Guy de Maupassant’s astonishing The Horla is an absolute wonder in a few dozen pages.
Our narrator commences with unexplained mood swings: “Where do these mysterious influences come from that change our happiness into despondency and our confidence into distress?”
It is a perfect exploration of human irrationality. Lack of evidence makes the narrator more fearful still: knowing the limitations of our senses, he wonders what else is happening which could only be judged by senses we do not have. He imagines otherworldly beings:
“What do the sentient beings in those distant universes know, more than we do? What more are they capable of doing than we? What do they see that we have not the least knowledge of? Some day or other, won’t one of them, crossing space, appear on our earth to conquer it, just as long ago the Normans crossed the seas to subjugate people who were weaker? We are so infirm, so helpless, so ignorant, so small, we others, on this spinning grain of mud mixed with a drop of water.”
On belief at a time of distress albeit questioning:
“Oh my God! My God! Is there a God? If there is, set me free, save me! Help me! Forgive me! Have pity on me! Mercy! Save me! Save me from this suffering – this torture – this horror!”
Maupassant was haunted by his own dementia. He died in a private asylum a few years after completing ‘The Horla’. If it is true that Maupassant took his own suffering and made art from it, what greater gift can a writer leave us?