#36 Critiquing Critics – de Maupassant Pt 1


Guy de Maupassant

Through this series that revisits 19th century authors, BriteLitesBiz invites discussion of topics that remain important to WordSmiths. The intro stated,

Although Henry James one time observed that “in dissertation M. de Maupassant does not write with his best pen,” this discussion of the novel is one of the few really lucid essays on the subject.

Thank goodness!   And — symbolically — deMaupassant lambasts more than those who publish opinions about books.


From de Maupassant’s introduction to Pierre et Jean.

In the midst of eulogistic sentences I find regularly this one, by the same pen:  “The greatest fault in this work is that it is not a novel, properly speaking.”

One could reply by the same argument:  “The greatest fault in the writer who does me the honor to judge my work is that he is not a critic.”

What are, in truth, the essential characteristics of the critic?

Without prejudice, without preconceived opinions, without the ideas of a school, without affiliations with any special group of artists, he must understand, distinguish, and explain all tendencies the most opposite, temperaments the most contrary, and acknowledge artistic innovations of the most diverse character.

Now the critic who after Manon Lescaut, Paul et Virginie, Don Quixote, Les Liaisons Dangereuses, Werther … Madame Bovary, Adolphe, M. de Camors, L’Assommoir, Sapho, etc., dares still to write “This is a novel and that is not,” seems to me to be endowed with a perspicacity which strongly resembles incompetence.

Ordinarily the critic understands by “novel” an adventure more or less probable, arranged in the fashion of a drama in three acts, of which the first contains the exposition, the second the action, and the third the denouement.

This manner of composing is absolutely admissible on condition that one accept equally all the others.

Do rules exist for writing a novel, outside of which a written narrative ought to bear some other name?

To be continued

Mid Week, Watch for:

4th Step in Preparing for National Novel Writing Month

Setting Achievable Goals (a Zig video)

Be sure to visit my SoulSongz blog with the autumn theme, “The Sky’s The Limit.”

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