The final volume of this special Leonaur collection
If the genre of supernatural fiction were a windowless corridor there would be those authors who stood at the light of the door only to peep playfully within and those who ventured farther along it to where the light was dimmer and the fear more palpable. Inevitably, in this analogy, there would be those who occupied a place far from the light where the darkness was almost complete. There, perhaps, one would find the work of Guy de Maupassant. It is a place uncomfortable to occupy and, for some, to visit. It is difficult to know how much of the deep disturbance of the troubled and driven characters within these often erotic stories comes from the author's interest in psychology and how much inspiration came from his own proclivities. Certainly his self-penned epitaph 'I have coveted everything and enjoyed nothing,' is revealing. In 1892 ravaged by syphilis, wracked by obsessions and paranoia the author attempted suicide by cutting his own throat. He was committed to a private asylum and died the following year. He was 42 years old. Guy de Maupassant is recognised as a giant of nineteenth century French literature, a protégé of Flaubert, an inspiration to H. P Lovecraft, among others, and an acknowledged master of the short story—a form in which he was very prolific. Indeed, this special Leonaur three volume collection of his excursions into the supernatural and strange contains almost 140 stories. De Maupassant produced fine prose in an economical style for which he became famous, but some more recent translations have been criticised for having lost his essential elegance of style; to preserve the integrity of the writing as far as possible the Leonaur editors have utilised earlier translations.
Volume three of this special three volume Guy de Maupassant collection of strange tales contains one novella 'The Heritage' and thirty seven fine examples of his shorter fiction, among these the reader will discover 'The Olive Grove,' 'A Traveller's Tale,' 'The Grave,' 'A Queer Night in Paris,' 'Moonlight,' 'The Moribund.' 'The Horrible,' 'The Man with Blue Eyes' and many more.
Leonaur editions are available in softcover and hardback with dustjacket for collectors.
In a moment I seemed to see them! I saw this voluntary and hideous massacre of the despairing who were weary of life. I saw men bleeding, their jaws fractured, their skulls cloven, their breasts pierced by a bullet, slowly dying, alone in a little room in a hotel, giving no thought to their wound, but thinking only of their misfortunes.<br>
I saw others seated before a tumbler in which some matches were soaking, or before a little bottle with a red label.
They would look at it fixedly without moving; then they would drink and await the result; then a spasm would convulse their cheeks and draw their lips together; their eyes would grow wild with terror, for they did not know that the end would be preceded by so much suffering.<br>
They rose to their feet, paused, fell over and with their hands pressed to their stomachs they felt their internal organs on fire, their entrails devoured by the fiery liquid, before their minds began to grow dim.<br>
I saw others hanging from a nail in the wall, from the fastening of the window, from a hook in the ceiling, from a beam in the garret, from a branch of a tree amid the evening rain. And I surmised all that had happened before they hung there motionless, their tongues hanging out of their mouths. I imagined the anguish of their heart, their final hesitation, their attempts to fasten the rope, to determine that it was secure, then to pass the noose round their neck and to let themselves fall.<br>
I saw others lying on wretched beds, mothers with their little children, old men dying of hunger, young girls dying for love, all rigid, suffocated, asphyxiated, while in the centre of the room the brazier still gave forth the fumes of charcoal.<br>
And I saw others walking at night along the deserted bridges. These were the most sinister. The water flowed under the arches with a low sound. They did not see it . . . they guessed at it from its cool breath! They longed for it and they feared it. They dared not do it! And yet, they must. A distant clock sounded the hour and, suddenly, in the vast silence of the night, there was heard the splash of a body falling into the river, a scream or two, the sound of hands beating the water, and all was still.<br>
Sometimes, even, there was only the sound of the falling body when they had tied their arms down or fastened a stone to their feet. Oh, the poor things, the poor things, the poor things, how I felt their anguish, how I died in their death! I went through all their wretchedness; I endured in one hour all their tortures. I knew all the sorrows that had led them to this, for I know the deceitful infamy of life, and no one has felt it more than I have.<br>
How I understood them, these who weak, harassed by misfortune, having lost those they loved, awakened from the dream of a tardy compensation, from the illusion of another existence where God will finally be just, after having been ferocious, and their minds disabused of the mirages of happiness, have given up the fight and desire to put an end to this ceaseless tragedy, or this shameful comedy.<br>
Suicide! Why, it is the strength of those whose strength is exhausted, the hope of those who no longer believe, the sublime courage of the conquered! Yes, there is at least one door to this life we can always open and pass through to the other side. Nature had an impulse of pity; she did not shut us up in prison. Mercy for the despairing!<br>
As for those who are simply disillusioned, let them march ahead with free soul and quiet heart. They have nothing to fear since they may take their leave; for behind them there is always this door that the gods of our illusions cannot even lock.<br>
I thought of this crowd of suicides: more than eight thousand five hundred in one year. And it seemed to me that they had combined to send to the world a prayer, to utter a cry of appeal, to demand something that should come into effect later when we understood things better. It seemed to me that all these victims, their throats cut, poisoned, hung, asphyxiated, or drowned, all came together, a frightful horde, like citizens to the polls, to say to society:<br>
“Grant us, at least, a gentle death! Help us to die, you who will not help us to live! See, we are numerous, we have the right to speak in these days of freedom, of philosophic independence and of popular suffrage. Give to those who renounce life the charity of a death that will not be repugnant nor terrible.”<br>
I began to dream, allowing my fancy to roam at will in weird and mysterious fashion on this subject.<br>
I seemed to be all at once in a beautiful city. It was Paris; but at what period? I walked about the streets, looking at the houses, the theatres, the public buildings, and presently found myself in a square where I remarked a large building; very handsome, dainty and attractive. I was surprised on reading on the facade this inscription in letters of gold, “Suicide Bureau.”