Guy de Maupassant was responsible for a couple of items named Bel-Ami
. One was his very successful 1885 novel and the other was his small sailing yacht.
Here is what the latter looked like, from a Sale advertisement.Advertisement for the sale of Guy de Maupassant's Yacht 'Bel-Ami' (litho) (b/w photo)
In Maupassant’s mind both the novel and the boat must have had a great deal in common, for we must remember that le bateau
in French is of a masculine genre.
I also see a link in the great deal of pleasure that Maupassant must have had sailing in his boat and in my enjoyment when flowing through his textual Bel-Ami.
The story in this book is after all one of a voyage
of transformation. It traces the adventures of the scoundrel Georges Duroy as he surfs the seas
of Parisian society. He is a real “fripon”, which is, unsurprisingly, a name often given to vessels (incidentally, “Fripon” in Spanish translates as “Bribón”, which is the name of the sailboat of His Royal Majesty, Juan Carlos I, King of Spain).
And here is the royal Bribon.
Georges Duroy is a lucky man. To begin with, he is beautiful, charming, engaging and even bewitching. When he also polishes his gear
he reaches such a point of elegance that he does not recognize himself when he sees his reflection in the mirror. The novel is the account of how, as if he were a boat, he transforms himself from a provincial raft
into a seductive canoe
and eventually into a magnificent yacht
. I picture the something as alluring as this:
In this account of navigation
we witness the exploration
of Duroy’s remarkable personality who is always on the look out for new opportunities or new ports
as he moves through the social, political and economic mesh of Paris in the late nineteenth century. His elegant gliding
is possible thanks to his ability to detect from where the wind blows and let himself be carried by that impulse. So, even if he starts out of a standing of poverty and misery, he recognizes the buoy
that is his friend, M. Forestier, and succeeds in keeping afloat
And from this timely impulse from the friend Duroy advances and steers
on towards success, thanks to his wafting allure
. A great part of his journey is accompanied by the crew
of women in his life as they lay out the course for him. For amongst his abilities we hear him sing mesmerizing chants to the mermaids
of the Parisian salons while he also skirts the shores
formed by the cabarets where he can find banks of “other females”. For not all women play the same role. One offers a harbour
of love. Another provides a piquant tour along the reservoir
of the Folies Bergere
. And a very secure anchor is provided by a third, who appropriately lives in Rue Fontaine
, until it is time for him to unmoor
and head out for a richer heiress and final landing pier
But not all the crossing is made thanks to the dames. Journalism also offers rich waters
for further discoveries
and, as he embarks in this new career, we follow him to its zenith. For during the Third Republic newspapers acquired a new power and depth in which there was a lot to fish
. Duroy recognized this clearly. As hidden finance deals blended with journalism into dense and murky seas
breaking the waves and casting his net
in these new profundities and pull out fantastic treasures.
As he also learns how to cruise
through the currents
of public opinion, he begins to scan the coasts
of Northwestern Africa, following the wake
that the political and economic interests of French Foreign Policy were leaving behind. Duroy proved always ready to catch
major opportunities in these colonial maneuverings
when France interfered with the interests of Morocco, Algiers and Tunisia.
But for the entirety of this voyage, capital is needed if one is not to drift
into dangerous currents
floating will not take you anywhere, and just as Duroy is beginning to drown in his own debts he manages to emerge because he starts swimming
in other people’s money. As his stroke improves he eventually triumphs as he creams the foam
of society’s fortunes and riches.
And as he has set his sails
his itinerary eventually takes him out into the open ocean
of high politics. By then Duroy has earned all his stripes
and elevated his name to that of Baron du Roy de Cantel
. He is then more than ready to make direct headway
towards the not too distant coast
of the French Parliament, which standing as a beacon in the horizon
, is where he plans to cast anchor
And if Duroy’s story seems like a miracle, we have to remember the recurring analogy established in the novel between our maritime
hero and the often mentioned, and fictitious, painting depicting Jésus marchant sur les flots
And if I ever could succeed in life and managed to get myself a Yacht
like this one:
I would also call it BEL-AMI