Thursday, April 19, 2007

Those French writers!

Un autre interlude

In David Lodge's novel about Henry James (Author, Author!), the author describes James's lunch with another author:
...A few days earlier, Henry had lunched with [Guy de] Maupassant at a fashionable London restaurant, and the Frenchman had embarrassed him by trying to enlist his help in picking up a woman seated alone at a table on the opposite side of the dining room.

"Go and ask her if she would like to join us, Henry," Maupassant said. (Mercifully they were both speaking French.)

"I couldn't possibly, Guy," said Henry. "I don't know who she is."

"Well, send her a note by the waiter. Tell her we would like to make her acquaintance."

"Certainly not."

"I would do it myself, but my English is not good enough."

"You simply cannot do such things here, Guy," Henry protested. "It's impossible."

"Why not?" Maupassant demanded, helping himself to more wine, to the distress of the hovering waiter who considered this operation to be his duty. "She is available, without doubt. Why else is she dining alone in a public restaurant?"

"There is a new species of respectable but emancipated ladies in this country who are laying claim to some of the traditional prerogatives of men. I daresay she is one such."

Maupassant snorted derisively. "I want a woman," he grumbled. "Not an emancipated one, just an ordinary woman, as long as she has a pretty face and a nice arse. I haven't had one since I got to London."

Henry was relieved to get him out of the restaurant without creating a scene. It confirmed all his prejudices about the morals of French writers. How right he had been to flee Paris! [p. 81]


  1. Pardon the vapor lock my brain seems to be experiencing, but I have the distinct feeling I read this a few days ago. Tell me I'm not seeing things in the future.

  2. It's hard sometimes to distinguish among clairvoyance, déjã vu, and the various forms of paramnesia....