“The Horla” was first published in 1887 and the story is written in journal style. The journal entries begin on May 8th and to begin with they are quite normal. The narrator states what a lovely day it is and how much he likes living where he does.
The next entry is on May 12th and the narrator records that he has been a little unwell and feeling feverish and ill at ease. The situation gradually gets worse and the journal entries become more paranoid.
By June 3rd things have grown so bad that the narrator takes a trip to Mount Saint-Michael and by the time he returns a month later he has made a complete recovery and the journal entry for July 2nd is very positive. By the following morning however, he is ill again and his nightmares have returned. It is interesting to note that during the narrator’s absence his coachman, Jean, seems to have been plagued by similar problems, and they clear up as soon as his master returns. This fact suggests to me the presence of a vampire-like entity that has been forced to find an alternative victim to sap energy from while the narrator was away, and the narrator does eventually come to the conclusion that he has an invisible foe.
Guy de Maupassant suffered from mental illness at times and many people believe that when he wrote “The Horla” he was drawing on personal experience and that the story is about a man gradually going insane. Maybe Guy De Maupassant did draw on personal experience when writing the story, I rather imagine that he did, but I would argue that the story is about an invisible adversary. The fact that Jean had problems for a month certainly indicates this, as do other aspects of the story, including the passing ships mentioned at the beginning of “The Horla” and their true significance is not revealed until very much later on in the story.
“The Horla” is quite a scary story. Not so much for the idea of being stalked by an invisible monster, but because the narrator begins to doubt his own sanity and few things are as frightening as the thought of losing ones mind.
The Classic Tales audiobook of this story has a runtime of one hour and seventeen minutes and, as usual, B.J. Harrison provides a clear and entertaining narration. I must admit though, that I am not a fan of this story. It is very long and I found it a little cumbersome. This is nothing to do with Harrison’s narration of the story. I just feel that the original story drags on for too long and it could have been improved by being shortened. That is just my opinion and I am sure that many people will love the story just as it is. In fact the writer H.P. Lovecraft was apparently a big fan of this story and it is believed to have proved inspirational to him when he wrote his story “The Call of Cthulhu”.