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A Scoundrel's Rise,
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This review is from: Bel-Ami (Oxford World's Classics) (Paperback)
This Oxford World Classic version of Maupassant's masterpiece, "Bel Ami", is a complete package of historic and social context, story and glossary. The story itself has been well-reviewed by Amazon readers, so I will only briefly observe here a few salient features of the book that stood out for me.
A handsome but amoral young man (Georges Duroy) who has been endowed with an extraordinary load of pheromones, comes to Paris after military service to make his fortune. While not well educated or especially gifted with intellect, he is able to game the corrupt society of the time (circa 1884) using his looks and unfailing attraction for women of all ages and stations. His career rise comes through his ruthless manipulation of successive women, who are mostly very willingly used by Duroy, to attain professional and social standing and money. As this is a very pessimistic assessment of the French Third Republic by author Maupassant, the scoundrel not only wins in the end, but his nakedly open methods to gaining success are admired by the society that he is conquering.
This well-translated classic story is accompanied in the Oxford publication by a wonderfully complete introduction by Robert Lethridge, who provides an insightful commentary on the writer as well as explaining the social and political context for "Bel Ami." Lethridge has also compiled the helpful end notes/glossary that explain specific references in the novel.
Overall, this is a brilliant piece of writing by Maupassant, well-presented by Oxford Books. It is more than a little uncomfortable to read at times as the main character is such an unredeemable rotten egg, but the story has such power, that it's very hard to put down.