The Horla


Part of The Art of the Novella

This chilling tale of one man’s descent into madness was published shortly before the author was institutionalized for insanity, and so, The Horla has inevitably been seen as informed by Guy de Maupassant’s mental illness. While such speculation is murky, it is clear that de Maupassant—hailed alongside Chekhov as father of the short story—was at the peak of his powers in this innovative precursor of first-person psychological fiction. Indeed, he worked for years on The Horla’s themes and form, first drafting it as “Letter from a Madman,” then telling it from a doctor’s point of view, before finally releasing the terrified protagonist to speak for himself in its devastating final version. In a brilliant new translation, all three versions appear here as a single volume for the first time.

GUY DE MAUPASSANT was born in Normandy in 1850. At twenty he served in the Franco-Prussian War, then studied writing with his mother’s friend Gustave Flaubert (perhaps believing rumors, which persist, that Flaubert was his father). In 1880 he published his first story, “Boule de Suif,” which was hailed as a masterpiece. He quit his civil service job and soon published the collection, La Maison Tellier. He would go on to publish 300 stories and six novels, includingBel-Ami and Pierre et Jean, while living the life of a bon vivant. In the late 1880s, however, he began to show signs of syphilitic mental illness, and in 1891, was institutionalized after a suicide attempt. He died in a mental asylum in 1893.