"And what do people think of him now? How do they think of him? As a bald man with a drooping moustache; as the hermit of Croisset, the man who said 'Madame Bovary, c'est moi'; as the incorigible aesthete, the bourgeois bourgeoisophobe? Confident scraps of wisdom, hand-me-down summaries for those in a hurry. Flaubert would hardly have been surprised at the lazy rush to understand." - Julian Barnes, Flaubert's Parrot
It is so easy to succumb to those "hand-me-down summaries" of not just Flaubert but of his work in Madame Bovary. I struggled to understand the author's repeated use of the word "languid" throughout the book, but now that I am finished reading, I strangely understand. A weariness, a resignation, a final look in the mirror perhaps not out of vanity but to remind of who we are/were. Flaubert's subtle connections between what we say we are and what we actually are - the trap of the bourgeoisie in that they define themselves through possessions and accolades. How Emma drowned in yards of textiles.
What did Emma look like? Flaubert does not want to reveal the composition of her beauty. Her "bands of hair" that turn out to be black. Her eyes of uncertain color that Julian Barnes dwells upon in Flaubert's Parrot - blue, brown, black - but always of unusual depth. More chasms, more abysses, just other alternatives in which men might submerge temporarily.
In this third part she is recognized in her movements by her shawl, her veil, the material of her dress. When she and Leon remember their first flirtation, he recalls "the arbor of clematis, the dresses she had worn, the furniture in her room, her entire house." Not anything of Emma herself - not her appearance, not her personal traits. She becomes increasingly a sexual object in this final part where the boudoir atmosphere she has created in her life extends to any environment she places herself including the church that arranges itself around her. She has lost control of her own image of herself. It has been appropriated by men.
So easy to condemn her so I am a little confused at the amount of sympathy I feel for her. She is despicable in her shallow, selfish choices. Her love of all the little feminine refinements ultimately rob her daughter of any of those things. But...
Wish that I had more to give this because there is much here but time does not permit tonight. Loved reading along with so many great readers, wish I had had more time to more closely examine the translation, but appreciated the flow of the language as I paged through. It seemed an effortless read at first then turned out to be so much more than that "lazy rush" to conclusions that popularly defines the novel. I have a whole new respect for Flaubert, and a desire to read more by and of him.
Links to other posts will go up late Thursday.
- Anthony at Time's Flow Stemmed
- Audrey at Books As Food
- Shelley at Book Clutter
- Jenn at Picky Girl
- Melissa at The Avid Reader's Musings
- Jessica at Park Benches and Bookends
- Marie at Boston Bibliophile
- Emily at Evening All Afternoon
- Nicole at Bibliographing
- Richard at Caravana de Recuerdos
- Amy at New Century Reading
- Danielle at A Work in Progress (getting started)
- Bellezza at Dolce Bellezza