The Necklace by Guy de Maupassant

Aural Noir: Online Audio

Sometimes titled “The Diamond Necklace” this story is a 3,000 word short story that is often upheld as a tale at, or very near, the pinnacle of ironic fiction. Guy de Maupassant’s short story La Parure is usually given the English title “The Necklace” – despite “La Parure” literally translating into English as “The Finery”.

The Necklace has been reprinted hundreds of times, in books, textbooks and newspapers. It has been collected volumes of “mystery or detective” stories – which is pretty damn odd considering that it has neither a detective nor a mystery in it. And stranger still, it has been anthologized in collections with titles like Masterpieces Of Terror And The Unknown and Isaac Asimov Presents The Best Horror And Supernatural Of The 19th Century.

How does this modest little tale, featuring a Parisian couple, and their acquaintances, a story with no supernatural elements at all qualify as a “supernatural” tale?

How can a story, like The Necklace, in which nobody dies, or is even physically injured, be considered ‘a tale of terror or horror’?

Perhaps the mystery lies not within such questions, but instead with one’s interpretation. Perhaps, just as with the translation from one language to another, there are kinds of horrors, kinds of terrors, indeed kinds of fates which can only be classified as a moral horror, a social terror, or one of life’s little mysteries that leaves us asking questions like the ones above.

Guy de Maupassant has created a story for the ages, a mystery story in which you, the reader, are the detective. Your job is to solve the case of…

LibriVoxThe Necklace (La Parure)
By Guy de Maupassant; Read by Patti Cunningham
1 |MP3| – Approx. 19 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Published: November 21, 2009
Mathilde is a beautiful bride of a mid-level Parisian bureaucrat. Her natural elegance and grace seem somewhat out of place with her husband’s junior position. This is the story of a beautiful woman who works hard and gets everything she wants. First published in the February 17, 1884 issue of Le Gaulois (a French daily newspaper).

Here’s the cover illustration (artist unknown) for La Parure from the October 8, 1893 issue of Gil Blas (a Parisian literary magazine):

The Necklace (La Parure) illustration from Gil Blas, 1893

The most evocative illustrations I’ve seen for The Necklace are by Gord Rayner- they accompany an uncredited radio style play adaptation (for four actors) in the 1960s Canadian textbook entitled Sense And Feeling edited by R.J. Scott. Here’s the 12 page play |PDF| and here are the illustrations:

THE NECKLACE - Illustration by Gordon Rayner from SENSE AND FEELING

THE NECKLACE - Illustration by Gordon Rayner from SENSE AND FEELING

THE NECKLACE - Illustration by Gordon Rayner from SENSE AND FEELING


Here’s a wonderful radio dramatization that keeps most of the tale intact:

Favorite Story Favorite Story – The Necklace
Adapted from the story by Guy de Maupassant; Performed by a full cast
1 |MP3| – Approx. 27 Minutes [RADIO DRAMA]
Broadcaster: KFI
Broadcast: October 7, 1947
Heather Angel … Mathilde Loisel
Hans Conried … Pierre Loisel

Posted by Jesse Willis

The Music Of Erich Zann by H.P. Lovecraft

SFFaudio Online Audio

The Music Of Erich Zann is one of H.P. Lovecraft’s most popular short stories (it runs just 3,450 words).

The Music Of Erich Zann - illustration by Andrew Brosnatch

Here are the opening lines:

“I have examined maps of the city with the greatest care, yet have never again found the Rue d’Auseil. These maps have not been modern maps alone, for I know that names change. I have, on the contrary, delved deeply into all the antiquities of the place, and have personally explored every region, of whatever name, which could possibly answer to the street I knew as the Rue d’Auseil. But despite all I have done, it remains an humiliating fact that I cannot find the house, the street, or even the locality, where, during the last months of my impoverished life as a student of metaphysics at the university, I heard the music of Erich Zann.

That my memory is broken, I do not wonder; for my health, physical and mental, was gravely disturbed throughout the period of my residence in the Rue d’Auseil, and I recall that I took none of my few acquaintances there. But that I cannot find the place again is both singular and perplexing; for it was within a half-hour’s walk of the university and was distinguished by peculiarities which could hardly be forgotten by any one who had been there. I have never met a person who has seen the Rue d’Auseil.

The Rue d’Auseil lay across a dark river bordered by precipitous brick blear-windowed warehouses and spanned by a ponderous bridge of dark stone. It was always shadowy along that river, as if the smoke of neighboring factories shut out the sun perpetually. The river was also odorous with evil stenches which I have never smelled elsewhere, and which may some day help me to find it, since I should recognize them at once. Beyond the bridge were narrow cobbled streets with rails; and then came the ascent, at first gradual, but incredibly steep as the Rue d’Auseil was reached.”

And the Rue d’Auseil, by the way, translates to “street of the threshold” – most appropriate.

Public domain:

LibriVoxThe Music Of Erich Zann
By H.P. Lovecraft; Read by Cameron Halket
1 |MP3| – Approx. 19 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Published: October 19, 2008
A student of philosophy is forced, by lack of funds, to to take lodgings in a run down rooming house in a strange part of Paris. First published in National Amateur (March 1922), then later in the May 1925 issue of Weird Tales.

Creative Commons:

PseudopodEpisode #100 – The Music Of Erich Zann
By H.P. Lovecraft; Read by B.J. Harrison
1 |MP3| – Approx. 30 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Podcaster: Pseudopod
Podcast: July 25th, 2008

Commercial audiobook:

Horror Audiobooks - The Dark Worlds Of H.P. Lovecraft Volume 4 - The Rats In The Walls, The Shunned House, The Music Of Eric ZahnThe Dark Worlds Of H.P. Lovecraft, Volume 4: The Rats In The Walls, The Shunned House, The Music Of Eric Zann
By H.P. Lovecraft; Read by Wayne June
3 CDs – 2 Hours 41 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Audio Realms
Published: 2006
ISBN: 1897304242


H.P. Lovecraft Literary PodcastEpisode #23 – The Music Of Erich Zann
Participants Chris Lackey, Chad Fifer and Andrew Leman
1 |MP3| – Approx. 29 Minutes [DISCUSSION]
Podcaster: H.P. Lovecraft Literary Podcast
Podcast: September 12, 2010


The Music Of Erich Zann

There is a very good comics adaptation, by writer Roy Thomas and artist Johnny Craig, done for issue #5 (June 1970) of Marvel Comics’ Chamber Of Darkness (the title was changed to The Music From Beyond).

Here’s a disturbingly wordless stop motion animation adaptation:

Posted by Jesse Willis

Free Listens review: Fantomas by Marcel Allain and Pierre Souvestre


Fantômas by Marcel Allain and Pierre Souvestre

Source: LibriVox (zipped mp3s or M4B)
Length: 10 hrs, 11 min
Reader: Alan Winterrowd

The book: Literature is full of great detectives; less so with great criminals. The criminal masterminds that take center stage in novels are often either effeminate plotters or crooks-with-a-heart-of-gold types. Fantômas is the rare criminal genius with the brawn and cold-heartedness to carry out gruesome murders, yet the charm to seduce a princess as he robs her. Close on his heels is the detective Juve of the Paris police, a master of disguise with the intelligence to almost, but not quite, catch up with Fantômas.

In France, Fantômas stars in over 40 books by Allain and Souvestre; the authors’ system of working together on the plot, then dividing the writing of the chapters led to this astounding productivity. Fantômas’s criminal exploits and his pursuit by Juve make for an entertaining read, but the characters do not have the brilliance of Sherlock Holmes nor the humor of Arsene Lupin.  Although the characters are not so deep, the plot twists so much that even when I thought I knew the identity of Fantômas, there were still several more surprises. Fantômas belongs in the middle ground between the pulps and the great classics of the crime genre.

Rating: 7 / 10

Reader: Allan Winterrowd has a strong American baritone that does not distract from the story. He varies his tone slightly for the various characters, without going so far as to perform voices. As far as I could tell, he pronounces the French place-names correctly, though I’m no expert in French. Winterrowd speaks in a steady pace that allows the listener to keep up. The recording itself is well-done and clear.

posted by Seth

BBCR4 + To Catch A Thief

Aural Noir: Online Audio

To Catch A Thief

First published in the December 1951 issue of Cosmopolitan magazine, To Catch A Thief is the romantic tale of an ex-American jewel thief living in retirement on the French Riviera.

Randal S. Brandt, who penned the introduction to the recently published Bruin Books paperbook edition, points out that the novel was inspired by real life events!

If any of this is ringing any bells it’s probably a recognize of To Catch A Thief‘s more famous incarnation, the 1955 film staring Carey Grant and Grace Kelly.

With the very first line of the novel our wily protagonist, John Robie, is on the run – the police think he’s returned to his old profession, cat burglary, and the maquisards (his old comrades in the French Resistance) are under suspicion too – Robie’s only option is to track down the real cat burglar before the police can catch up with him! This will of course mean a disguise, regular visits to the casinos of Monte Carlo and endless days spent in the company of gorgeous young women. C’est la vie.

Dell 658 - To Catch A Thief by David Dodge

This is all apropos of a terrific new radio dramatization of To Catch A Thief recently broadcast on BBC Radio 4. I cottoned on to it on a recent visit (where you can get it too!).

BBC Radio 4 / Saturday PlayRadioArchives.ccTo Catch A Thief
Based on the novel by David Dodge; Adapted by Jean Buchanan; Performed by a full cast
1 Broadcast – Approx. 1 Hour [RADIO DRAMA]
Broadcaster: BBC Radio 4 / Saturday Play
Broadcast: January 8, 2011
David Dodge’s novel is a fast-paced, entertaining page-turner that was subsequently turned into a memorable film by Alfred Hitchcock, starring Cary Grant and Grace Kelly. Now, Jean Buchanan’s dramatisation brings it to radio. American John Robie is living quietly in the South of France, trying to put his career as a notorious jewel thief behind him. However, when a series of huge jewel thefts begins on the Riviera, targeting rich Americans, the police immediately suspect he’s returned to his old ways. To prove his innocence, and trap the real thief, Robie must resort to subterfuge. But his plans go awry when the daughter of one of the rich American tourists takes rather too close an interest in him – and his past.

John Robie……….Jeff Harding
Francie Stevens……Jennifer Lee Jellicorse
Mrs. Stevens………..Laura Brook
Paul……………Alun Raglan
Bellini……….Simon Armstrong
Danielle……….Aurelie Amblard
French Extras……….Martin Sorrell

Director: Sara Davies

To Catch A Thief - a Vanity Fair recreation

And, if you’re up for more on David Dodge and To Catch A Thief, be sure to check out Randal S. Brandt’s wonderful tribute site!

Posted by Jesse Willis

A Piece Of String by Guy de Maupassant (as read by Stefan Rudnicki)

Aural Noir: Online Audio

Here’s a really thoughtful short crime story that I think my Catholic friends will especially enjoy (it’s good and it’s pretty hard to find a good audio edition). Though some have classified it as humorous it has plenty of depth (they must be thinking it is a black comedy). It follows in the tradition of The Boy Who Cried Wolf and may remind you of later works like Joseph Heller’s Catch-22. In the paperbook translation where I first read it, the title was A Piece Of Yarn. This is not a literal translation of the French (“La Ficelle“) but is actually about ten times better than A Piece Of String (for reasons which are clearer after reading the entire tale). And as an added bonus there’s probably not a better American accented narrator for this story than Stefan Rudnicki. Enjoy!

A Piece Of String by Guy de MaupassantA Piece Of String (aka A Piece Of Yarn)
By Guy de Maupassant; Read by Stefan Rudnicki
1 |MP3| – Approx. 17 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Redwood Audiobooks (Listen To Genius)
Published: 2008
A thrifty hand, a shrewd eye and a good story are universally loved by the prideful farmers of Normandy. But Maître Hauchecome soon finds himself in a epistemological struggle between his word, his reputation and his story.

The full text of the tale follows below:

A Piece Of String
By Guy de Maupassant

Along all the roads around Goderville the peasants and their wives were coming toward the burgh because it was market day. The men were proceeding with slow steps, the whole body bent forward at each movement of their long twisted legs; deformed by their hard work, by the weight on the plow which, at the same time, raised the left shoulder and swerved the figure, by the reaping of the wheat which made the knees spread to make a firm “purchase,” by all the slow and painful labors of the country. Their blouses, blue, “stiff-starched,” shining as if varnished, ornamented with a little design in white at the neck and wrists, puffed about their bony bodies, seemed like balloons ready to carry them off. From each of them two feet protruded.

Some led a cow or a calf by a cord, and their wives, walking behind the animal, whipped its haunches with a leafy branch to hasten its progress. They carried large baskets on their arms from which, in some cases, chickens and, in others, ducks thrust out their heads. And they walked with a quicker, livelier step than their husbands. Their spare straight figures were wrapped in a scanty little shawl pinned over their flat bosoms, and their heads were enveloped in a white cloth glued to the hair and surmounted by a cap.

Then a wagon passed at the jerky trot of a nag, shaking strangely, two men seated side by side and a woman in the bottom of the vehicle, the latter holding onto the sides to lessen the hard jolts.

In the public square of Goderville there was a crowd, a throng of human beings and animals mixed together. The horns of the cattle, the tall hats, with long nap, of the rich peasant and the headgear of the peasant women rose above the surface of the assembly. And the clamorous, shrill, screaming voices made a continuous and savage din which sometimes was dominated by the robust lungs of some countryman’s laugh or the long lowing of a cow tied to the wall of a house.

All that smacked of the stable, the dairy and the dirt heap, hay and sweat, giving forth that unpleasant odor, human and animal, peculiar to the people of the field.

Maître Hauchecome of Breaute had just arrived at Goderville, and he was directing his steps toward the public square when he perceived upon the ground a little piece of string. Maître Hauchecome, economical like a true Norman, thought that everything useful ought to be picked up, and he bent painfully, for he suffered from rheumatism. He took the bit of thin cord from the ground and began to roll it carefully when he noticed Maître Malandain, the harness maker, on the threshold of his door, looking at him. They had heretofore had business together on the subject of a halter, and they were on bad terms, both being good haters. Maître Hauchecome was seized with a sort of shame to be seen thus by his enemy, picking a bit of a head. two arms and string out of the dirt. He concealed his “find” quickly under his blouse, then in his trousers’ pocket; then he pretended to be still looking on the ground for something which he did not find, and he went toward the market, his head forward, bent double by his pains.

He was soon lost in the noisy and slowly moving crowd which was busy with interminable bargainings. The peasants milked, went and came, perplexed, always in fear of being cheated, not daring to decide, watching the vender’s eye, ever trying to find the trick in the man and the flaw in the beast.

The women, having placed their great baskets at their feet, had taken out the poultry which lay upon the ground, tied together by the feet, with terrified eyes and scarlet crests.

They heard offers, stated their prices with a dry air and impassive face, or perhaps, suddenly deciding on some proposed reduction, shouted to the customer who was slowly going away: “All right, Maître Authirne, I’ll give it to you for that.”

Then lime by lime the square was deserted, and the Angelus ringing at noon, those who had stayed too long scattered to their shops.

At Jourdain’s the great room was full of people eating, as the big court was full of vehicles of all kinds, carts, gigs, wagons, dumpcarts, yellow with dirt, mended and patched, raising their shafts to the sky like two arms or perhaps with their shafts in the ground and their backs in the air.

Just opposite the diners seated at the table the immense fireplace, filled with bright flames, cast a lively heat on the backs of the row on the right. Three spits were turning on which were chickens, pigeons and legs of mutton, and an appetizing odor of roast beef and gravy dripping over the nicely browned skin rose from the hearth, increased the jovialness and made everybody’s mouth water.

All the aristocracy of the plow ate there at Maître Jourdain’s, tavern keeper and horse dealer, a rascal who had money.

The dishes were passed and emptied, as were the jugs of yellow cider. Everyone told his affairs, his purchases and sales. They discussed the crops. The weather was favorable for the green things but not for the wheat.

Suddenly the drum beat in the court before the house. Everybody rose, except a few indifferent persons, and ran to the door or to the windows, their mouths still full and napkins in their hands.

After the public crier had ceased his drumbeating he called out in a jerky voice, speaking his phrases irregularly:

“It is hereby made known to the inhabitants of Goderville, and in general to all persons present at the market, that there was lost this morning on the road to Benzeville, between nine and ten o’clock, a black leather pocketbook containing five hundred francs and some business papers. The finder is requested to return same with all haste to the mayor’s office or to Maître Fortune Houlbreque of Manneville; there will be twenty francs reward.”

Then the man went away. The heavy roll of the drum and the crier’s voice were again heard at a distance.

Then they began to talk of this event, discussing the chances that Maître Houlbreque had of finding or not finding his pocketbook.

And the meal concluded. They were finishing their coffee when a chief of the gendarmes appeared upon the threshold.

He inquired:

“Is Maître Hauchecome of Breaute here?”

Maître Hauchecome, seated at the other end of the table, replied:

“Here I am.”

And the officer resumed:

“Maître Hauchecome, will you have the goodness to accompany me to the mayor’s office? The mayor would like to talk to you.”

The peasant, surprised and disturbed, swallowed at a draught his tiny glass of brandy, rose and, even more bent than in the morning, for the first steps after each rest were specially difficult, set out, repeating: “Here I am, here I am.”

The mayor was awaiting him, seated on an armchair. He was the notary of the vicinity, a stout, serious man with pompous phrases.

“Maître Hauchecome,” said he, “you were seen this morning to pick up, on the road to Benzeville, the pocketbook lost by Maître Houlbreque of Manneville.”

The countryman, astounded, looked at the mayor, already terrified by this suspicion resting on him without his knowing why.

“Me? Me? Me pick up the pocketbook?”

“Yes, you yourself.”

“Word of honor, I never heard of it.”

“But you were seen.”

“I was seen, me? Who says he saw me?”

“Monsieur Malandain, the harness maker.”

The old man remembered, understood and flushed with anger.

“Ah, he saw me, the clodhopper, he saw me pick up this string here, M’sieu the Mayor.” And rummaging in his pocket, he drew out the little piece of string.

But the mayor, incredulous, shook his head.

“You will not make me believe, Maître Hauchecome, that Monsieur Malandain, who is a man worthy of credence, mistook this cord for a pocketbook.”

The peasant, furious, lifted his hand, spat at one side to attest his honor, repeating:

“It is nevertheless the truth of the good God, the sacred truth, M’sieu the Mayor. I repeat it on my soul and my salvation.”

The mayor resumed:

“After picking up the object you stood like a stilt, looking a long while in the mud to see if any piece of money had fallen out.”

The good old man choked with indignation and fear.

“How anyone can tell—how anyone can tell—such lies to take away an honest man’s reputation! How can anyone—-”

There was no use in his protesting; nobody believed him. He was con.

fronted with Monsieur Malandain, who repeated and maintained his affirmation. They abused each other for an hour. At his own request Maître Hauchecome was searched; nothing was found on him.

Finally the mayor, very much perplexed, discharged him with the warning that he would consult the public prosecutor and ask for further orders.

The news had spread. As he left the mayor’s office the old man was sun rounded and questioned with a serious or bantering curiosity in which there was no indignation. He began to tell the story of the string. No one believed him. They laughed at him.

He went along, stopping his friends, beginning endlessly his statement and his protestations, showing his pockets turned inside out to prove that he had nothing.

They said:

“Old rascal, get out!”

And he grew angry, becoming exasperated, hot and distressed at not

being believed, not knowing what to do and always repeating himself.

Night came. He must depart. He started on his way with three neighbors to whom he pointed out the place where he had picked up the bit of string, and all along the road he spoke of his adventure.

In the evening he took a turn in the village of Breaute in order to tell it to everybody. He only met with incredulity.

It made him ill at night.

The next day about one o’clock in the afternoon Marius Paumelle, a hired man in the employ of Maître Breton, husbandman at Ymanville, returned the pocketbook and its contents to Maître Houlbreque of Manneville.

This man claimed to have found the object in the road, but not knowing how to read, he had carried it to the house and given it to his employer.

The news spread through the neighborhood. Maître Hauchecome was informed of it. He immediately went the circuit and began to recount his story completed by the happy climax. He was in triumph.

“What grieved me so much was not the thing itself as the lying. There is nothing so shameful as to be placed under a cloud on account of a lie.”

He talked of his adventure all day long; he told it on the highway to people who were passing by, in the wineshop to people who were drinking there and to persons coming out of church the following Sunday. He stopped strangers to tell them about it. He was calm now, and yet something disturbed him without his knowing exactly what it was. People had the air of joking while they listened. They did not seem convinced. He seemed to feel that remarks were being made behind his back.

On Tuesday of the next week he went to the market at Goderville, urged solely by the necessity he felt of discussing the case.

Malandain, standing at his door, began to laugh on seeing him pass. Why?

He approached a farmer from Crequetot who did not let him finish and, giving him a thump in the stomach, said to his face:

“You big rascal.”

Then he turned his back on him.

Maître Hauchecome was confused; why was he called a big rascal?

When he was seated at the table in Jourdain’s tavern he commenced to explain “the affair.”

A horse dealer from Monvilliers called to him:

“Come, come, old sharper, that’s an old trick; I know all about your piece of string!”

Hauchecome stammered:

“But since the pocketbook was found.”

But the other man replied:

“Shut up, papa, there is one that finds and there is one that reports. At any rate you are mixed with it.”

The peasant stood choking. He understood. They accused him of having had the pocketbook returned by a confederate, by an accomplice.

He tried to protest. All the table began to laugh.

He could not finish his dinner and went away in the midst of jeers.

He went home ashamed and indignant, choking with anger and confusion, the more dejected that he was capable, with his Norman cunning, of doing what they had accused him of and ever boasting of it as of a good turn. His innocence to him, in a confused way, was impossible to prove, as his sharpness was known. And he was stricken to the heart by the injustice of the suspicion.

Then he began to recount the adventures again, prolonging his history every day, adding each time new reasons, more energetic protestations, more solemn oaths which he imagined and prepared in his hours of solitude, his whole mind given up to the story of the string. He was believed so much the less as his defense was more complicated and his arguing more subtile.

“Those are lying excuses,” they said behind his back.

He felt it, consumed his heart over it and wore himself out with useless efforts. He wasted away before their very eyes.

The wags now made him tell about the string to amuse them, as they make a soldier who has been on a campaign tell about his battles. His mind, touched to the depth, began to weaken.

Toward the end of December he took to his bed.

He died in the first days of January, and in the delirium of his death struggles he kept claiming his innocence, reiterating:

“A piece of string, a piece of string—look—here it is, M’sieu the Mayor.”

Posted by Jesse Willis

LibriVox: Rastignac The Devil by Philip José Farmer

SFFaudio Online Audio

LibriVoxI get the sense that Rastignac The Devil is a satire, using the furniture of Alexandre Dumas’ The Three Musketeers. But I feel really embarrassed about not knowing what is going on, sub-textually, in this interesting, but baffling, novella by Philip José Farmer. Is it all an allegorical satire of some event in 17th century France?

A couple of other notes. Mike Resnick’s Starship series has a character named “Slick.” Slick is an alien with a sentient symbiotic skin (called a “gorib”). Rastignac The Devil has aliens and humans with just such a similar concept – very cool! Gregg Margarite, the narrator, does a very good job with the abundance of French words.

Anyway, like I said, I liked the story, thought it was weirdly cool, but don’t feel like I’ve understood it at all. Could someone fill me in?

LIBRIVOX - Rastignac The Devil by Philip Jose FarmerRastignac The Devil
By Philip José Farmer; Read by Gregg Margarite
2 Zipped MP3 Files or Podcast – Approx. 1 Hour 59 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Published: March 19, 2010
Here is high fidelity fiction at Philip José Farmer’s story-telling best. It’s a vibrant, distractingly different tale of three centuries into the future. And as you read you’ll have a vague, uneasy feeling that it’s all taking place somewhere in the unexplored parts of the universe, even today. From Fantastic Universe May 1954.

Podcast feed:

iTunes 1-Click |SUBSCRIBE|

[Thanks also to Barry Eads (aka KiltedDragon)]

Posted by Jesse Willis