Towards the end of his life, de Maupassant suffered from paranoia due to a syphilis infection. Reading his stories, though, I can see how he might have become paranoid in any case. He saw people very clearly and for the most part, what he saw wasn't pretty. De Maupassant shows us our small failings playing out in ordinary lives. They aren't usually great Evils, but it's bad enough: pettiness, greed, lust, and self-interest. It's pretty dispiriting stuff, although, thanks to his particular art, often very funny. The acuity of his observation make his stories timeless; after all, we haven't changed so much since he wrote them. The directness of his language make them approachable and easily understood. I think it's easy to underestimate the difficulty of writing so simply, and Flaubert's hand in de Maupassant's education is definitely discernible. I would be interested to read more of de Maupassant's supernatural tales, of which this collection only had a few. I liked his longer work, A Woman's Life, much less than the shorter works.