Title: A Coward
Date Read: 12th April 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: Known for being competent in both sword and pistol the Vicomte Gontran-Joseph de Signoles is confident that he would undoubtedly prevail in a deadly duel, should he be called upon to participate in one. During a post-theatre visit to the finest of Parisian cafe – Tortoni’s – such an opportunity presents itself, when a man refuses the vicomte’s request to stop staring at the wife of one of his gentleman friends.
Afterthoughts: This is a superb tale from Maupassant, made wonderful not because of some ingenious plot, but rather because it offers an exquisite study of a man who gradually becomes more and wracked with fear as the day of his reckoning draws ever closer. If I had any complaint then it would be that this tale needed to be longer – just so that the man’s deteriorating condition could be more fully explored. But putting this aside A Coward still reads as a tale which is complete and fully-rounded.
Notable Quote: When the vicomte reached home he walked rapidly up and down his room for some minutes. He was in a state of too great agitation to think connectedly. One idea alone possessed him: a duel. But this idea aroused in him as yet no emotion of any kind. He had done what he was bound to do; he had proved himself to be what he ought to be. He would be talked about, approved, congratulated.
*Story read as part of my Devouring De Maupassant reading challenge.