Guy de Maupassant and O Henry are both master short story tellers. And their stories have not lost the appeal and the grip despite the passage of time.
Jaico publishers have brought out collection of stories of each of these in an economy edition.
Guy de Maupassant (to be pronounced as gi de mopasa) is considered one of the fathers of short stories. And his characters were predominantly ordinary men and women, though he has written several stories in the background of the Franco-Prussian war of 1870.
The Jaico collection has 14 selected short stories of Maupassant. The selection seems to be random. ?Two friends? is the story of two men, who went fishing together and spoke very little to each other. In fact they hardly were familiar with each other. And while fishing one day near the barracks, they are caught by the German soldiers. Their commander, mistaking them for spies, asks them to reveal the password. When they both keep quiet they are shot dead by the firing squad. The men before dying see the fish catch, still live, moving in the bag. The German commander orders the body to be thrown into the river and fish to be fried, still live.
The dilemma of an abbot, who prides himself on his integrity, when he discovers the existence of his illegitimate son, now an adult and a rogue, comes across beautifully in the story the ?Olive Orchard.?
Then there is the story of a very beautiful woman who resents her husband putting her through many pregnancies, cutting her social life. To avenge him she tells him one day that one of the children was not his. After putting him through hell, she tells him that she had lied.
Most of his stories of course leave the reader thinking of how many other possible ways the plot could have continued or ended. The publishers have not mentioned if the translations of stories in the collection are authorised or if they have been done by them in India.
Born in 1985, Maupassant died just before he turned 43 in 1893. Several short story writers including O Henry, Somerset Maugham and Anton Chekhov have been influenced by Guy de Maupassant
The Best of O Henry, Jaico Books, pp 261, Rs. 195.00
O. Henry is known for his wit and twisty ending stories. Sometimes macabre. Even wishing that one had not read the story because it disturbs the mind so. He has written 381 short stories, most of them published in the weekly New York World Sunday magazine.
O. Henry'sfirst stories were published when he wrote from the prison, serving a sentence for embezzlement. His real name was William Sydney Porter and he wrote in the assumed name O Henry and his stories were sent through his friend so that the publisheres did not know that the author was in jail. His most earnest writing and success came when he shifted to New York (he was born in North Carolina) after he was released from jail.
?The Gift of the Magi? is one of the most popular stories of O Henry, about a young couple who trade their best possession to buy each other Christmas gifts. Della sells her luscious long hair to surprise Jim with a helmet he so much wanted and Jim wanting to give her a surprise gift sells his bike to buy her a hair clip.
?A Newspaper Story? follows the trails of a newspaper, the way it gets separated sheet by sheet and is picked up by various people for various reasons. The humour is complete with the last line ?After this can anyone doubt the power of the press??
Born in September 11, 1862, O Henry gave up formal education at 15. He lived a relatively short life, he died on June 5, 1910. His first collection of short stories was published under the title ?Cabbages and Kings? in 1904.
The collection of short stories from Guy de Maupassant and O .Henry brought out by Jaico are no doubt valuable additions to the shelves. Care could have been taken to eliminate spelling errors that do mar the smooth reading.
(Jaico Publishing House, 121, Mahatma Gandhi Road, Mumbai-400 001.)