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The Collected Supernatural and Weird Fiction of Guy de Maupassant: Volume 1

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The Collected Supernatural and Weird Fiction of Guy de Maupassant: Volume 1
Leonaur Original
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Author(s): Guy de Maupassant
Date Published: 2010/11
Page Count: 396
Softcover ISBN-13: 978-0-85706-438-7
Hardcover ISBN-13: 978-0-85706-437-0

A three volume excursion into the dark realms

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.
In volume one the reader will discover two novelettes, 'Little Louise Roque' and 'Mad' together with forty five short stories including, 'Beside a Dead Man,' 'The Golden Braid,' 'The Spectre,' 'The Devil,' 'He?' and many others.
Leonaur editions are available in softcover and hardback with dustjacket for collectors. 

“I began to talk about hunting, and he gave me many curious details of hunting the hippopotamus, the tiger, the elephant, and even of hunting the gorilla.<br>
“‘I said: ‘All these animals are very formidable.’<br>
“He laughed: ‘Oh! no. The worst animal is man.’ Then he began to laugh, with the hearty laugh of a big contented Englishman. He continued:<br>
“‘I have often hunted man, also.’<br>
“He spoke of weapons and asked me to go into his house to see his guns of various makes and kinds.<br>
“His drawing-room was hung in black, in black silk embroidered with gold. There were great yellow flowers running over the sombre stuff, shining like fire.<br>
“‘It is Japanese cloth,’ he said.<br>
“But in the middle of a large panel, a strange thing attracted my eye. Upon a square of red velvet, a black object was attached. I approached and found it was a hand, the hand of a man. Not a skeleton hand, white and characteristic, but a black, desiccated hand, with yellow joints with the muscles bare and on them traces of old blood, of blood that seemed like a scale, over the bones sharply cut off at about the middle of the forearm, as with a blow of a hatchet. About the wrist was an enormous iron chain, riveted, soldered to this unclean member, attaching it to the wall by a ring sufficiently strong to hold an elephant.<br>
“I asked: ‘What is that?’<br>
“The Englishman responded tranquilly:<br>
“‘It belonged to my worst enemy. It came from America. It was broken with a sabre, cut off with a sharp stone, and dried in the sun for eight days. Oh, very good for me, that was!’<br>
“I touched the human relic, which must have belonged to a colossus. The fingers were immoderately long and attached by enormous tendons that held the straps of skin in place. This dried hand was frightful to see, making one think, naturally, of the vengeance of a savage.<br>
“I said: ‘This man must have been very strong.’<br>
“With gentleness the Englishman answered:<br>
“‘Oh! yes; but I was stronger than he. I put this chain on him to hold him.’<br>
“I thought he spoke in jest and replied:<br>
‘“The chain is useless now that the hand cannot escape.’<br>
“Sir John Rowell replied gravely: ‘It always wishes to escape. The chain is necessary.’<br>
“With a rapid, questioning glance, I asked myself: ‘Is he mad, or is that an unpleasant joke?’<br>
“But the face remained impenetrable, tranquil, and friendly. I spoke of other things and admired the guns.<br>
“Nevertheless, I noticed three loaded revolvers on the pieces of furniture, as if this man lived in constant fear of attack.<br>
“I went there many times after that; then for some time I did not go. We had become accustomed to his presence; he had become indifferent to us.<br>
“A whole year slipped away. Then, one morning, toward the end of November, my domestic awoke me with the announcement that Sir John Rowell had been assassinated in the night.<br>
“A half hour later, I entered the Englishman’s house with the central Commissary and the Captain of Police. The servant, lost in despair, was weeping at the door. I suspected him at first, but afterward found that he was innocent.<br>
“The guilty one could never be found.<br>
“Upon entering Sir John’s drawing-room, I perceived his dead body stretched out upon its back, in the middle of the room. His waistcoat was torn, a sleeve was hanging, and it was evident that a terrible struggle had taken place.<br>
“The Englishman had been strangled! His frightfully black and swollen face seemed to express an abominable fear; he held something between his set teeth; and his neck, pierced with five holes apparently done with a pointed iron, was covered with blood.<br>
“A doctor joined us. He examined closely the prints of fingers in the flesh and pronounced these strange words:<br>
“‘One would think he had been strangled by a skeleton.’<br>
“A shiver ran down my back and I cast my eyes to the place on the wall where I had seen the horrible, torn-off hand. It was no longer there. The chain was broken and hanging.<br>
“Then I bent over the dead man and found in his mouth a piece of one of the fingers of the missing hand, cut off, or rather sawed off by the teeth exactly at the second joint.<br>
“Then they tried to collect evidence. They could find nothing. No door had been forced, no window opened, or piece of furniture moved. The two watchdogs on the premises had not been aroused.