Devouring De Maupassant: A Coup d’Etat

Title: A Coup d’Etat
Date Read: 22nd March 2010
Available Online?: YES (although read for this review was the David Coward translation of the story in A Day in the Country and Other Stories (Oxford University Press)).
Briefly: With the news yet to filter through to outlying districts that Emperor Louis-Napoleon has been captured at the Battle of Sedan and the Third Republic have taken over power in Paris, Dr. Massarel, leader of Republican party in the small town of Canneville, takes it upon himself to amass his rag tag army of civilian troops to lay siege on the town hall, where the mayor and his entourage, have holed themselves up.
Afterthoughts: This is a superb story from Maupassant and it’s one which gives more than a passing nod to the cessation of the Second French Empire in 1870. Rather than a straightforward history lesson however, Maupassant makes a comedy sketch out of the event, showing that outside of Paris, the installation of a new government doesn’t really matter all that much. What really makes this story though, is Maupassant’s superbly realised character, Dr. Massarel, and his bumbling and futile attempts at gaining support both for himself and for the new Republic.
Notable Quote: The mayor, Viscount de Varnetot, a thin, little old man, a conservative, who had recently, from ambition, gone over to the Empire, had seen a determined opponent arise in Dr. Massarel, a big, full-blooded man, leader of the Republican party of the neighborhood, a high official in the local masonic lodge, president of the Agricultural Society and of the firemen’s banquet and the organizer of the rural militia which was to save the country.

Rating: ★★★★☆

*Story read as part of my Devouring De Maupassant reading challenge.

About Rob

Rob, a self-confessed bibliophile, is without any hope of rehabilitation. He gets unnaturally excited over anything book-shaped, and if book sniffing were a crime then he would have been locked up years ago (which wouldn’t bother him in the slightest provided his cell was lined with books).