Context: Finished this off as we visited some friends in Cleveland, Ohio.
This book spirals downwards in a debilitating circle of debauchery as George Duroy aims to satsify his lust for power and possession. He’ll stop at nothing to get what he wants. It’s basically a manual for how to get ahead in business and politics.
At the start George is offered a job on a newspaper which helps him defray some small debt he has got into. He can’t write for toffee and ends up getting someone else to do it for him. But payment and his first brush with success feeds his lust for more and he latches on to every foothold that will heave him up the ladder.
A desire for thousands of francs becomes one for millions. He enters relationship after relationship using each of his women as stepping stones to position. It’s obvious that, on the whole, they are using him to do the same so there’s no pity wasted there. It’s a bit of a page-turner for its age.
I won’t tell you how it ends but I felt that de Maupassant was asking some questions about morality in ways I’d not heard them asked before. I wondered if he was asking, so what if you’re immoral, there’s no judgement anyway. Let’s assume there isn’t, does that justify immorality anyway? I’m not too sure. It’s the lack of consideration of the victims we tread over in our lust to fulfil our own desires that worries me. I didn’t see too much of that illustrated in Bel Ami.