Devouring De Maupassant: The Spasm

Title: The Spasm
Date Read: 11th November 2013
Available Online?: YES.
Briefly: Always keen to seek out new diners entering the hotel restaurant, the narrator observes a father and daughter who have about their person ‘the charm associated with misfortune’.
Afterthoughts: This is a remarkable tale from Maupassant, in that it reads almost as though it had been written by Edgar Allen Poe. What makes it even more extraordinary is that Maupassant even makes reference to Poe in the story (see below). Of course Maupassant is no stranger to writing about the supernatural and macabre – check out The Horla, The Terror and to a lesser degree, Who Knows? for a taste of these kinds of stories – but it is rare that he makes reference to another writer in his stories. It’s left me wondering why he’s chosen to hone in on Poe specifically. Was he paying him tribute? Was he ingratiating himself with an American audience? Was he perhaps playing around with the writing style of others? Who knows?!?

As to the story itself, well it’s very readable. It’s certainly of a chilling nature and feels as though it were written especially for publication around Halloween time. It’s not anywhere as soul gazing a story as Maupassant usually writes, but it is entertaining nonetheless.
Notable Quote: “Only two appeared, but they were very remarkable, a man and a woman– father and daughter. They immediately reminded me of some of Edgar Poe’s characters; and yet there was about them a charm, the charm associated with misfortune. I looked upon them as the victims of fate. The man was very tall and thin, rather stooped, with perfectly white hair, too white for his comparatively youthful physiognomy; and there was in his bearing and in his person that austerity peculiar to Protestants. The daughter, who was probably twenty-four or twenty-five, was small in stature, and was also very thin, very pale, and she had the air of one who was worn out with utter lassitude. We meet people like this from time to time, who seem too weak for the tasks and the needs of daily life, too weak to move about, to walk, to do all that we do every day. She was rather pretty; with a transparent, spiritual beauty. And she ate with extreme slowness, as if she were almost incapable of moving her arms.”

Rating: ★★★½☆

*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).