The story that follows is situated in the XIXth Century. Guy de Maupassant, who is its author, is one of the greatest French writers. His testimony comports striking analogies with those of former epochs. Maupassant was devoted to “the humble truth” as he said himself. His testimony merits being added to the UFO dossier. This account was not published in his lifetime. It appeared for the first time in the second half of the XXth Century.
I was working at home, in Etretat, when my domestic announced:
“There’s a monsieur, who wants to speak to Monsieur!”
“Have him enter!…”
I noticed a little man who was bowing. He had the air of a skinny school teacher with glasses. He gabbled:
“I beg pardon, Monsieur! Much pardon for disturbing you, Monsieur… I am very troubled by the step that I am taking, but I absolutely had to see someone. There was only you! I took courage, but truly, I no longer dare… As soon as I begin, you are going to take me for a madman!…”
“Mon Dieu! That depends on what you are going to tell me…”
“What I am going to tell you is going to appear bizarre to you…”
“Eh bien, monsieur… get on with it!”
“Monsieur, I perhaps look a bit mad, but that’s how men look when they have reflected a bit more than others, when they have crossed a little, so little, the boundaries of average thought… For, do you see, Monsieur, no-one thinks about anything! Each is busy with his business or his fortune, his pleasures, his life or little stupidities like politics. But who now thinks?… Hein!… Who now?… No-one! But I’m getting worked up, Monsieur, I return to the subject… You don’t know me, Monsieur, because at Etretat I don’t mix with people… Me, I mostly go onto the cliffs… I look at the sky, the sea… Ah! I adore the cliffs!… Monsieur… Would you allow me to ask a question?”
“Dare it, Monsieur!”
“Do you believe that other planets are inhabited?”
I answered without hesitation, without appearing surprised:
“But, certainly, I believe it!”
Then he was moved by vehement joy.
“Ah! What luck, Monsieur. Ah! I breathe… Ah! You know, I doubted you!… Ah! a man would not be truly intelligent, if he didn’t believe in inhabited worlds… We know nothing about what’s outside, nothing of these thousands of worlds, these flames of stars, hein!… Ah! If we knew…
“It wasn’t a shooting star. I saw it very close. It was a transparent luminous globe, with something like wings, palpitating vapours around it… It was darting around, it was turning on itself, instead of a trajectory, yes!… It was darting around, with a big mysterious sound!… It passed in front of me… One would have said a monstrous crystal balloon… Like a ship in distress, with a panicked crew… And this strange globe, Monsieur, suddenly made an immense curve and it must have crashed very far into the sea, for I heard something like a cannon firing… ! In any case, everyone, Monsieur, in the surrounding countryside heard this formidable shock… One would have said that it was thunder, just one thunderclap. But me, I was there, I was watching, I saw… I alone, I saw… If it had fallen on the coast, one would have known at last… Ah! yes, Monsieur, I saw… I saw the first airship!… I saw the first sideral ship sent into the infinity by thinking beings!…”
He had risen, he was exalted, He opened his arms to figure the progression of the stars. He says to me:
“Adieu, Monsieur! You answer nothing?… But think about it!… think about it!… and recount this one day, if you want!…”
This story surges, itself like an unidentified object, in the Maupassant works. It has no known sources and is not a scenario, in the manner of his master, Gustave Flaubert, for a work of imagination that he intended to write. It is also the only text in great literature which evokes an apparition of a flying saucer. Finally, it is an unknown text by a master of French literature who wrote hundreds of famous short stories and diverse other writings which have all been published. All, except this text, of which we do not know whether it is the account by an eyewitness who reported it to the author or whether it is Maupassant himself who is recounting something that happened to him.
He could have seen it himself and wrote it this way to hide that fact. We are in 1889. Four years later, Maupassant sank into total madness. Louis Pauwels, whose work I have translated, thinks that not only did he not invent this story, but that he effectively lived it. However, he was already wary of himself, of his hallucinatory crises and he was unable to bring himself to make the choice between reality and what could have been suggested to him by his illness.
On top of that, even if he was convinced of the reality of his vision, he didn’t dare to publish it because it appeared to him to be too unrealistic for the epoch. The end of the XIXth Century is the triumph throughout the whole world of positive ideas and, in France, of naturalism, which is above all intransigeant fidelity to reality. He was himself one of the representatives of this school of thought, and he certainly found that his visions of flying objects were very little in conformity with the mentality and the curiosity of the epoch, in love with scientism and rationality…
Maupassant was a man of great culture who had contributed to the making of the culture of his time, and not only in France. Therefore, he cannot be reproached with not having, at the same time, gone against this culture. Our technological culture, the first trips into Space, the infinite proliferation of flying objects, have habituated us to fictions which prefigure the scientific realities of tomorrow. An observation like the one reported here, would appear today in all the papers and the witness would be interviewed on television.
1889 is the year when Clement Ader starts building the first aeroplane. We don’t even know if it ever flew. The word “aviation” has only existed for about fifty years. Therefore, Maupassant’s scrupules and discretion are perfectly comprehensible.
But he had already intruded into modern fantasy two years earlier. He wrote Le Horla in 1887, and this abominable apparition would inspire the authors of fantastic and horrific realism to this day…