Bel-Ami Maupassant   Leave a comment


This is a short novel from my ‘1001 books to read before you die’ list, by the french writer Guy de Maupassant (1850-1893). He specialised in shorter stories and they tended to be from a pessimistic or disillusioned point of view. This novel is no different.

Bel Ami was his second novel, it was published in 1885, with an English translation titled Bel Ami, and subtitled ‘The History of a scoundrel’ in 1903.

The story chronicles Georges Duroy’s corrupt rise to power from a poor ex-soldier, who served 3 years in Algeria, to one of the most successful men in Paris. He meets his old friend, Forestier, who offers his a job as a journalist on the Paris newspaper, La Vie Francaise.

He begins as a reporter of minor events and soft news, he gradually climbs his way up to chief editor, mostly by manipulating a series of powerful, intelligent, and wealthy women.

Duroy initially owes his success to Forestier’s wife, Madeleine, who helps him write his first articles and after being promoted to writing lead articles, she adds an edge and poignancy to them. She also uses her political to give him behind the scenes information.

During this time, Duroy becomes the lover of Forestiers’ friend Mme de Marelle. Soon, Forestier’s dies and he marries the widow.
She encourages him to act differently, and Georges now signs his articles Du Roy in order to add prestige to his name.

Their marriage soon becomes strained, and he begins an affair Mme Walter, the wife of the owner of the newspaper. He has now increased his influence and is soon made editor of the paper. Soon his ardour cools when he is introduced to her teenage daughter. He decides he will marry her and begins to plot.

He exposes his wife as an adultress, thus gaining his divorce. Walters daughter is soon infatuated with him, and he persuades her to elope with him then blackmails the parents to agree to his marriage.

The book ends at the wedding, where Duroy
is completely satisfied with his plotting. The guests include all those prominent in society.
He then remembers back to his last meeting with Mme Marelle the day before, when she agreed to continue their affair after the marriage.

How more despicable can it be! Maupassant’s cynicism of Parisian corruption in business and in society comes through clearly. This is the real message, although the actual story is good on its own without the social message.

I have read a few of Maupassant’s books now and have found them all to have very good plots, great characterisations and a solid social message everytime. I would soundly recommend this one.



Posted January 18, 2018 by dianne7 in book review

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