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“The Kiss” by Guy de Maupassant (thoughts)

January 6, 2009

shotsofshortGuy de Maupassant’s “The Kiss” is a very short story, a meditation really, written in the form of a letter, on the power of the kiss. Specifically, the power women have over men thanks to the kiss, and various ways women can lose their power. It’s only about two pages, but Maupassant brings to life not only the undeniable magic of a kiss, but a past world where women’s only power lay in love. It’s an impressive author that can create such a feeling of atmosphere in such a short space, and the signature of the letter is perfection itself.

I loved his description of a kiss:

Yes, the meeting of lips is the most perfect, the most divine sensation given to human beings, the supreme limit of happiness: It is in the kiss alone that one sometimes seems to feel this union of souls after which we strive, the intermingling of hearts, as it were.

After general thoughts on kisses, the aunt writing the letter adds specific advice to her young niece (who’s having difficulties in her marriage). These pieces of wisdom were pretty amusing, especially the aunt’s portrayal of a scene she witnessed between the young couple:

Then he rose, ran to the woodbox, from which he dragged two enormous logs with great difficulty, when you came to him with begging lips, murmuring:

“Kiss me!” He turned his head with difficulty and tried to hold up the logs at the same time. Then you gently and slowly placed your mouth on that of the poor fellow, who remained with his neck out of joint, his sides twisted, his arms almost dropping off, trembling with fatigue and tired from his desperate effort. And you kept drawing out this torturing kiss, without seeing or understanding. Then when you freed him, you began to grumble: “How badly you kiss!” No wonder!

If I quote anymore, I shall have quoted the entire story, but it’s definitely worth reading for its mix of tenderness and worldliness, its balance of idealism and realism, its perfect self-containment. I’ll be reading more of Maupassant in the future!

15 Comments leave one →
  1. January 6, 2009 8:22 am

    This sounds like such a cute story, Eva. Thanks for the review!

  2. January 6, 2009 8:42 am

    This is one I haven’t read. It sounds fantastic! Thanks for the review and Happy New Year!

  3. January 6, 2009 10:12 am

    I love Maupassant! I read about 80 of his stories last year. They are all (mostly) very powerful. I have a huge summary of most of my favorites here.

    I also love Chekhov’s short story called The Kiss. Completely different from this one but great in it’s own right…

  4. January 6, 2009 10:35 am

    I’ve read some of Maupassants’ in French and English. I have never read this one, but I should. Maybe in French, seeing how it is the language of love!

  5. January 6, 2009 10:46 am

    Wonderful quotes! I’ll have to pick this one up.

  6. January 6, 2009 3:56 pm

    Nik, it is-and you can read it for free online. ;)

    Lisa, thanks!

    Rebecca, I remember your great overview of his stories. :) I’ll definitely be using it as a resource! I love Chekhov, but my library doesn’t have the Pevear & Volokhonsky translation…and I’ve become such a snob I don’t want any other, lol. Maybe I’ll just read it in Russian-that’s where my love for Chekhov began-he’s much easier to read than most Russian authors!

    Sarah, this would be a pretty easy one to read in French. I love French, don’t you? My favourite French poet is Baudelaire. :D

    Lu, you can just go read it online! ;)

  7. January 6, 2009 4:26 pm

    Chekhov’s The Kiss isn’t in the P&V translation….P&V only translated 25 of his stories for some reason. I think The Kiss is great, so it’s really too bad we can’t get a P&V version of it; they did a great job with the rest of the stories. I haven’t compared Russian translations, though, so I can’t really claim to be a P&V snob lol!

  8. January 6, 2009 5:55 pm

    My favorite quote from it:

    “Love, my dear, is made up of imperceptible sensations. We know that it is as strong as death, but also as frail as glass. The slightest shock breaks it, and our power crumbles, and we are never able to raise it again.”

    How wonderful!

    Oh and I totally adored the description of how not to kiss, with her husband’s neck all bent out of whack. I had to giggle.

    Thanks for the link.

  9. January 6, 2009 5:56 pm

    The only Maupassant I’ve read is “The Necklace,” but this one certainly sounds worth a read!

  10. January 6, 2009 7:22 pm

    I clicked over to read and I enjoyed it very much! Thanks for the link. It’s amazing how well you get a feeling of the young woman’s personality simply from her aunt’s description of the incident with the logs.

  11. January 7, 2009 1:18 am

    Thanks for the link, looks wonderful. I have book with the collection of his stories, I think I need to read that too.

  12. adevotedreader permalink
    January 7, 2009 3:17 am

    I have a collection of Maupassant stories gathering dust on my tTBR shelf, it sounds like I will have to dig it out and get stuck in.

  13. January 8, 2009 5:26 am

    Maupassant is one the greatest French writers of the 19th century. Not only his short stories, but his novel Bel Ami. Have you read it?

    And btw I gave you a (very well deserved) award!
    http://blog.catherinedelors.com/2009/01/08/a-new-award.aspx

  14. January 8, 2009 5:28 pm

    Rebecca, I’m hoping that they’re working on the rest of Chekhov’s stories. :) I’ll check out the kiss though!

    Chris, I love that quote too. :D

    Andi, we read “The Necklace” in ninth grade-it was so sad. :(

    Carrie, I agree-he was obviously a great writer!

    Violet, very cool.

    A Devoted Reader, you should definitely try it. :)

    Catherine, I haven’t read Bel Ami, but now it’s on the list. :) Thanks so much for the award!

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