In a short story by Maupassant, a young man is upset by the past infidelities of his mistress, a rather paradoxical situation since he came much later after the infidelities (and somehow benefited himself from them). I would like to identify that short story.

  • Thanks for editing your question to focus on a single story! Not to put you through endless edits, but please take a look at the tag wiki for ID requests to see if you can add some details here. Have you have read the story before? If so, when, where, and in what language? What do you remember about the physical book: cover, whether it was all Maupassant stories or a collection, etc.? If you have not read the story, where did you come across this information about it? These details will make the story easier to identify.
    – verbose
    Commented Apr 13, 2021 at 23:00
  • @verbose I read that short story in French several decades ago, I remember the argument but neither the title nor any names of the characters.
    – Bazin
    Commented Apr 14, 2021 at 9:44

1 Answer 1


This is very reminiscent of a passage in the middle of Chapter V of Bel-Ami (admittedly a short novel, rather than a short story). This can be found on page 182 in the version of “La Bibliotheque Électronique du Quebec” which is available online.

Et Duroy, pour la première fois, songea à tout ce qu’il ne savait point dans la vie passée de cettefemme, et il rêva. Certes elle avait eu des amants, déjà, mais de quelle sorte ? de quel monde ? Une vague jalousie, une sorte d’inimitié s’éveillait en lui contre elle, une inimitié pour tout ce qu’il ignorait, pour tout ce qui ne lui avait point appartenu dans ce cœur et dans cette existence. Il la regardait, irrité du mystère enfermé dans cette tête jolie et muette et qui songeait, en ce moment-là même peut-être, à l’autre, aux autres, avec des regrets. Comme il eût aimé regarder dans ce souvenir, y fouiller, et tout savoir, tout connaître !...

In the English translation by Marjorie Laurie this is

For the first time Duroy was struck by the thought of all that was unknown to him in this woman’s past. She had assuredly had other lovers, but of what description? Of what social standing? A vague jealousy awoke in him, a feeling of hostility towards her, towards everything of which he remained in ignorance, towards whatever in her heart and her existence had not belonged to him. He glanced at her, stung by the mystery hidden within her pretty head, which at that very moment was perhaps thinking with silent regret of that other, of those others.

How he would have loved to peep and rummage in this memory of hers, and get at the heart of all its secrets!

  • You are certainly right, I will read again Bel-ami. I remember that just before the excerpt quoted in your answer, the woman is asked (by Duroy) explicitly if she has had affairs, she answers first negatively and then says something like "oh yes it happened once with a young man". Anyway my hint about a short story was misleading, thanks for caring to look beyond my indications.
    – Bazin
    Commented Apr 19, 2021 at 19:29
  • @Bazin If this answer is correct, you can "accept" it by clicking on the checkmark to the left of the answer; this would mark the question more clearly as solved.
    – Rand al'Thor
    Commented Oct 19, 2022 at 14:50

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