maupassant's stories which I've read were pretty diverse. Some were fantastical, many were comic, and I don't recall any in which the woman dies. There's a strong sense of irony and empathy in most of them. If you don't feel like reading them, you should still check out two film adaptations, Max Ophuls' Le Plaisir, and Jean Renoir's A Day in the Country, which is lovely and sad.

and it's not even my birthday

I REALLY needed Flaubert to email me when I was a sophomore in college.

or Elsa!

"Fucking women," wrote Maupassant in a letter to his mentor Gustave Flaubert, two days before his 28th birthday, "is as monotonous as listening to male wit.

Or, y'know, flip those activities: listen to female wit and fuck men. I assure you, Maupassant, both pastimes are diverse in their delights.

Lucienne

@or Elsa! There's a joke about Rimbaud here somewhere, if I can just figure it out . . .

stuffisthings

Awesome, now when I tell people to cut it out with all the marathons I can quote no less an authority than Flaubert.

This just supports my pet theory that organized exercise is inherently fascistic.

Amphora

Aaaand Instapapered.

adorable-eggplant

@Amphora Instapaper? Is that a new app? I feel like a hopeless old.

GEEKitty

I just want to say that this very day is two days before my 28th birthday. And I'm in a bit of a monotony-hell myself. This article is relevant to my interests.

alliepants

All I want is for history to remember me as "socially and sexually successful, and physically very fit."

...without all the syphilis stuff though.

christopher hart

As per Chris Hart become an Good Artist is really a great.

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