‘Idyll’ by Guy de Maupassant

Idyll by Guy de Maupassant, 1884

The magic trick:

Combining desire and economic need in a surprising way

“Idyll” marks our first look at the three Guy de Maupassant stories featured in the Isaac Babel story “Guy De Maupassant.” It’s maybe the best of the bunch in terms of how it’s used in the Babel piece – those terms being hilariously and perfectly.

The original is very simple. Two characters – a man and a woman – ride next to each other in the train. He is young, poor, and hungry. A nursing mother on the way home to her children, she is literally bursting with milk. They figure out a way to solve both of their respective problems.

It’s oddly affecting. It’s also just a little odd.

The combination of desire and need and lust, it’s certainly memorable.

And that’s quite a trick on Maupassant’s part.

The selection:

The train was leaving Genoa and going to Marseille following the long undulations of the rocky coastline, gliding like a snake between sea and mountain, crawling on the beaches of yellow sand and small waves lined with a net of silver, and falling abruptly into the black mouth of a tunnel like a summer in its hole.

In the last car of the train, a fat woman and a young man were sitting face to face, without speaking, and were looking at each other from time to time. She was maybe twenty-five years old and sat near the door, she was gazing at the landscape. She was a strong peasant from Piedmont, black eyes, large breast, fleshy cheeks. She had pushed several packages under the wooden bench, holding a basket on her lap.

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