Publication Date: April 29, 2008
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Afloat, originally published as Sur l’eau in 1888, is a book of dazzling but treacherously shifting currents, a seemingly simple logbook of a sailing cruise along the French Mediterranean coast that opens up to reveal unexpected depths, as Guy de Maupassant merges fact and fiction, dream and documentation in a wholly original style. Humorous and troubling stories, unreliable confessions, stray reminiscences, and thoughts on life, love, art, nature, and society all find a place in Maupassant’s pages, which are, in conception and in effect, so many reflections of the fluid sea on which he finds himself–happily but forever precariously–afloat. Afloat is thus a book that in both content and form courts risk while setting out to chart the meaning, and limits, of freedom, a book that makes itself up as it goes along and in doing so proves as startling and compellingly vital as the paintings of Maupassant’s contemporaries van Gogh and Gauguin.
Guy de Maupassant (1850--1893), after serving in the Franco-Prussian War, became close friends with Flaubert and his circle. He wrote hundreds of short stories as well as novels and verse. In his later years, he suffered from mental illness, and he died in an asylum.
Douglas Parmee has translated works by Flaubert, Zola, Maupassant, Baudelaire, and Chamfort, among others, including the NYRB Classic "The Child" by Jules Valles. He is a past winner of the Society of Authors Scott-Moncrieff Prize for French translation. A lifetime fellow of Queens College, Cambridge, he now lives in Australia.