“Boule de Suif” (translated variously as “Dumpling”, “Butterball”, “Ball of Fat” or “Ball of Lard”) is a famous short story by the late-19th century French writer Guy de Maupassant. It is arguably his most famous short story and is the title story for his collection on the Franco-Prussian War, entitled “Boule de Suif et Autres Contes de la Guerre” («Dumpling and Other Stories of the War”). The story is set in the Franco-Prussian War and follows a group of French residents of Rouen, recently occupied by the Prussian army. The ten travellers decide, for various reasons, to leave Rouen and flee to Le Havre in a stagecoach. Sharing the carriage are Boule de Suif or “Butterball”, a prostitute whose real name is Elisabeth Rousset; the strict Democrat Cornudet; a shop-owning couple from the petty bourgeoisie, M. and Mme. Loiseau; a wealthy upper-bourgeoisie factory-owner and his wife, M. and Mme. Carré-Lamadon; the Comte and Comtesse of Bréville; and two nuns. Thus, the carriage constitutes a microcosm of French society, representing different parts of the French population during the late 19th century.
Guy de Maupassant (1850–1893) was a popular French writer, considered one of the fathers of the modern short story and one of the form's finest exponents. Maupassant was a protégé of Flaubert and his stories are characterized by economy of style and efficient, effortless dénouements (outcomes). He wrote some 300 short stories, six novels, three travel books, and one volume of verse. His first published story, “Boule de Suif” («Ball of Fat”), is often considered his masterpiece.