Title: Idyll (also known as Midsummer Idyll)
Date Read: 8th March 2010
Available Online?: No (?) (In the collection that I read, the story is titled Idyll. However I can’t seem to be able to trace the story online, under this title or any other. Anyone?).
Briefly: Two unnamed Italian peasants – a man and a woman – sit in the same carriage aboard an almost empty train. They strike up a conversation and it turns out that both are bound for Marseilles. The man is going there to seek employment as a builder, while the woman is taking up a position as a wet nurse, for a well-appointed lady.
Afterthoughts: Although this story is one of the shortest to be penned by Maupassant it’s also one of the most powerful. It pays tribute to the occupation of ‘wet nursing’, a practice which in my reading of French history seems to have been wholly prevalent and ‘in vogue’ during the period. As one can imagine the subject matter makes the story somewhat explicit. And perhaps, given the way in which the storyline ‘plays out’, some may well find this tale offensive; others will garner some degree of eroticism from it. Either way this is a powerful story, and I’m enthralled that Maupassant has chosen such a subject on which to base a story upon. I’m sure he had good reason. Note: you can find out more about my motivations for reading this particular story in this reading journal entry.
Notable Quote: “In the last carriage a stout woman and a young man sat facing each other, not saying a word, but glancing at each other now and then. She was about twenty-five, and sat next to the door, looking out at the scenery. She was a heavily built peasant woman from Piedmont, with dark eyes, a full bosom and fat cheeks. She had pushed several parcels under the wooden seat and was holding a basket on her knees.”
*Story read as part of my Devouring De Maupassant reading challenge.