Boule de Suif by Guy de Maupassant W/Guest Chris DePretis

Updated: Jun 16, 2021

Film director & producer Chris DePretis joins Kirk to talk about the short story “Boule de Suif” by Guy de Maupassant.

It is said that Maupassant is the most adapted literary writer after Shakespeare. Though this is hard to prove, because often his short stories offer a broad brush by which film directors like John Ford will use to paint. Nevertheless, his impact on world cinema is impressive. Besides Ford, many directors have adapted stories from the French short story writer, such as D.W. Griffith, Orson Welles, Jean Renoir, Kenji Mizoguchi, Jean-Luc Goddard and many more. These directors, of course, are the most influential directors in cinema. By proxy, very few people can claim as much influence on world cinema as Guy de Maupassant.

In this episode, we summarize and discuss one short story in particular “Boule de Suif.” Then we discuss and compare the classic western movie Stagecoach (1939) starring John Wayne and directed by John Ford.

We will be talking about the themes of both of these works as well as the way in which Ford was inspired by Maupassant.

If you are a literary lover or a film buff, this episode is for you! Great art builds on great art.


Boule de Suif

By Guy de Maupassant

For several days, straggling remnants of the routed army had passed through the town. There was no question of organized troops, it was simply a disjointed rabble, the men unshaven and dirty, their uniforms in tatters, slouching along without regimental colors, without order—worn out, broken down, incapable of thought or resolution, marching from pure habit and dropping with fatigue the moment they stopped. The majority belonged to the militia, men of peaceful pursuits, retired tradespeople, sinking under the weight of their accouterments; quick-witted little moblets as prone to terror as they were to enthusiasm, as ready to attack as they were to fly; and here and there a few red trousers, remnants of a company mowed down in one of the big battles; somber-coated artillerymen, side by side with these various uniforms of the infantry, and now and then the glittering helmet of a heavily booted dragoon who followed with difficulty the march of the lighter-footed soldiers of the line.

Companies of franc-tireurs, heroically named "Avengers of the Defeat," "Citizens of the Tomb," "Companies in Death," passed in their turn, looking like a horde of bandits.

Their chiefs—formerly drapers or corn-dealers, retired soap-boilers or suet-refiners, warriors of circumstance created officers for their money or the length of their moustaches, heaped with arms, flannels, and[Pg 2] gold lace—talked loudly, discussed plans of campaign, and gave you to understand that they were the sole support of France in her death-agony; but they were generally in terror of their own soldiers, men "of the sack and cord," most of them brave to foolhardiness, all of them given to pillage and debauchery.

Report said that the Prussians were about to enter Rouen. The National Guard, which for two months past had made the most careful reconnoiterings in the neighboring wood, even to the extent of occasionally shooting their own sentries and putting themselves in battle array if a rabbit stirred in the brushwood, had now retired to their domestic hearths; their arms, their uniforms, all the murderous apparatus with which they had been wont to strike terror to the hearts of all beholders for three leagues round, had vanished.

Finally, the last of the French soldiery crossed the Seine on their way to Pont-Audemer by Saint Sever and Bourg-Achard; and then, last of all, came their despairing general tramping on foot between two orderlies, powerless to attempt any action with these disjointed fragments of his forces, himself utterly dazed and bewildered by the downfall of a people accustomed to victory and now so disastrously beaten in spite of its traditional bravery.

After that a profound calm, the silence of terrified suspense, fell over the city. Many a rotund bourgeois, emasculated by a purely commercial life, awaited the arrival of the victors with anxiety, trembling lest their meat-skewers and kitchen carving-knives should come under the category of arms.

Life seemed to have come to a standstill, the shops were closed, the streets silent. From time to time an[Pg 3] inhabitant, intimidated by their silence, would flit rapidly along the pavement, keeping close to the walls.

In thi