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"Mademoiselle Fifi"

"Mademoiselle Fifi"

     "Mademoiselle Fifi" is a short story by Guy de Maupassant.  In Brussels in 1882 and in Paris the next year, a book with the same name included it in a collection of Maupassant's short stories. It has been reprinted many times.  Perhaps today’s story was inspired by some remarks in Maupassant's 1880 story, "Boule de Suif" (also found here on Just Listen) and is another account of a fictional incident of the Franco-Prussian War of 1870. It includes some adult situations likely not suitable for small children.

     Although events in the story circle around war and the Prussian occupation of French cities and towns, and might be considered uninteresting by some readers, Maupassant’s genius in the creation of characters that we can truly believe in draws in readers from all walks of life.  Today we focus on fictional events occurring 150 years ago; Maupassant brings them to us as though they had occurred only yesterday.

     Maupassant’s mastery of the short story form and his prolific output as an author made him famous and rich in his own time.   Although he often depicted human lives, destinies, and social forces in disillusioned and pessimistic terms, his stories contain enough of the glow of human achievement, compassion, and kindness to create balance in his exhaustive repertoire.

      Maupassant was one of a fair number of 19th-century Parisians (including Charles Gounod, Alexandre Dumas, fils, and Charles Garnier) who did not care for the Eiffel Tower (erected in 1887-1889). He often ate lunch in the restaurant at its base, not out of preference for the food but because only there could he avoid seeing its otherwise unavoidable profile. He and forty-six other Parisian literary and artistic notables attached their names to an elaborately irate letter of protest against the tower's construction, written to the Minister of Public Works, and published on 14 February 1887. Today we recognize the Eiffel Tower as the most iconic and enduring symbol of Paris, recognized everywhere in the world.

     Maupassant had a natural aversion to society, and in his later years he developed a constant desire for solitude, an obsession for self-preservation, and a fear of death and paranoia of persecution caused by the syphilis he had contracted in his youth. On January 2, 1892, Maupassant tried to commit suicide by cutting his throat; he was committed to the private asylum of Esprit Blanche at Passy, in Paris, where he died on July 6, 1893, from syphilis. Maupassant penned his own epitaph: "I have coveted everything and taken pleasure in nothing." He is buried in Section 26 of the Montparnasse Cemetery, Paris.

      And now, “Mademoiselle Fifi” by Guy de Maupassant…we begin….