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Maupassant was born in Normandy in 1850, and grew up in a single-parent household with his mother. He participated, with the French army, in the war of 1870. Afterwards he held minor ministerial posts, while trying his hand at writing (under the tutelage of his mother's friend, Gustave Flaubert). His short story "Boule de suif," published in 1880, was a success, and he spent the next years very productively, writing some 300 short stories and six novels. His health was precarious, however, as was his morale; after an attempt at suicide, he was confined to a mental hospital, where he died at the age of 43.