Monday, July 19, 2010

Short Story Monday: "Farewell" by Guy de Maupassant

A one sentence summary of "Farewell" by Guy de Maupassant might go something like this: As two old friends reflect on aging, one recounts how the process went unnoticed until a chance meeting with a former lover sparked the revelation of his own decline. Simple, yet there is much more...

The opening sentences set the Parisian atmosphere.
"The two friends were getting near the end of their dinner. Through the cafe windows they could see the Boulevard, crowded with people. They could feel the gentle breezes which are wafted over Paris on warm summer evenings and make you feel like going out somewhere, you care not where, under the trees, and make you dream of moonlit rivers, of fireflies and of larks."
But the story quickly takes a more thoughtful turn as one man (perhaps 45 years old) laments growing old. Where he formerly felt full of life on such an evening, he now experiences pangs of regret. His older friend, who is thinner and more lively, remarks that he, personally, had aged without even noticing.
"As one sees oneself in the mirror every day, one does not realize the work of age, for it is slow, regular, and it modifies the countenance so gently that the changes are unnoticeable."
However, he continues, the same cannot be true for women:
"And the women, my friend, how I pity the poor beings! All their joy, all their power, all their life, lies in their beauty, which lasts ten years."
The man goes on to recount a three month love affair and how, upon a chance meeting twelve years later, he failed to recognize the woman. A comment from the woman causes him to take a good look in the mirror and, finally, come to terms with his own altered appearance.
"At night, alone, at home, I stood in front of the mirror for a long time, a very long time. And I finally remembered what I had been, finally saw in my mind's eye my brown mustache, my black hair and the youthful expression of my face. Now I was old. Farewell!"
I loved this story! It resonated so strongly with me. I am "of a certain age" and, as I celebrate a birthday later this week, think not only about that increasing number, but of changes reflected in my mirror. You may read the story for yourself here.

Short Story Monday is hosted by John Mutford at The Book Mine Set. Paris in July is sponsored by Karen and Tamara.

16 comments:

  1. Wow, I haven't read Guy De M since high school (back in the stone age) but I remember liking his stories. Glad you enjoyed it.

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  2. I have only read a couple of Maupassant's short stories, but absolutely loved them. I really need to make the time to read more!

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  3. I like the premise of this story - I'll have to search for it. and HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!

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  4. I loved your thoughts on this story. I turned 41 this year and lately have been lamenting getting old. Time certainly does go by quickly. This sounds like a story I need to read.

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  5. Such lovely sentences in this story. Thanks for all the quotes. I want to read this now. I couldn't help but chuckle about these guys feeling old at 45. Wonder how they'll be at 65. I guess feeling old is a relative state of mind.

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  6. Ahh midlife crisis? If Maupassant lived in a different time this would end with a convertible.

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  7. Happy birthday for later this week. I try not to look in the mirror anymore. There are far too many wrinkles!

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  8. Interesting topic, aging. Honestly I feel like I'm 35 until I look in the mirror, and even then, I kind of ignore the process. But here lately I've met up with old friends from high school and THEN it becomes apparent. I total believe in inner beauty, and if you are peace with who you are, then age doesn't matter all that much.

    BTW, happy birthday!!!!

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  9. happy birthday!-I recently read one of his stories also, "A Father's Confession" and really liked it a lot-this story sounds like one I would also greatly like as I am for sure "of a certain age"!-thanks for including a link to the story

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  10. Kaye - I remember reading him in high school, too... probably "The Necklace", which I recently reread. Now I'll have to look for more!

    Molly - You must have read "The Necklace". I think that's the one most often read in high school. I really like his stories!

    Care - Let me know what you think if you decide to read this one.

    Staci - Time does pass quickly, but the older I get the more I believe age is a state of mind. I'll be turning 39... again!!

    Margot - Aren't those quotes beautiful? Age is definitely relative... I still feel 39!

    John - LOL! I settled for getting rid of the minivan... maybe I should have held out for a convertible!

    Vivienne - Thank you! I keep saying that wrinkles add character...

    Sandy - Absolutely...I'm with you on inner beauty! I keep wondering who all those old people are at my HS reunions! I feel 39 until I look in the mirror and realize my kids now are closer to 30 than I am!!

    Mel U - Thank you! I bookmarked your link and will be reading the story soon.

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  11. I love deMaupassant's stories, but haven't read this one (you are wonderful at finding the gems in the pile).
    Happy Birthday!

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  12. I haven't read any de Maupassant before, so thanks for introducing me to a "new to me author." I will have to read the story, it sounds good.

    Here's mine for this week, I think you would enjoy it:
    Foster by Claire Keegan

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  13. I read a ton of Maupassant stories a few years ago and LOVED them. This one doesn't sound familiar, but I do think I need to revisit Maupassant! Thanks for the reminder

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  14. DS - I've only read a handful of his stories, but have just loved every one. Think it's time to seek out a collection!

    Teddy Rose - I think you would like his stories. "The Necklace" may be the most well-known.

    Rebecca Reid - This may be only the third or fourth Maupassant story I've read, but they have all been wonderful! Can certainly see why so many readers love him.

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  15. Guy de Maupassant has a knack to give us twists within the arc of his stories. In the biography of Somerset Maugham, Maugham once said that Guy de Maupassant was one of the greatest writer during his time, such a keen observer of ordinary human lives.

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  16. Matt - Guy de Maupassant has a keen eye/pen for everyday human lives. I think that's why I enjoy his stories so much.

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