Friday, December 13, 2013

Flaubert, violent and original

Not dreaming of Flaubert, 1985

I read him in college -- in French -- as part of my notorious double major in English and French literature. I can't say I cared much for him then, but I recently finished the Lydia Davis translation of Madame Bovary, and had a sort of delayed reaction. I was, in short, blown away.  I don't feel like being a literary critic here, though. I'm going to face it and state that literary criticism is beyond me. I was in a book group once in New York City with five other people, all men. We were always reading books like Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow, and di Lampedusa's The Leopard. Aside from that scene in Pynchon with urine and a glass-topped coffee table, I don't remember much about those books or even what those men had to say about them. I remember thinking meekly at the time that the point of reading was to sustain oneself, and listening to these men, all brilliant, expound -- well -- I wanted to scream, DID YOU LIKE IT OR NOT? 

So, I liked the Lydia Davis translation of Madame Bovary, and that might have to do with the fact that I really, really like Lydia Davis' short stories and was aware of them and her unique style even while reading a nineteenth century French classic, or it might have to do with the fact that I was reading it in English as opposed to French (so very, very difficult) or it might have to do with the fact that I'm much, much older and can better appreciate what the hell the story is about.

Or I can just say, I LIKE IT!

It was Gustave's birthday yesterday, and I read a couple of quotes attributed to him that I loved. Here they are:

Be regular and orderly in your life so that you may be violent and original in your work.
and this one:

To be stupid, selfish and have good health are three requirements for happiness, though if stupidity is lacking, all is lost.


  1. You never, ever cease to inspire me.

  2. And you always were a beauty. You still look like that, you haven't changed, though I know you won't believe me.

  3. Oh fabulous! Those quotes! --and that picture of you!

  4. Ha! I can't even imagine reading Madame Bovary in French and I used to speak it quite well. It gives me a headache to contemplate it. I love the quotes and your perspective, as always.

  5. ex always attributed my happiness to denial, yet I am neither in denial, nor stupid. I am, however, happy.

  6. I used to dream in French after seven years of study (including French lit) and now it is beyond rusty. It's almost gone! I feel very badly about that.
    But I love that photo of you. The "promise of the future" feel coupled with your ethereal beauty (I mean it) is compelling.

  7. You are very lovely, inside and out.
    I haven't read Flaubert, but I like the quotes you've chosen. The first one explains why some of us artistic types are attracted to those strong, steady types. The second one sounds like the French version of "fat,dumb & happy." Since the French don't seem to believe in getting fat, maybe for them, it's selfish, stupid and healthy. for thought...

  8. I love that second quote especially!

    Literary overanalysis is one of my pet peeves.



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