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Bel-ami (Classics) Paperback – 28 Aug 1975


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Product details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; New Ed edition (28 Aug 1975)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140443150
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140443158
  • Product Dimensions: 13.4 x 1.9 x 20 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 198,665 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)


Product Description

About the Author

Guy de Maupassant was born in Normandy in 1850. By the late 1870s, the first signs of syphilis had appeared, and Maupassant had become Flaubert's pupil in the art of prose. He led a hectic social life, and in 1891, having tried to commit suicide, he was committed to an asylum in Paris, where he died two years later.

Douglas Parmee is a well-known French translator.


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Taking the change for his five-franc piece from the woman behind the till, Duroy left the restaurant. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Tony Barber on 25 April 2008
Format: Paperback
It's no surprise that "Bel-Ami" figures in many people's Top Ten French novels of all time. First, it is a wonderfully smooth and well-paced story that never risks becoming dull. Second, it has a kind of "eternal" quality in that it asks all the great unanswerable questions about the value of love and human achievement in the light of the certainty of death. Third and most importantly, in Georges Duroy Maupassant created a hero who stays forever in the memory as a perfect example of the ambitious man who rises from obscurity to the top by putting aside bothersome scruples and manipulating those around him, especially women. Other novelists have portrayed similar characters - why is Maupassant so successful? One reason is that he avoids psychological descriptions of Duroy from the narrator's point of view. He also avoids passing judgement on Duroy: this is not a novel written with moral purposes in mind. Instead Maupassant lets Duroy's actions and thoughts speak for themselves, as do those of the other characters. This makes Duroy a much more subtle and believable character (and it appeals especially to our early 21st century sensibilities). Also, there is a rich gallery of other characters in "Bel-Ami": Madeleine and Madame de Marelle are masterly creations, drawn with deceptive simplicity, and the political figures and journalists are very true to life. All in all, like "Anna Karenina" or "Sentimental Education", "Bel-Ami" is a novel that can be read with pleasure many times throughout one's life.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Phil O'Sofa on 15 Aug 2010
Format: Paperback
A young soldier from a working-class background returns to civilian life and tries his luck in Paris, where he struggles to live on the pay from his boring job as a clerk. Things improve when he meets an old military friend who is an editor on a newspaper and who gives him a job as a journalist. So begins Duroy's gradual rise through Parisian society, using everyone he meets, especially women, to further his ambition, not giving a damn about anyone but himself. But of course Duroy (christened Bel-Ami by his admirers) is never satisfied with what he has; his greed is insatiable, his ambition limitless.
Maupassant is careful not to make Duroy too dislikable at first: he is a typical man, he seems to be saying, though perhaps more attractive than most, and certainly luckier, but not in the least bit unusual.
Having watched his old friend die, Duroy snaps out of his melancholy musings on the precarious, fleeting nature of life and immediately begins to seduce the young widow: 'Holding a woman in your arms! That is the limit of human happiness.'
He goes on to seduce several more women, having as many as three on the go at one time and treating them all rather badly: towards the end of the book I couldn't help wondering what kind of a guy (or Guy) the author must have been (it is apparently semi-autobiographical).
The novel is an attack on the sleaze, corruption and hypocrisy in society, with a few thoughts on death and desire thrown in, and was a great success when published in 1885. The style is straight to the point and very cynical, the prose generally modern in feel and very readable, if lacking subtlety (a few points are a little laboured at times) and I thought the translation could have been better, especially the punctuation.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Brownbear101 on 28 July 2010
Format: Paperback
A vicious study of a cad climbing his way through 19th century Parisian society, but who has the lower morals, the cad or those around him? Fans of great villains will love this portrait of a social climber and the detritus he swims through.

Maupassant was a student of Flaubert's but their writing styles are poles apart, whereas Flaubert paints a series of composed and precise still life scenes Maupassant is an impressionist, full of energy and broad sweeps unconcerned whether the details stand up to scrutiny. The result is an enjoyable formula of wonderful set pieces strung together like oversized pearls on a gaudy necklace.

The ironically named Bel-Ami (beautiful friend) of the title is peasant-born cad, Georges Duroy, who starts the book as a lowly railway clerk and sleeps and schemes his way to a fortune and a position in 19th Century Paris society. He is base but not unlikeable with a strange mixture of total self-belief and sniveling cowardice. Duroy is madly jealous of other men's success and never satisfied with his own position so that he always wants the woman, job, house or influence he hasn't got, think JR in Dallas and you will be pretty much there.

Although a destroyer of lives he also brings great joy to those around him, he is a marvelous lover arousing tremendous passions in the various women who pass though his hands, even after he has thrown them aside. He has a certain skill as a political journalist, so that he is useful to others, such as his ambitious first wife, his boss M. Walter, and Walter's crony politicians, who use him as a mouthpiece for their own ends. These characters have the same ambition and limited scruples as Duroy but their better breeding makes them subtler although in some ways less effective operators.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By "darrencurtis4" on 29 July 2005
Format: Paperback
A stark and vivd picture of one man's ruthless ascendancy through the social ranks. A rise that really erases all other thoughts within the young Georges as he throws aside the feelings and emotions of all others around him in persuit of his goals. It is in essence a story of success but manages at the same time to demonstrate the negative side effects that success can produce on others who find themselves in the way of that determined and efficient rise. A wonderful story and really one that may find its place far more readily in our society today than one may first think.
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