Like Death by Guy de Maupassant

By Guy de Maupassant

Trans. through Richard Howard

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Then he took her umbrella and helped her out of her new spring jacket, his movements prompt and certain, accustomed to these familiar gestures. ” “Fine, fine. ” “Sugar beets, or perhaps rapeseed oil. ” Her husband, Count de Guilleroy, the deputy for the department of Eure, had made a specialty of agricultural questions (and answers) throughout his successful parliamentary career. ” “All that? ” “You know,” she said seriously, “if you go back to doing women’s portraits, I’ll close your studio. ” She studied the unfinished pastel like a woman who knows all the answers to a work of art, or at least all the questions, first stepping back, then coming even closer, covering her left eye with one hand, then glancing around the studio to find the best light for examining the sketch, and finally declaring herself satisfied.

Wouldn’t the suspected truth be whispered, then chattered everywhere? Wouldn’t it be better, if appearances were to be saved, to collaborate with Olivier Bertin himself in the hypocritical comedy of indifference and neglect, showing him and the world that she had erased such a moment from her memory, from her life? But could she manage such a thing? ” After long reflection she decided that no other solution was even remotely possible. She would go to him tomorrow, courageously, and make him understand what she wanted, what she expected.

Here then are examples from Fort comme la mort (the title translated with a sense of joyous responsibility as Like Death), which typify the ecstatic discovery any reader will make: The painter, listening to her, felt as gay as a bird, as gay as he had never been. Everything she told him, all the futile and commonplace details of that young girl’s simple existence, amused and interested him. “Let’s sit down here,” he said. They sat down near the water. And two swans came floating down ahead of them, expecting to be fed.

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