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1887 – A single upper-class man living near Rouen decides to take a stroll near the Seine.
There, seeing a beautiful three-mast boat, he impulsively waves at it.
From that point, he will sense an invisible, eerie presence around him, experience strange events and raging fevers, prompting him to commit the irreparable.
His thoughts being written in a journal, the reader is left to wonder: has he invited a supernatural being to haunt him… or is it the diary of a madman?
Published in 1887, five years before a suicide attempt and six years before his death in an asylum, the psychological thriller/supernatural horror novella The Horla is a snapshot of the deteriorating health of author Guy de Maupassant at the end of his short life.
A naturalistic novelist and Flaubert’s literary nephew, writing short stories for newspapers each week from 1880 to 1890, he contracted syphilis and dealt with mental health issues in his thirties, leading him to write a few short stories in the supernatural genre.
Before his 1887 publication, The Horla has been featured in two different published versions.
The first, called “The Diary of a Madman”, written in 1885, is written in the form of a letter addressed to a doctor.
The second, published in 1886, is a text with dialogues, as the narrator is talking to his doctors.
The Horla was hugely influential in the supernatural and horror genres, and was recognized as HP Lovecraft as an inspiration for the Cthulhu mythos. Maupassant‘s friend Henry James, who used to pastiche one of his earlier novellas, operated a similar shift from naturalistic fiction to supernatural and psychological thrillers by writing The Turn of The Screw in 1898.
Listen to the Horla Librivox audiobook (57 mn)
Listen to the creeptastic CBS ‘Mysteries in the Air’ Horla dramatization by Peter Lorre (1947, 25mn)
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