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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.

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