I’ve gone for Maupassant as my first choice. probably because this is the first short story I remember really sticking in my mind, and it’s therefore acquired a kind of nostalgic perfection. To my great satisfaction I was the only member of sixth form to receive a detention (I misremember the reason) and was locked by my A-level French teacher alone in a classroom for two hours one Friday afternoon. Before escaping via the window, I read this deceptively simple, gallant story of two old friends who meet again by chance during the Franco-Prussian war and the 1871 Siege of Paris. Reminiscing about the fishing trips they used to take together, the men obtain leave to do so one more time. Their excursion is interrupted by four Prussian soldiers and what ensues, despite the patina of propaganda and nationalistic pride, is a story of quiet bravery, the desperate losses of war on both sides and the sheer bad luck of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
(First published 1883. Also published in A Parisian Affair and Other Stories, Penguin Classics, 2004. Translated from French by Sian Miles)