For the first week, just part one, I said. Only 58 pages I said. But since (many) years have passed since the last time I read Madame Bovary, I had forgotten, completely it seems, how much can be contained in 58 pages of Flaubert. Forgot that Emma emerges in the book slowly and that our first perspective is from her future husband. Forgot that Madame Bovary is more than one person here - there is the doctor's mother, his first wife and then Emma, his second wife. And forgot the large number of lies that cushion the line between the romanticized or constructed versions of self and the occasional brutality of Flaubert's realism.
The one memory of Charles that I held all this time was of the books on his shelves with uncut pages. Books as representations of his status as an educated man, a doctor, but books that have remained unexamined. So when I immediately met him as the new boy when I began reading, a young man so without distinction that even his name cannot be heard clearly as it held no weight with the mocking young men of his new school, it all made sense. Charbovari. He will only become the man that bourgeois conventions have constructed as a middle class ideal. For he is of little innate substance.
Similarly, the name Madame Bovary is a position not a person. A middle class wife that craves a respectability that has been externally created and yet ingrained as some authentic expression of self. When the romanticized images of women in books read while in the convent school serve as some sort of middle class guide book, self-help book to the perfectly fulfilled life. Especially loved the excessiveness of the wedding scene when delivered in the spare, precise descriptions of the author. The juxtaposition of overblown bourgeois tastelessness and language that delivers a scathing criticism by simply describing the scene (or would that be by describing it simply?). The wedding as celebration of feminine achievement that quickly becomes represented by a yellowed, dried out bouquet.
And the lies. Who does not lie here (aside from Flaubert)? The marriage of the elder Bovary couple is a lie hidden beneath the handsome father's face and his mother's slavish devotion to appearances. Charles lies to his parents about his studies. Charles and his mother conspire to hide the son's academic failings from his father. Charles enters into an arranged marriage with an aging harpy based upon her lies about her personal fortune. And I could go on. And most likely will. Two weeks of reading and posting will almost certainly yield a mountain of lies, both blatant and less obvious self deceptions.
This is a way of saying a lot and saying nothing. Just tossing initial observations out. With a plan to write a series of smaller posts as I go on. Have not even gotten to the topic of translation. Or the Nabakov Bovary lecture referenced several times in the Introduction here by Lydia Davis. Or the very interesting way in which physical descriptions are different when describing a person's physical characteristics versus their acquired accoutrement.
Looking forward to your posts today. It will be late afternoon before I have a chance to respond to all. I will also post links here so that you can access other posts easily. Thank you to all reading along today!
- Anthony at Time's Flow Stemmed
- Iris at Iris on Books
- Marie at Boston Bibliophile
- Jessica at Park Benches and Bookends
- Jenn at Picky Girl
- Emily at Evening All Afternoon
- SFP at Pages Turned
- Richard at Caravana de Recuerdos
- Bellezza at Dolce Bellezza
- Audrey at Books as Food
- Amy at New Century Reading
- JoAnn at Lakeside Musing
- Shelley at Book Clutter
- Allie at A Literary Odyssey
- Isabella at Magnificent Octopus
- Buried in Print
- Carina at Reading Through Life
- Emily at Seriously Reading