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The Classic Short Story, 1870-1925

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Florence Goyet

Part III: Reader, Character and Author

8. A Foreign World

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  • 1 With the exception of Clare Hanson who sees the “short story” (as opposed to “short fiction”) as h (...)
  • 2 A commonly held critical view, from Hanson (1985), p. 7, to Rust Hills, Writing in General and the (...)

1If we were to define the classic short story in one word, it would certainly be “distance”. This distance is very often recognised for individual stories, but critics never, to my knowledge, see it as a characteristic feature of the genre per se.1 There are two possible reasons for this. The first one is that we share with the readers of the periodicals of the time the objectifying distance from the characters. Nineteenth-century workers, provincials or peasants are as far — or rather further — from twenty-first century readers as they were from the readers of Milan’s Fanfulla or Paris’s Le Gaulois. For this reason, perhaps, we do not notice their ridiculing as acutely as we might. For example, we can see each of the stories in Dubliners as an epiphany, and be sensible to their “radiance”;2 the Dubliners of the turn of the century saw in them instead a powerful attack on their very essence.

  • 3 See Mary Rohrberger, Hawthorne and the Modern Short Story: A Study in Genre (The Hague: Mouton, 19 (...)

2The second reason is that critics tend to see the classic short story as different in essence from the “modern” short stories that have been at the centre of critical attention since Mary Rohrberger’s and Charles E. May’s influential studies of the 1960s and 70s.3 Critics tend to think that classic stories represent a very limited “naturalistic” corpus that was practiced only by minor writers. We have begun to see, however, that great authors like Henry James, Anton Chekhov, Luigi Pirandello and Mori Ōgai all wrote classic short stories prolifically and were masters of the very specific “laws” of the form that we have already seen. Critics tend to think that these great authors are “above” the often simplistic and simplifying characterisation that is inherent to this form. In fact, their greatness came from using the somewhat limited features of the genre — such as distance — in a way that generated masterpieces.

  • 4 Mikhail Bakhtin, Problems of Dostoevsky’s Poetics, ed. and trans. by Caryl Emerson (Minneapolis, M (...)
  • 5 Compare this to a novel like Crime and Punishment, which is all about Sonya being “just like us”, (...)

3In this chapter, I shall attempt to show that distance is a defining trait of the genre at the end of nineteenth century, not only in the so-called “naturalistic” story, but also as it was used by great authors of the time. This distance is put to use in many widely different ways: it can be used in anecdotes, satire, stories of the fantastic, social commentaries and tales of the countryside. One of the most interesting features of the short story is that its generic conventions have the potential to be actualised in rich and varied ways. However, at the time we are considering, the most important form “distancing” takes is through a discrediting of the characters: they are shown to be different in essence from the reader and the author. In other words, the classic short story is a “monologic” genre, to use Mikhail Bakhtin’s term, the diametric opposite of “polyphonic”: the character does not have a consciousness “with equal rights” as the author’s and the reader’s; he does not have a full “voice”.4 Prostitutes in Maupassant — as well as women from the colonies — are always seen as bizarre and picturesque; their feelings, ways of life and opinions are all part of an exotic spectacle.5

4What we just saw in the last chapter makes this of no little consequence. When discrediting a character, the short story is in fact discrediting the other — which, when it comes to the readership of the stories we are looking at, mostly means the colonised, peasants, office workers, provincials or the urban poor. The judgements the short story invites us to pass are not just judgements on literary characters — as different from persons — which would be of no great importance. These judgements are part of a broader social attitude. Like the exotic novel in the colonial era, they are comforting readers in the feeling of their superiority, by showing them how delightfully strange, but ultimately inferior, these “other” people are.

5In this third part of the book, we will begin by looking at the often explicit and radical difference authors created between their readers and their characters. The short story is much too subtle an art always to rely on the obvious, however, so we shall then analyse the use of more indirect rhetorical techniques. We shall dedicate a complete chapter to two of those techniques that are generally associated with a characters’ proximity: dialect — the reproduction of ways of speaking that are specific to a linguistic group — and the relations between author, narrator and reader.

An explicit distance

  • 6 At a theatre, a petty civil servant sneezes. No big deal. But he has sneezed on the head of the pe (...)

6The classic short story does not shrink from caricaturing its characters in the most extreme ways. Even the greatest authors — Chekhov, Maupassant, Akutagawa, Verga and James — all at times explicitly indicate how we should consider the character, rather than relying on more subtle portraits. We will not be surprised, of course, to find this in most satires, where the ridiculing of characters is expected. In Chekhov’s Smert’ chinovnika (The Death of a Civil Servant) — published in the humorous journal Oskolki (Splinters) and widely republished in anthologies — the hero is presented throughout the story, paroxystically, as the incarnation of the type of pitiful minor civil servant familiar to readers since Gogol. The whole story is a development of this character type, and the narrative is based on the grotesque bad luck that comes with it.6 As a kind of summing up of all these elements, he is called “Cherviakov” (“worm”).

  • 7 Guy de Maupassant, The Complete Short Stories of Guy de Maupassant, trans. by Artine Artinian (Gar (...)
  • 8 Ibid, p. 1025 (p. 195).

7But such caricature is not to be found only in stories written for the “small press”. In the beginning of En famille (A Family Affair), Maupassant describes the people that can be found in the tramway:7 “The few inside consisted of stout women in strange toilettes, shopkeepers’ wives from the suburbs, who made up for the distinguished looks which they did not possess by ill-assumed dignity”.8 And later:

  • 9 Ibid, p. 1032 (p. 203).

In the suburbs of Paris, which are full of people from the provinces, one meets with the indifference toward death, even of a father or a mother, which all peasants show; a want of respect, an unconscious callousness which is common in the country, and rare in Paris.9

  • 10 Ibid, p. 1037 (p. 211).
  • 11 See Forestier’s note in Pléiade, II, p. 1343 (translation ours).

8The suburb where the characters live is described as “the garbage district”, and the hero, on his mother’s death, is described as “revolving in his mind those apparently profound thoughts, those religious and philosophical commonplaces, which trouble people of mediocre minds in the face of death”.10 The situation is very clear: on the one hand there are the Parisian readers of a high society journal, and on the other the people who live in the suburbs, “provincials” who have not been civilized by city life, and who have brought with them their brutish country ways. Let us note that A Family Affair is not one of Maupassant’s minor short stories, but a text which has been hailed by critics; not an anecdote for Gil Blas, but an “adorable short story […] a fine study of the dregs of the lower middle class”, to use an expression of the critic Albert Wolff:11. such methods of distancing did not in any way bother the critics of the time.

9Ridiculing the character does not destroy the short story; in fact it is almost a defining feature, very similar to the prevalence of paroxystic extremes. Endless numbers of heroes of short stories are described as “ridiculous” by the narrators, from Maupassant’s Miss Harriet (“ridiculous and lamentable”), to Pirandello’s Donna Mimma (“a ridiculous and pitiful spectacle”), to Akutagawa’s Goi in Yam Gruel (ugly to the point of “strangeness”). What we have here is exactly the attitude that we saw in Maupassant’s Allouma in the previous chapter: the judgement of the narrator is assured, and is founded on the comfortable feeling of the white man’s/high society member’s superiority.

  • 12 Florence Goyet, La Nouvelle, 1870-1925: description d’un genre à son apogée (Paris: Presses Univer (...)
  • 13 Autres temps in Pléiade, I, p. 455 (translation ours); Old Mongilet in Artinian, p. 940 (Le Père M (...)
  • 14 The Blind Man in Artinian, p. 900 (L’Aveugle in Pléiade, I, p. 402).
  • 15 The Adopted Son in Guy de Maupassant, The Entire Original Maupassant Short Stories, trans. by Albe (...)

10Maupassant’s characterisation of Allouma as an animal was not limited to the native woman: it was also the standard way in which he described peasants. I have listed at length the cases in which Maupassant uses animal vocabulary to represent people.12 It ranges from descriptions of their physicality (the old peasant “just like a rat”; “What was it that opened it? I could not tell at the first glance. A woman or an ape?”; [she was] “the true type of robust peasantry, half brute and half woman […]; [...] the brutal sound of her voice, a sort of moan, or rather a mew”),13 to descriptions of their customs (“in the country the useless are obnoxious and the peasants would be glad, like hens, to kill the infirm of their species”),14 and to their domestic situation (“the brats were crawling all over […] The two mothers could barely distinguish their products in the heap […] the housewives gathered their offspring to give them their mash, like gooseherds gathering their creatures […] the mother [...] fattening her calf”).15 What Maupassant suggests here is a radical difference: peasants belong to a “different species” (to use his own phrase from Allouma). It is not that the peasants are simply different from us; they are expelled from the circle of human beings.

  • 16 La Vie populaire was a weekly publication founded by the author Catulle Mendès, with long articles (...)

11Again, this did not bother the critics of the time any more than the characterisation of women — especially exotic women — as inferior. This last example, Aux champs, is no more a minor story than A Family Affair. It is even today often republished — quite a favourite of short story collections of Maupassant, in fact — and at the time it had been selected by the magazines of quite good repute: La Vie populaire, and Le Voleur, which presented the story to its readers as “a living study of the heart of peasants”.16 My point is not that these stories shouldn’t be republished, but that it seems odd that few critics, even today, comment on the brutal “othering” of these characters. This type of extreme and unflattering characterisation is so typical of the short story that it somehow goes unnoticed.

  • 17 Wayne C. Booth, A Rhetoric of Irony (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1974), pp. 57-60 and 73 (...)
  • 18 Artinian, pp. 1008-12 (Pléiade, I, pp. 329-35).

12The classic short story did not shrink from stating explicitly that its heroes are of a resolutely different humanity from its readers, but given the subtlety of many short stories, it is not surprising that this effect is often achieved through indirect, implicit means. Most frequently readers will be left to draw their own conclusions about characters and events. As in ironic texts, the reader has no need to be told that the characters are in error; he knows it from seeing them believe in things that are clearly wrong (“known error proclaimed”, as Wayne C. Booth calls it), or holding values inferior to his or the author’s (Booth calls this “conflicts of belief”).17 In Une aventure parisienne (An Adventure in Paris), for example, Maupassant tells the story of a chaste provincial woman, the wife of a notary, who comes to Paris in order to see for herself the extremes of luxury and corruption she is sure are hidden in the capital.18 Purely by chance, she meets one of the great men of the day, and has the opportunity to spend a full day, and even a night, with him. The whole point of the story is her disillusionment at discovering that the man’s famous and cherished reputation hides a very unpleasant personality. The structuring antithesis is between what she has imagined from reading the daily papers and the reality of Paris. In the end, she plainly acknowledges her “provincial” error.

  • 19 La Vie populaire, 14 August 1884.
  • 20 Artinian, p. 1008 and p. 1009 (Pléiade, I, p. 329 and p. 330).
  • 21 Ibid, p. 1037 (p. 210).

13However, the Parisian readers of Gil Blas or La Vie populaire — where the story was republished19 — had no need of this explicit denunciation to enjoy the spectacle of her error. From the very beginning, they knew from their own experience how much she erred, just from the description of her thoughts. Sentences like “she saw Paris in an apotheosis of magnificent and corrupt luxury” and “there could be no doubt that the houses there [on the boulevards] concealed mysteries of prodigious love” make her error as clear to them as any explicit statement.20 Similarly, there is no need to state explicitly, as Maupassant does in En famille (A Family Affair), that the clock coveted by the Caravans is ridiculous: “one of those grotesque objects that were produced so plentifully under the [Second] Empire”.21 Readers of the elegant Nouvelle Revue would inevitably feel disgust for such artistic atrocities as suggested here: the clock’s apparatus is in the shape of a young woman, and the pendulum is a ball with which she plays cup-and-ball. This design was generally recognised in the 1880s as a contrived and rather crude sexual symbol, and considered to be the height of bad taste by anyone in intellectual or elegant circles. Here the characters are as effectively discredited by Booth’s “conflict of values” as they would be through direct characterisation.

  • 22 Wolff describes the story as “beautiful from beginning to end, beautiful in its general conception (...)

14The objective social distance which we have identified between the readers of short stories and their characters is galvanized in the feeling of that distance. In their ferocious and ludicrous struggle for a grotesque object, the characters establish their distance from the reader who would not for the world have it cluttering his room. Wolff, in the article where he described Maupassant’s story as “an excellent study of the dregs of the lower middle class”, stigmatised the Caravans’ “rapacity” and praised the author for being a “thinker”. It is definitely an affair of the suburbs — the “district where rubbish is deposited”.22 This section of society has little to do with him or his readers.

The use of types: subversion or immersion?

  • 23 Akutagawa Ryūnosuke, Akutagawa Ryūnosuke zenshū, 19 vols (Tōkyō: Iwanami Shoten, 1954-1955), I, pp (...)
  • 24 Artinian, pp. 43-58 (Pléiade, I, pp. 256-83); Luigi Pirandello, Il vecchio Dio (Milan: Mondadori, (...)

15We have seen that the short story does not hesitate to use types — social if not traditional literary types — in order to facilitate the reader’s rapid entry into the story (see Chapter Four). Instead of being reworked, the type is usually developed along expected lines. When Akutagawa, for instance, describes the life of brigands in the Middle Ages in Chūtō (The Brigands), he relies on all the reader’s preconceived ideas of what constitutes a “brigand”.23 With little surprise — but with all the power of the topos — we see the development of life outside the law, with its train of evil deeds perpetrated with the greatest indifference, and encounters endured with the greatest sangfroid. Similarly, Maupassant’s La Maison Tellier (Madame Tellier’s Establishment) plays on the stereotype of the prostitute, while Pirandello’s Lumie di Sicilia (Sicilian Limetrees) builds for our pleasure an antithesis between the immoral urban female singer, and the poor and virtuous provincial musician in love with her.24

  • 25 Artinian, pp. 328-41 (Pléiade, I, pp. 876-95). In a letter to Maupassant, the editor Victor Havard (...)
  • 26 Artinian, p. 331 (Pléiade, I, p. 880).

16Rarely will a narrative short story bypass the opportunity offered by exoticism of this kind, even when the author appears as the “defender” of a type known to be ridiculous. From this point of view, Maupassant’s Miss Harriet is a particularly interesting story, because critics have seen in it the symbol of the author’s “compassion” for his characters.25 As we become aware of the many signs of distancing, such a conclusion becomes surprising. From her first appearance, Miss Harriet is characterised as having the “face of a mummy”; she is “a sour herring adorned with curling papers”, a “singular apparition” which makes the narrator “laugh”.26 This narrator, a “strolling painter” who collects sketches and favours from the farm girls on his walks through Normandy, does not subscribe to the peasants’ judgement of her as a “demoniac”. But he goes on to develop at length what she truly is:

  • 27 Ibid, pp. 331-32 (emphases mine) (p. 881).

She was, in fact, one of those people of exalted principles, one of those opinionated puritans of whom England produces so many, one of those good and insupportable old women who haunt the tables d’hôte of every hotel in Europe, who spoil Italy, poison Switzerland, render the charming cities of the Mediterranean uninhabitable, carry everywhere their fantastic manias, their petrified vestal manners, their indescribable toilets and a certain odor of India rubber, which makes one believe that at night they slip themselves into a case of that material. When I meet one of these people in a hotel I act like birds which see a manikin in a field.27

  • 28 “This woman appeared so singular that she did not displease me”. Ibid, p. 332 (p. 881).

17This time the type is well documented: this particular kind of elderly lady, typified by the “English Old Maid”, haunted the literature of the time, just as she haunted the tourist hotels. True, Maupassant embellishes the worn-out topos: his narrator makes friends with her. But we should not forget under what conditions: it is because she is so pitifully bizarre that she interests him, and then she expresses her admiration for one of his sketches.28 He never refrains from characterising her as ridiculous:

  • 29 Ibid, p. 334 (p. 885). I take the liberty to modify Artinian’s translation, which reads “It would (...)

Wrapped up in her square shawl, inspired by the balmy air and with teeth firmly set […] She now accepted these with the vacant smile of a mummy. […] She was a caricature of ecstasy.
I turned my face away from her so as to be able to laugh.29

  • 30 Ibid. Note the two juxtaposed sentences: “And we became firm friends immediately. / She was a brav (...)
  • 31 Ibid, p. 333 (p. 883).
  • 32 Ibid, pp. 335 and 337 (pp. 886 and 890).
  • 33 Admittedly, the narrator calls himself, in the same sentence, “ridiculous”; but he only describes (...)

18And this at the precise moment when he says that both of them are “as satisfied as any two persons could be who have just learned to understand and penetrate each other’s motives and feelings”.30 I do not see how the narrator’s representation of a caricature permits talk of “compassion”, or of a touching and emotional understanding of a being whom the rest of society despised. He feels the same interest in her as he did in “the little bell which struck midday”. The narrator admits that he felt for her “something besides curiosity” which even makes him say: “I wanted […] to learn what passes in the solitary souls of those wandering old English dames”.31 However, that is what short story narrators never do. And when, in the end, he meditates on the “secrets of suffering and despair” borne by Miss Harriet, he still talks of her “disagreeable” and “ridiculous” body, with the same mixture of pity and ridicule, as when he met her (“Poor solitary beings […] poor beings, ridiculous and lamentable”) or when he discovered that she loved him (“feeling that I could just as soon weep as laugh”).32 Of course he wants to weep, and this is what strikes the critics when they speak of compassion and understanding; but nevertheless he still wants to laugh.33

  • 34 The examples I have come across all show that short stories were more abrupt when published in the (...)

19We are prevented from seeing this distancing because this type is considered to be obvious by both readers of the time and modern critics. It clearly relies on the traditional image of the English spinster who evoked in every late nineteenth century reader the same sentiments Maupassant ascribed to his painter. The English Old Maid is thought to be laughable and Miss Harriet will certainly not change our opinion. The story merely succeeds in showing that it is possible to have pity, even within the heart of ridicule.34

  • 35 Artinian, pp. 651-55 (Pléiade, I, pp. 546‑52).
  • 36 Ibid, p. 651 (p. 546).
  • 37 Our translation from Pléiade, I, p. 547 (“[…] haillonneuse, vermineuse, sordide”). Artinian’s tran (...)
  • 38 Artinian, pp. 652-53 (Pléiade, I, p. 549).

20When pretending to rework a type, the classic short story will generally be establishing another. Maupassant will provide us with a quick example. In La Rempailleuse (A Strange Fancy), published in Gil Blas, the heroine is a poor and elderly chair-mender.35 The narrator is a worldly Parisian doctor who has retired to the provinces. To contribute to the inevitable, endless after-dinner discussion of love and passion, he announces the story of a “love which lasted fifty years”, and his audience of women of the province’s “good society” immediately break into lyrical couplets about life-long love.36 When he tells them that the protagonists are the village pharmacist and the chair-mender, however, the ladies now express violent disgust — the chair-mender is considered to be part of the dregs of society, even lower on the social scale than peasants. When the narrator asserts forcefully that her love is no more ridiculous than any other, we are ready to believe that he is free from the prejudices usually expressed by the short story. However, his characterisation of the girl is paroxistically pejorative: she is “ragged, flea-ridden, sordid”.37 She is also shown as being taken in by all the spectacles of society — exactly those that the Parisian readers of Gil Blas would not be taken in by. She is enamoured by the pharmacist’s son — who becomes her idol and accepts repeatedly all her money — and enchanted by the pharmacy window, before which she stays “charmed, aroused to ecstasy by this glory of coloured water, this apotheosis of shining crystal”.38

21Yet the characters who are ultimately “distanced” in this story are the narrow-minded women to whom the doctor tells the story. Gil Blas published hundreds of stories about love told by similar narrators, and the chair-mender’s love is shown to be no more ridiculous than that of the provincial women. Readers are in agreement with the doctor in their contempt for the silly, romantic notions seemingly found in every bourgeois woman.

“Deceptive representations” of reality

22Chekhov may very well have been the most subtle of all this period’s short story writers. Even his early satires are capable of complex representations, and the stories of his later career extend the territory of the genre, creating texts that break with some of the rules we have thus far seen at work; perhaps more than any other author he paved the way to the “modern” short story, with its new perspective on self and society. Chekhov is the one author who really challenges the reader’s existing conceptions of the world. Perhaps surprisingly, I would argue that this too is achieved through distancing. Chekhov takes full advantage of the short story’s “laws” and his difference from other writers is not in abandoning distance but in putting at a distance all the positions he observes.

  • 39 V. B. Kataev, Proza Chekhova: problemy interpretatsii (Moscow: Izd-vo Moskovskogo universiteta, 19 (...)
  • 40 Anton Pavlovich Chekhov, Polnoe sobranie sochinenii i pisem, 30 vols (Moscow: Nauka, 1974-1983), V (...)
  • 41 Anton Pavlovich Chekhov, Anton Chekhov’s Short Stories, ed. by Ralph E. Matlaw, trans. by Constanc (...)

23Vladimir Kataev has shown that the seeds of all Chekhov’s work are to be found in the early “stories of discovery”.39 In Chapter Two we saw Chekhov’s powerful use of antithesis in these stories, where the simple and deluded concept of the world that his character entertained was violently opposed to the new and rightful concept he came to have: “kazalos’/okazalos’” (“it seemed that/it appeared clearly that”). What Kataev makes apparent is that from then on, Chekhov continued to denunciate his characters’ “hallucinations” (“lozhnye predstavleniya”, or more literally “deceptive representations”) of the world.40 The phrase is Chekhov’s, and is used in a story that makes the technique particularly clear: Spat’ khochetsya (Sleepy).41 The heroine is a young girl, Varka, who works as a servant in a rich farmer’s house. She does all the normal household chores as well as baby‑sitting at night. The baby cries all the time so that she can never get to sleep, and then at dawn she must begin a new day’s work. Overcome with exhaustion, and in the grip of a semi‑conscious dream, she finally kills the baby so that she can get some rest.

  • 42 Ibid, p. 69 (p. 12)

24It is a powerful story, and one in which the reader had the opportunity to be immersed in a world of which he or she was most likely ignorant. Our pity for the girl is intense, and we feel vividly Chekhov’s often discussed interest in the plight of the poor. My point here is that this interest takes advantage of the genre’s specific features. Varka, like nearly all Chekhov’s characters, is seen to be trapped by her false concept of the world; she is incapable of judging her situation correctly, of understanding the real (and social) causes of her exhaustion. This is why she identifies the baby as the source of her misery and strangles it: “the hallucination takes hold of Varka”.42 What is important is that Chekhov shows vividly both her misery and her inability to analyse the situation. Through the powerful hypotyposis of the abuse and exploitation of the girl by her masters, he makes sure that the reader, on the other hand, will not mistake the reason for her suffering.

  • 43 Suvorin was a major intellectual, and the director of the journal Novoe vremya. The letter, dated (...)
  • 44 Kataev (1979), p. 40.

25Throughout his career, Chekhov forcefully depicted his characters’ objectively terrible situations — moral or physical — and at the same time made it clear that the reason for their predicament lay in their inability to understand “correctly” the world around them. This is an important point, especially since western critics have generally insisted, to the contrary, on Chekhov’s so-called refusal to take a position in relation to political problems. In his often-quoted declaration to Alexei Suvorin, Chekhov said that one should not ask a writer for solutions to the problems of his time.43 But there are two steps to Chekhov’s declaration, as Kataev most opportunely reminds us: “You are right to demand from the artist a conscious relationship with his work but you confuse two ideas: resolving the question, and asking the correct question; only the latter is obligatory for the artist” (the emphasis is Chekhov’s).44 Chekhov is in no way a “relativist” for whom all positions would be equal. He refuses to give practical answers, but thinks his responsibility as a writer is to “ask the correct question”. By doing this, he occupies a position from which he can state what is correct and what is not. In the terms we have been using, he occupies a position of superiority to his characters, and his goal is to make his readers understand “correctly” what is happening to them.

  • 45 Matlaw, pp. 185-94 (Nauka, X, pp. 55-65).

26In Sleepy, the satire that is applied to everyone except the heroine is quite blatant. Chekhov’s later stories were more subtle, but the “distancing” of certain characters only gained in strength. Kryzhovnik (Gooseberries), written towards the end of Chekhov’s life, relates the pitiful story of a bureaucrat whose only dream is to grow gooseberries in a garden of his own.45 The hero is denounced along lines that are now already familiar to us: Chekhov draws a paroxystic portrait of the despicable traits of the lower middle class. The hero wears himself out working all his life to obtain money; for that purpose he marries a rich woman whom he does not love. Sordid avarice (which deprives him and his wife of any degree of comfort), the niggardliness of the “dream” (summarised by the pitiful and haunting image of the scarcely edible gooseberries), the ludicrous presumption and vanity of someone who thinks he is a gentleman because he possesses a shabby house, and the animal satisfaction of eating inedible gooseberries — the author does not spare his hero one iota. The conclusion of the story takes the form of a judgement delivered by the narrator against the hero. This is one of the most famous moments in Chekhov’s work, always quoted by Soviet critics who saw in this and a few other similar stories the proof that the author was, at heart, ready for the advent of the Revolution:

  • 46 Ibid, p. 193 (p. 64).

There is no such thing as happiness, nor ought there to be, but if there is any sense or purpose in life, this sense and purpose are to be found not in our own happiness, but in something greater and more rational. Do good!46

  • 47 Kataev (1979), pp. 238‑50.

27In fact, as Kataev clearly shows, this is by no means a direct and personal expression of Chekhov’s “real” thoughts.47 It is that of a character, in this case the narrator, who is in fact distanced and discredited by the “frame” of the story.

  • 48 See ibid, pp. 211-21. The “little trilogy” comprises The Man in a Case, Gooseberries and About Lov (...)

28Gooseberries is not presented on its own, but as part of what is generally known as the “little trilogy”: three different stories told by three companions.48 All the rhetorical techniques in these three stories contribute to the discrediting of their heroes. But the “framing” provided by the trilogy itself is used to distance each one of the narrators in turn. The characters inside the stories are mocked by their objective presentation as well as by the comments of the narrators, but the narrators themselves are also mocked in the “frame”. For example, Ivan Ivanich, the narrator of Gooseberries, is discredited by Chekhov’s insistence that the story has bored its listeners, but also by the fact that he is incapable of feeling nature’s beauty. This is one of the techniques that Chekhov used to show a character’s limitations (his soul cannot feel it). The “frame” presents us with one of Chekhov’s famous descriptions of nature: the pure beauty of the river where the characters are bathing in the rain is one of the moments deeply felt and well remembered by generations of readers. But the character is shown to be unable to perceive it.

29All the characters in both the stories and the “frame” of the trilogy are discredited because they hold to their “truths”: fragmented, inadequate concepts of reality that prevent them from seeing the world’s complex and contradictory facets and inherent natural beauty. Even when it is not a question of pure material interest (as was the case of the rich farmers of Sleepy), even when it is a “truth” that can be taken for capital-T truth by generations of critics (as in the indictment against petty individual happiness), Chekhov shows its insufficiency. He challenges the image of all his characters, and also the pre‑revolutionary expressions in their mouths. Refusing to believe in ready‑made “truths” — refusing, of course, to give ready‑made practical answers to the problems of his time — Chekhov fulfils in his stories what he feels is the true duty of the writer: showing all the shortcomings, he denounces the falseness of his contemporaries’ values.

The great man

  • 49 Mori Ōgai, Youth and Other Stories, ed. by J. Thomas Rimer (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, (...)
  • 50 We know that Hanako was a model much loved by Rodin. These remarks were published by a Parisian jo (...)

30Distance does not necessarily imply a negative discreditation. It is just as possible to imagine that it can, on the contrary, help to raise a character to the status of a hero. Although there were many stories that did this in the newspapers of the time, they are very rare in my corpus of classic short stories by great authors. However, one extremely good example is Mori Ōgai’s Hanako.49 Published in a Japanese review, this short story is essentially an homage to Auguste Rodin. The narrator is a young Japanese student, Kubota, who relates an interview between the sculptor and his fellow countrywoman, the dancer Hanako, for which he acted as interpreter. In it we find reversed the same processes of distancing as in the stories that show their heroes in an extremely negative light. For example, Ōgai emphasises the radical difference between Rodin’s concept of beauty and that of the narrator and his readers. Kubota insists at length on the fact that Hanako is only a variety dancer, with no particular beauty according to the Japanese canon. Rodin, on the contrary, from the moment he enters the studio, expresses his admiration for the young woman, and the end of the text consists of a translation of the sculptor’s remarks on Japanese beauty.50 Rodin’s vision is radically different from that of the typical Japanese reader at the turn of the century, but his view is shown to be superior.

31The aesthete Ōgai gives his contemporaries a glimpse of the intellectual world of the great man, and the account is merely a pretext for this portrayal. In the same way that short stories about peasants and working people accumulate the traits of their characters which make them “other”, so Ōgai reviews here the attributes which make the sculptor a different person from us: his powers of concentration, his memory of forms, the breadth of his reading, and his idea of a concept of beauty according to each race. The character is as distant as Maupassant’s peasants, but for the purpose of praising not dismissing him.

“We are simply the case”: James and abstract entities

  • 51 Edel, XI, pp. 13-42.

32In James’s work, the distance is made and used slightly differently. A whole section of James’s stories are social dramas, in which the characters, for once, belong to the same world as the readers. The distance here is born of the very construction of the short story, which is another instance of what Booth calls “known error proclaimed”: the text presents as real facts that we know are false. The effect is, however, very different from what we saw in Maupassant’s An Adventure in Paris. In The Great Good Place, James shows an author devoured by worldly life — social calls, reviews and articles — who suddenly finds himself “saved”; he wakes up one day in a sort of sunny Thélème, a marvellous world in which there is nothing but intellectual work.51 The fiction of this magical retreat is never denounced; it simply gives this obvious unreality something of the strength of allegory.

  • 52 In Broken Wings, two artists love each other at a distance and do not dare admit their love, each (...)

33In The Private Life, James again uses parallel universes to articulate the status of the artist in society. He depicts a lord who literally has no existence outside the presence of others, whose body and soul disappear when he is alone. Parallel to this, he develops the idea that the artist only has value through his work, and that the worldly life can only overwhelm the true creator. In order to demonstrate this fact, he gives a writer, Clare Vawdrey, two bodies. One inhabits the salons, dines and gossips in town; the other remains cloistered in his room, writing his celebrated novels. The casual way in which James unites both proofs in one text is part of his particular tone: he masters better than anyone the constraints and resources of the short story format, and will often make of it quasi-abstract narratives, playing with the structural traits — paroxysms and distancing — that are the rule in the genre at that time. As one of his characters state of themselves, they represent only the abstract law of the narrative: “We’re simply the case […] of having been had enough of”.52

  • 53 Edel, IX, pp. 125-49.
  • 54 The narrator repeats that he is not allowed to use his name, and that he is ready to die if that w (...)

34Another example of James’s characters as “cases” can be found in Fordham Castle, a story from the final phase of his career.53 The narrator, Abel F. Taker, is an unpolished American whose wife has sent him to Switzerland, and told him to pretend to be dead, while she attempts to conquer London’s social scene. James is not content to insist amusingly on the literalness of Taker’s wife’s command.54 He brings Taker face to face with an American woman whose daughter has also sent her into exile so that she can work on her ascendancy of the social ladder without being embarrassed by the presence of her provincial mother. Those of us who have read enough short stories of James will suspect very quickly that the two aspirational women will also find themselves in the same site of worldly success: Fordham Castle, an estate belonging to English gentry, to which each has succeeded in getting an invitation once they have unloaded their unwanted relation. They even become friends, like the two exiles. James then heaps on the coincidences, and emphasises the incredible aspect of his stage-setting. It is surprising to think that this is the same author who led us through the wanderings of Kate Croy’s thoughts in Wings of the Dove. James does not try to bring us close to the heroes of his short stories. He develops a narrative line that supposes, on the contrary, absolute detachment on our part, even if this detachment is accompanied by real pleasure in watching the hero’s progress.

Reading at face value: the double distance

  • 55 Booth (1974), pp. 53-56.
  • 56 Ibid, pp. 73-89.

35To conclude and prepare the way to our next chapter on dialect, I will turn to an apparent counter-example — Maupassant’s Boitelle, one of the extremely rare stories that were published in the penny papers that presented lower class readers with an image of themselves — in order to understand how these readers might have responded to seeing themselves “distanced” in this way. To my mind, the short story as a genre works in the same way as an ironic text. As with irony, the author can choose never to make explicit how we are to interpret the text — never to signal what he is doing through “straightforward warnings in the author’s own voice”.55 The author can use the characters’ own words and values to discredit them, without ever saying that they are ridiculous. It is then possible for the readers not to see the indirect indications scattered through the story and therefore to read it at face value. In irony, the result is well known: we are returned to the hell of “bad readers”, we do not experience the euphoria of values shared with the author.56 In the short story, the essential result is that, for once, these stories can be read by the very people they represent. What interests me here is that, in the cases I know of, another — a second — distance is present in the text, which serves to make it exotic to these unexpected readers.

  • 57 Artinian, pp. 1121‑26 (Pléiade, II, pp. 1086-94).
  • 58 Ibid, p. 1122 (p. 1087).

36Boitelle was republished by the Supplément du Petit Parisien, a popular and very inexpensive newspaper, and a number of other cheap newspapers.57 When first published in the society paper L’Echo de Paris, it functioned exactly as all the stories we have seen. Boitelle is a young peasant, who falls in love with a black servant-girl while fulfilling his military service in the large town of Le Havre. The story’s zest is in the description of his vain efforts to get his parents to accept her as their daughter-in-law. The elderly peasants express their anxiety in phrases that must have seemed droll to the society readers: “she’s too black”, says the mother; before asking silly questions, from “It doesn’t soil linen more than other skins?”, to “Are there more black people besides her in her country?”. The hero himself is distanced from the society reader by all the usual devices: Boitelle is presented as a “night cartman” (he cleans the drains and cesspools), as naive as his parents. When waiting for his sweetheart, his attention is divided between the girl and the parrots of a shop nearby, and for him she is just as exotic as the birds: “he really could not tell which of these two beings he contemplated with the greater astonishment and delight”.58

  • 59 Ibid, p. 1123 (p. 1088).
  • 60 A somewhat similar case is that of Simone de Beauvoir’s La Femme rompue, in which the distancing o (...)

37But in this story, Maupassant relies completely on his readers’ capacity to perceive the implied ridicule of his characters: he never explicitly states that the parents are silly or the girl has bad taste, he simply gives examples that his readers will recognise. Echo de Paris readers were not at risk of being in the “hell of bad readers”: they were accustomed to these types of subjects and jokes. But lower class readers could ignore their own distancing, which is only indirect, and be interested in the second exotic spectacle, that of the girl. The African woman was the epitome of the exotic subject at the time, and Maupassant depicts this girl departing for her parents’ village: “She had put on, for this journey to the house of her lover’s parents, her most beautiful and most gaudy clothes, in which yellow, red and blue were the prevailing colors, so that she had the appearance of one adorned for a national fete”.59 Against this background, the tragedy of the lovers’ fate can expand and interest the readers, as would one of the serials in the newspaper — which often play on the same subject of virtuous and unfortunate love. The parents’ refusal of the marriage is, for a respectful son, a condemnation of fate: the lovers can only weep, and the readers with them.60

  • 61 See the already quoted: “To the cosmopolitan Parisian [ie Maupassant], the Norman peasant and worl (...)
  • 62 Ibid, pp. 22-23, 29, 30, 33 and 34.

38Given the examples in this chapter, I cannot share Richard Fusco’s judgement of the relationship between reader and author in Maupassant’s short stories. He does not deny the distance that occurs between the two groups.61 However, for him, as for many critics, distance in the short story is equally distributed to everyone. The main effect of this would be to distance the readers themselves from their own prejudices. For Fusco, the essential point would be in the “battle” the author is leading against the reader, in the “attack” he would launch and then “escalate”, inducing the reader to “self-doubt in his intellectual confidence”.62 In the “surprise-inversion” stories, for example, by revealing at the end that the reader has misconstructed the tale, he would reveal to the reader his or her own prejudices.

  • 63 With the important exception of fantastic stories and stories of madness, which we have seen — and (...)
  • 64 Mullen (1997), p. 25.
  • 65 Fusco (1994), p. 34.

39However, compared to the attacks on the foreign and strange characters that occur in these stories, this attack seems to me to be quite mild; the stereotype is confirmed rather than truly undermined.63 Indeed, in 1945, the Writers’ War Board issued a pamphlet entitled “How Writers Perpetuate Stereotypes” that ranked the short story — even below radio, comics and advertising — as the medium that is “the most heinous of race offenders”.64 To my mind, the crucial point is to consider these stories in the place where they appeared: the society newspapers. If we look at all the other articles, reports and advertisements that appeared alongside the short stories, it is clear that these papers were not prone to question the existing values of the readers, but rather to affirm them. That is not to say that a “transformation” of sorts does not take place: to take again the example of the “surprise-inversion” stories, the readers of Maupassant in Gil Blas or Le Gaulois relished the pleasure of discovering a new, unexpected way of rearranging the narrative elements so that their meaning would change dramatically. Fusco insightfully compares this to the pleasure of the Sherlock Homes stories.65 The baffled reader and Watson himself are certainly in awe of Holmes’s genius. However, this does not mean they fustigate themselves for not seeing what the great mind, against all odds, has been able to see.

Notes

1 With the exception of Clare Hanson who sees the “short story” (as opposed to “short fiction”) as having “characters [that] tend to be viewed externally”. Clare Hanson, Short Stories and Short Fictions, 1880-1980 (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1985), p. 6. And of Andrew Levy, who even thinks this distance has not disappeared in the twentieth century. Andrew Levy, The Culture and Commerce of the American Short Story (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993), pp. 108-25. When analysing individual works, critics often recognise this distance, very often in the form of irony. On the “ironic detachment” of Chekhov, see Sean O’Faolain, The Short Story (Cork: Mercier, 1948), p. 97. For Maupassant’s pervading irony, see Richard Fusco, Maupassant and the American Short Story: The Influence of Form at the Turn of the Century (University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1994), especially pp. 17-18. Postcolonial criticism, however, usually does acknowledge the distancing of characters. We saw in Chapter Seven the example of Chinua Achebe on Heart of Darkness: Chinua Achebe, Hopes and Impediments: Selected Essays (New York: Doubleday 1989), pp. 1-20. See also, for example, Bill Mullen, “Marking Race/Marketing Race: African American Short Fiction and the Politics of Genre, 1933-1946”, in Ethnicity and the American Short Story, ed. by Julie Brown (New York: Garland, 1997), pp. 25-46.

2 A commonly held critical view, from Hanson (1985), p. 7, to Rust Hills, Writing in General and the Short Story in Particular (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2000), pp. 19-22.

3 See Mary Rohrberger, Hawthorne and the Modern Short Story: A Study in Genre (The Hague: Mouton, 1966); and Charles E. May (ed.), Short Story Theories (Athens, OH: Ohio University Press, 1977).

4 Mikhail Bakhtin, Problems of Dostoevsky’s Poetics, ed. and trans. by Caryl Emerson (Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 1984), p. 6.

5 Compare this to a novel like Crime and Punishment, which is all about Sonya being “just like us”, with her “voice” of equal value to that of Raskol’nikov, the judge Porfiry, or the reader. Her ways of living and thinking act as a powerful source of reflection for characters and readers alike.

6 At a theatre, a petty civil servant sneezes. No big deal. But he has sneezed on the head of the person in front of him. Learning this person is a general, he apologises once, twice, five times — until the official is so irritated he quite harshly sends him away. Desperate, the civil servant returns home and dies.

7 Guy de Maupassant, The Complete Short Stories of Guy de Maupassant, trans. by Artine Artinian (Garden City, NY: Hanover House, 1955), pp. 1025-42 (hereafter Artinian). The French text of this story can be found in Guy de Maupassant, Contes et nouvelles, ed. by Louis Forestier, 2 vols (Paris: Gallimard, collection La Pléiade, 1974), I, pp. 195-218 (hereafter Pléiade). A working-class family, the Caravans, learn of the death of their grandmother, who lived in an apartment above them; they rush up to take possession of the most precious objects before the other heirs arrive, planning to pretend that they had been given to them by their grandmother, directly, in gratitude for what they had done for her. An antithetic tension is created between the excessive efforts made by the Caravans to ensure their possession of these objects, and the futility of these efforts. On the one hand, the objects are hideous; on the other, the old lady is not dead: she wakes up and solemnly gives them to the other members of the family.

8 Ibid, p. 1025 (p. 195).

9 Ibid, p. 1032 (p. 203).

10 Ibid, p. 1037 (p. 211).

11 See Forestier’s note in Pléiade, II, p. 1343 (translation ours).

12 Florence Goyet, La Nouvelle, 1870-1925: description d’un genre à son apogée (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1993), pp. 140-44.

13 Autres temps in Pléiade, I, p. 455 (translation ours); Old Mongilet in Artinian, p. 940 (Le Père Mongilet in Pléiade, II, p. 468); The Mother of Monsters in Artinian, p. 380 (La Mère aux monstres in Pléiade, I, p. 842).

14 The Blind Man in Artinian, p. 900 (L’Aveugle in Pléiade, I, p. 402).

15 The Adopted Son in Guy de Maupassant, The Entire Original Maupassant Short Stories, trans. by Albert M. C. McMaster, A. E. Henderson and Mme Quesada (Project Gutenburg, 2004), available at http://ia600204.us.archive.org/9/items/completeoriginal03090gut/3090-h/3090-h.htm#2H_4_0137 (accessed 7/11/13) (Aux champs in Pléiade, I, p. 607).

16 La Vie populaire was a weekly publication founded by the author Catulle Mendès, with long articles and well-known authors. Aux champs was first published in Le Gaulois on 31 October 1882; it was then republished in Le Voleur — a well-respected publication that specialised in the republishing of texts — on 10 November 1883, and in La Vie populaire on 1 October 1884.

17 Wayne C. Booth, A Rhetoric of Irony (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1974), pp. 57-60 and 73-75.

18 Artinian, pp. 1008-12 (Pléiade, I, pp. 329-35).

19 La Vie populaire, 14 August 1884.

20 Artinian, p. 1008 and p. 1009 (Pléiade, I, p. 329 and p. 330).

21 Ibid, p. 1037 (p. 210).

22 Wolff describes the story as “beautiful from beginning to end, beautiful in its general conception, in its study of the characters, in its wholesome and powerful truth”. The article, originally published in Le Figaro, was reprinted by Le Voleur, along with the first instalment of A Family Affair, in its issues of 1, 8 and 15 September 1882. It can now be found in Pléiade, I, p. 1343 (translation ours).

23 Akutagawa Ryūnosuke, Akutagawa Ryūnosuke zenshū, 19 vols (Tōkyō: Iwanami Shoten, 1954-1955), I, pp. 207-75.

24 Artinian, pp. 43-58 (Pléiade, I, pp. 256-83); Luigi Pirandello, Il vecchio Dio (Milan: Mondadori, 1979), pp. 133-44.

25 Artinian, pp. 328-41 (Pléiade, I, pp. 876-95). In a letter to Maupassant, the editor Victor Havard describes Miss Harriet as having “accents of tenderness and of a supreme emotion” (quoted in Pléiade, I, p. 1546, translation ours); Louis Forestier himself argues that Maupassant shows in this story “a sensibility and a sensuality that are not absent from the rest of the works, but are here particularly visible” (ibid, translation ours). Denise Brahimi, in a book dedicated to the denunciation of the clichés of the criticism on Maupassant, uses the word compassion dozens of times, for example: “he sometimes reveals without mask his infinite compassion”. Denise Brahimi, Quelques idées reçues sur Maupassant (Paris: Editions L’Harmattan, 2012), p. 62 (translation ours). Fusco (1994), while not calling it “empathy”, feels nevertheless that Maupassant had “sympathy” for his characters, even the Norman peasants (p. 27). But he puts to light the central role of irony (especially pp. 17, 21, 67-70).

26 Artinian, p. 331 (Pléiade, I, p. 880).

27 Ibid, pp. 331-32 (emphases mine) (p. 881).

28 “This woman appeared so singular that she did not displease me”. Ibid, p. 332 (p. 881).

29 Ibid, p. 334 (p. 885). I take the liberty to modify Artinian’s translation, which reads “It would have been an ecstatic caricature”. (Maupassant: “la caricature de l’extase”).

30 Ibid. Note the two juxtaposed sentences: “And we became firm friends immediately. / She was a brave creature with an elastic sort of a soul […]”.

31 Ibid, p. 333 (p. 883).

32 Ibid, pp. 335 and 337 (pp. 886 and 890).

33 Admittedly, the narrator calls himself, in the same sentence, “ridiculous”; but he only describes in this way his behaviour as a philanderer who had not, for once, anticipated his success, finding the adventure as “both comic and deplorable”, feeling “ridiculous” and thinking her nearly crazy with unhappiness. He thinks his own departure should take care of everything. In the meanwhile he continues to expound: “that grotesque and passionate attachment for me” and finally these thoughts “put [him] now in an excited bodily state” (ibid, p. 338): he will go on to kiss the servant.

34 The examples I have come across all show that short stories were more abrupt when published in the press, and much of the violence of the short stories were softened before publication in a collection. In the original version of Miss Harriet published in Le Gaulois (9 July 1883), the caricature is more extreme. Firstly, it lacks the great description of nature at the beginning that unites the “principled fanatic” and the painter. Secondly, the definition of the activity of the “strolling painter” is much more trivial (“studies of servants and memorable nonsense”). The adventure with Miss Harriet thus is in violent contrast to the lesser loves which are the only background. Finally, the “portrait” of the Englishwoman is much shorter: “sour herring”, “she never spoke at table” […] [but read] a small book of some Protestant propaganda” (the original version can be found in Pléiade, I, pp. 1546‑52).

35 Artinian, pp. 651-55 (Pléiade, I, pp. 546‑52).

36 Ibid, p. 651 (p. 546).

37 Our translation from Pléiade, I, p. 547 (“[…] haillonneuse, vermineuse, sordide”). Artinian’s translation is very tame: “ragged and dirty” (p. 652).

38 Artinian, pp. 652-53 (Pléiade, I, p. 549).

39 V. B. Kataev, Proza Chekhova: problemy interpretatsii (Moscow: Izd-vo Moskovskogo universiteta, 1979). For a partial translation, see Vladimir Kataev, If Only We Could Know: An Interpretation of Chekhov, trans. by Harvey Pitcher (Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 2002), here pp. 11-19; see also, pp. 53-55. Given that this translation is much abridged, I shall give future references to the Russian edition.

40 Anton Pavlovich Chekhov, Polnoe sobranie sochinenii i pisem, 30 vols (Moscow: Nauka, 1974-1983), VII, p. 12 (hereafter Nauka).

41 Anton Pavlovich Chekhov, Anton Chekhov’s Short Stories, ed. by Ralph E. Matlaw, trans. by Constance Garnett (New York: Norton, 1979), pp. 64-69 (hereafter Matlaw). The Russian text can be found in Nauka, pp. 7-12.

42 Ibid, p. 69 (p. 12)

43 Suvorin was a major intellectual, and the director of the journal Novoe vremya. The letter, dated 27 October 1888, is in Nauka, III, p. 46.

44 Kataev (1979), p. 40.

45 Matlaw, pp. 185-94 (Nauka, X, pp. 55-65).

46 Ibid, p. 193 (p. 64).

47 Kataev (1979), pp. 238‑50.

48 See ibid, pp. 211-21. The “little trilogy” comprises The Man in a Case, Gooseberries and About Love (1898). All three can be found in Anton Pavlovich Chekhov, The Kiss and Other Stories, trans. by Ronald Wilks (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1982). At the beginning of The Man in a Case, we see two men, Burkin and Ivan Ivanich, who take to telling stories while on a hunting trip together. Burkin tells the first story, while Ivan Ivanich follows with Gooseberries. The third story is told the next day, when they have come to a landowner in the district, who offers drinks and conversation after a bath in the river.

49 Mori Ōgai, Youth and Other Stories, ed. by J. Thomas Rimer (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1994), pp. 274-79. The Japanese text can be found in Mori Ōgai, Mori Ōgai zenshū, 38 vols (Tōkyō: Iwanami Shoten, 1971-1975), VII, pp. 189-97.

50 We know that Hanako was a model much loved by Rodin. These remarks were published by a Parisian journal from which Ōgai made his translation. The story itself was published in July 1910, a few months before the special issue, dedicated to Rodin, of the great journal Shirakaba (December 1910).

51 Edel, XI, pp. 13-42.

52 In Broken Wings, two artists love each other at a distance and do not dare admit their love, each being (falsely) convinced that the other is enormously successful, and so could not be interested in him/her. The hero thus defines their adventure as the incarnation of a law that they only illustrate. Edel, XI, pp. 217-38 (p. 232).

53 Edel, IX, pp. 125-49.

54 The narrator repeats that he is not allowed to use his name, and that he is ready to die if that would help his wife in her career, etc.

55 Booth (1974), pp. 53-56.

56 Ibid, pp. 73-89.

57 Artinian, pp. 1121‑26 (Pléiade, II, pp. 1086-94).

58 Ibid, p. 1122 (p. 1087).

59 Ibid, p. 1123 (p. 1088).

60 A somewhat similar case is that of Simone de Beauvoir’s La Femme rompue, in which the distancing of the heroine is very strong, but the irony is never made explicit. To Beauvoir’s dismay, the readers of the popular women’s magazine Elle felt sympathy for the girl, not paying attention to the strong condemnation of her petty bourgeois conception of love — a constant target of Beauvoir here as elsewhere. The condemning is that of a woman who “has allowed herself to be removed from the world of productive work, of earning power and independent self-definition”. Ray Davison, “Simone de Beauvoir: ‘La Femme rompue’”, in Short French Fiction: Essays on the Short Story in France in the Twentieth Century, ed. by J. E. Flower (Exeter: University of Exeter Press, 1998), pp. 71-88 (pp. 79 and 77).

61 See the already quoted: “To the cosmopolitan Parisian [ie Maupassant], the Norman peasant and world probably appeared as a distant and alien being and place”. Fusco (1994), p. 16.

62 Ibid, pp. 22-23, 29, 30, 33 and 34.

63 With the important exception of fantastic stories and stories of madness, which we have seen — and will see again — to be historically, at the end of nineteenth century, the place of the disintegration of the self-assured, positivist “self”.

64 Mullen (1997), p. 25.

65 Fusco (1994), p. 34.