Audiobook Review: Bel-Ami

I received this book for free from Audies in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Audiobook Review: Bel-AmiBel-Ami by Guy de Maupassant
Narrator: John McDonough
Length: 14 hrs, 41 mins
Published by Recorded Books on June 16, 2011
Genres: Classics
Format: Audiobook
Source: Audies

De Maupassant's second novel, Bel-Ami (1885) is the story of a ruthlessly ambitious young man (Georges Duroy, christened ''Bel-Ami'' by his female admirers) making it to the top in fin-de-siecle Paris. It is a novel about money, sex, and power, set against the background of the politics of the French colonization of North Africa. It explores the dynamics of an urban society uncomfortably close to our own and is a devastating satire of the sleaziness of contemporary journalism. Bel-Ami enjoys the status of an authentic record of the apotheosis of bourgeois capitalism under the Third Republic. The creative tension between its analysis of modern behavior and its identifiably late nineteenth-century fabric is one of the reasons Bel-Ami remains one of the finest French novels of its time and is recognized as de Maupassant's greatest achievement.

Bel Ami tells the story of Georges Duroy, a man with a magnificent mustache and a desire for advancement and women. Throughout the novel, he attempts to obtain these things, using his incredibly seductive mustache. This is not a joke. Oh how I wish it was.

I seriously hated this novel, which I listened to in audiobook form. Almost from the first, I wanted nothing more than to punch this smarmy French bastard in the face. He is an incredibly awful person and has absolutely zero respect for women. Actually, I think this book should have been subtitled “Monsieur Mustache Seduces Every Woman of His Acquaintance.” Why? Because he really does. He beds every female character with more than a couple of lines. The end result of his great success is to categorize all women as whores. Thank you so much for writing this Guy de Maupassant. Womenkind is so grateful.

On top of that, all of these relationships, with the exception of one (which involves seducing the daughter of a mother he seduced), involves adultery. I know that there is a fine French tradition of viewing adulterous relationships as the home of real love, but this isn’t the time period of Chretien de Troyes. All of these people are completely awful and unlike other bits of pop culture (like Mad Men) with only terrible characters, these are not even interesting. I don’t give a damn about how good anyone is at playing cup and ball, of which there are numerous descriptions.

The audiobook itself was pretty awful as well, I thought. For one thing, the editing does not seem to have been done very well, as the narrator’s deep, rattly breaths are often audible. Speaking of which, McDonough does not make a satisfying narrator for this particular story. The book is about a young, attractive man, skilled in seduction, which means that an old man with gasping breaths that make him sound close to death may not be the ideal choice for a narrator. This is not to say that McDonough could not be an excellent narrator for another book that was better edited, but he was not the right choice for Bel Ami.

P.S. Today’s song captures the creepiness of Duroy’s treatment of women, his tendency to idolize them and take advantage of them. It also recalled the seen where Madame Walter tied her hair around his buttons.


One response to “Audiobook Review: Bel-Ami”

  1. Veronika says:

    I read the book a long time ago, then re-read it last year. it wasn’t my favorite story, but I loved it! Last week I saw the movie just came out!! It was fantastic =)

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