The psychoemotional precision of Maupassant in an elegant new translation by celebrated translator Howard.
Olivier Bertin is the most sought-after portraitist in Paris. Exalted not just for his talent and refined technique, but also the ease with which he blends with Parisian society, he is handsome and charming, but, though he never lacks for admirers, he has never loved—until he's thunderstruck by the sight of a lovely young woman in mourning clothes at a party and contrives to paint her portrait and, with luck, seduce her. Soon Anne, the comtesse de Guilleroy, a canny, resourceful woman, married with a young daughter, comes to sit for him. After minimal resistance or moral questioning, Anne accepts that she returns the painter’s affections and bears no remorse as they embark on a passionate affair that, though Anne remains married to the oblivious count, lasts for many years and settles into the comfort, habit, and thoughtless affection of a contented marriage. Now a young woman herself, Anne’s daughter, Annette, returns to Paris from her childhood spent at her grandmother’s estate in Eure, and, though Anne is pleased to have her home, she is increasingly haunted by her dissipating youth and distressed by comparisons of their beauty: judgments which generally favor the younger woman. Olivier, also realizing the consequences of passing years—on his body and prevailing artistic tastes—feels a surge of renewed passion for his mistress on Annette’s return, seeing in her daughter all he admired in Anne when their love was still new. It’s here that Maupassant best depicts, with meticulous care and nuance, the neuroses and internal struggles of these lovers as they grapple for control over their emotions and the unstoppable onrush of time.
A finely shaded portrait of desire, will, and the complex entanglements of love, set against cutting social commentary from a realist master.