Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Bel-Ami - Guy de Maupassant

Well, it took a month and a half, but I got there in the end! Actually, it was really nice to start out struggling and feel myself improving at reading in French - by the end I didn't need to refer to a translator except for very obscure words and my reading speed was much faster.

I really wanted to read this one because I saw the English film adaptation a while ago and really enjoyed it. Robert Pattinson is actually a pretty good actor when he isn't covered in vampire teeth and glitter, and the rest of the cast are great too. I was curious about how much of the plot was changed from the book - turns out surprisingly little, although it was sensationalised and shortened a bit, but the general tone was really well conveyed to the screen.

One of the things that I find fascinating about French novels is the way that the 'hero' is hardly ever a nice person. In English novels the hero usually at least intends to do good, whereas in a lot of the French novels I've read the hero or heroine is primarily concerned about their own selfish interests, and not about the good of others.

Bel-Ami is no exception. Georges Duroy comes to Paris as a young ex-soldier down on his luck, and manipulates his way up the social and financial ladder. The way his emotions are conveyed gave me the impression of someone verging on a sociopath - he rarely seems to experience or to express genuine emotional responses, but takes pleasure in controlling the emotions of others. Ironically, he gets very offended if anyone suspects him of anything other than honest intentions.

This was a very interesting read, and I recommend it and/or the film very much.

Next up: Dead Men do Tell Tales by William R Maples

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