A One-Sided Affair

“Alien Hearts” by Guy de Maupassant Translated by Richard Howard

Guy de Maupassant (1850 – 1893) is one of the classic short story writers.  He has this natural style that seems almost effortless. I’ve read many of his three hundred short stories and am always willing to read more.  His novels “A Woman’s Life”, “Bel-Ami” and “Pierre and Jean”  are excellent also.  So when I saw this attractive new book, “Alien Hearts” by Maupassant, a new translation in the New York Review Books Classics series, I was eager to read it.

“Alien Hearts” is the story of a love affair between a young man about town Andre Mariolle  and Madame Michele de Burne, the hostess to the most elite artistic salon in Paris.  The most acclaimed musicians, artists, and writers attend Madame de Burne’s salon parties.  Mariolle has no particular talent which is one of the reasons Madame de Burne is attracted to him, because it has been her experience that artists are too self centered.

Their relationship begins romantically, and Mariolle is ready to settle in for a long love affair.  However Madame de Burne is not nearly as committed to the affair, and soon she starts making excuses to arrive late for their assignations, leave early, or not show up at all.   Soon it becomes apparent to Mariolle that she is more interested in her conquests at the salon than she is in their love affair.

The entire novel is written from Mariolle’s point of view.  Many pages are devoted to his thoughts on the affair, his feelings of being slighted by Madame de Burne, his jealousy.  His thoughts about his own love affair become self-centered and repetitive.  His annoyance with Madame de Burne becomes annoying.  The reader soon realizes he loves her more than she loves him.   Yet the affair drags on for another hundred pages.

Madame de Burne finally breaks up with him, and after some serious pining, Mariolle takes up with an eager quite young woman who worships him.

As you must realize by now, I’m less than enthusiastic about “Alien Hearts”.  My experience has been that when I dig deep into even the greatest writers’ body of work, sooner or later I come upon a work that just does not live up to their best.  I would recommend with Maupassant, read the short stories first, then read the excellent short novels “A Woman’s Life”, “Bel-Ami” and “Pierre and Jean”.  Only after you have read these and you are still hungry for more Maupassant like I was, read this novel.   Who knows, you may like it.


One response to this post.

  1. I apologise, but, in my opinion, you commit an error. I can prove it.


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