I think I am done for awhile on the whole Flaubert kick. Sorry Julian Barnes.
When I was in high school I had a huge obsession with a girl who mostly liked me back but also had a boyfriend. In study hall she would read Madame Bovary in French and pass me notes from it. It’s weird because a combination of this weird history of it and it’s reputation as smut (in that it was banned publicly etc) I got the impression it was basically Tropic of Cancer or something else like that.
It’s just not. It’s sad book in a lot of ways. Charles Bovary is kind of a victim, in that its his marriage that gets broken up and its child who gets jerked around, but Emma is so very sad throughout, just looking for something to give her life and hope. It’s not that Charles is mean to her, but if your new husband’s previous wife died like on Tuesday and you’re basically married on Thursday, red flag people. But she’s a simple country girl.
It’s not even a “get it, girl” kind of book either. It’s strange.
I can kind of see why Flaubert kind of abandoned it during the height of its controversy, because even as far as those kinds of books go, it’s not that controversial and it’s not that inflammatory, and it’s not even so good as to protect. Edith Wharton and Tolstoy did much better jobs telling much better stories about divorce. I guess because he’s the first it had to be done. It’s worth reading because it is a perfectly good book.
And to that point, Lydia Davis’s translation is very very good. I don’t know about the translation process itself, but the language she produces is incredibly readable. I will more likely read more of her work than his as a result of all this.