Like Death (Paperback)
A devastating novel about the treachery of love by Maupassant, now in a new translation by National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize winning poet and translator Richard Howard
Olivier Bertin is at the height of his career as a painter. After making his name as a young man with his Cleopatra, he has gone on to establish himself as “the chosen painter of Parisiennes, the most adroit and ingenious artist to reveal their grace, their figures, and their souls.” And though his hair may be white, he remains a handsome, vigorous, and engaging bachelor, a prized guest at every table and salon.
Olivier’s lover is Anne, the Countess de Guilleroy, the wife of a busy politician. Their relationship is long-standing, close, almost conjugal. The countess’s daughter is Annette, and she is the spitting image of her mother in her lovely youth. Having finished her schooling, Annette is returning to Paris. Her parents have put together an excellent match. Everything is as it should be—until the painter and countess are each seized by an agonizing suspicion, like death. . . . In its devastating depiction of the treacherous nature of love, Like Death is more than the equal of Swann’s Way. Richard Howard’s new translation brings out all the penetration and poetry of this masterpiece of nineteenth-century fiction.
About the Author
Guy de Maupassant (1850–1893) was born in Normandy to a middle-class family that had adopted the noble “de” prefix only a generation earlier. An indifferent student, Maupassant enlisted in the army during the Franco-Prussian War—staying only long enough to acquire an intense dislike for all things military—and then went on to a career as a civil servant. His entrée into the literary world was eased by Gustave Flaubert, who had been a childhood playmate of his mother’s and who took the young man under his wing, introducing him into salon society. The bulk of Maupassant’s published works, including more than three hundred short stories and six novels, were written between 1880 and 1890, a period in which he also contributed to several Parisian daily newspapers. Among his best-known works are the novels Bel-Ami and Pierre and Jean and the fantastic tale Le Horla; above all, he is celebrated for his stories, which transformed and defined the genre for years. In 1892, after attempting suicide to escape the hallucinations and headaches brought on by syphilis, Maupassant was committed to an asylum. He died eighteen months later.
Richard Howard received a National Book Award for his translation of Charles Baudelaire’s Fleurs du mal and a Pulitzer Prize for Untitled Subjects, his third volume of poems. For New York Review Books he has translated Maupassant’s Alien Hearts, Honoré de Balzac’s Unknown Masterpiece, and Marc Fumaroli’s When the World Spoke French.
“A story of love’s descriptive irrational power—think Proust’s ‘Swann in Love’…Like other great psychological novelists (Henry James was an admirer, as was Tolstoy), Maupassant proves a master at the slow sea change of human emotions, and even more their complexity…[Maupassant] turns an impassioned chronicle of destructive love into a very modern-seeming portrait of aging, friendship, and loss.” —Martin Riker, The Wall Street Journal
"You can practically hear the rustling of the ladies’ silks, or catch the sobs that are such a feature of the erotic lives of high society...And my God, is it sexy. This is a love in which intellect and emotion are at play at the same time. There is passion and there is calculation...Drink deeply of this intoxicating, heady work.” —Nicholas Lezard, The Guardian
“Maupassant is the world’s most accomplished of narrators.” —Joseph Conrad
“The psychoemotional precision of Maupassant in an elegant new translation...A finely shaded portrait of desire, will, and the complex entanglements of love, set against cutting social commentary from a realist master.” —Kirkus Reviews, Starred
"A psychological novel par excellence." —Lorin Stein, Harper’s
"[Maupassant] is so relentlessly artistic that he puts the fear of philosophy in your heart." —The New York Times
"Richard Howard's elegant translation of Like Death has the cool exactitude and passionate interplay of characters that readers expect from Guy de Maupassant, whose 1889 novel tells with ironic detachment and killing specificity the story of a portrait painter's great love." —Shelf Awareness
"[Maupassant] is brilliantly clever." —Henry James
"Maupassant is the world’s most accomplished of narrators." —Joseph Conrad