Friday, June 25, 2010

Flaubert encore

During nightly bouts of insomnia this week I have:
1. Finished reading Madame Bovary by lamplight; and
2. Discovered that my upstairs neighbour takes a 12 minute shower and a bowel movement daily at 3am (thin walls).
Flaubert is a treasure. Which reminds me of the the third thing I did whilst others slumbered: downloaded Freebooks for iPhone and acquired a copy of his 1869 work, Sentimental Education: The Story of a Young Man. Doubt I can bring myself to read it on a 3"x2" screen though. The soft felt of aged pages that whisper as they're turned is a textural accompaniment essential to the pure pleasure of reading.
So, to firmly fix Flaubert's adulterous bourgeois romp in my imagination, before Madame Bovary is returned to rest in my bookshelf, a few more pieces de resistance...
Emma convincing Charles to conduct an experimental operation on a villager's club foot:
"Bovary might, indeed, be successful; might be an able surgeon, for all Emma knew. And how satisfying for her to have urged him to a step that would bring him fame and fortune! Her one wish was for something more solid than love to lean upon."
Rodolphe wearying of Emma's frequent impassioned declarations of adoration for him:
"Because wanton or mercenary lips had whispered like phrases in his ear, he had but scant belief in the sincerity of these. High-flown language concealing tepid affection must be discounted, thought he: as though the full heart may not sometimes overflow in the emptiest metaphors, since no one can ever give the exact measure of his needs, his thoughts, his sorrows, and human speech is like a cracked kettle on which we strum out tunes to make a bear dance, when we would move the stars to pity."
Rodolphe contemplating a tin full of old love letters written to him by his past conquests:
"What a lot of humbug! Which summed up his opinion. For his pleasures had so trampled over his heart, like schoolboys in a playground, that no green things grew there, and whatever passed that way, being more frivolous than children, left not so much as its name carved on the wall."
And finally, Rodolphe crying poor after the Madame has reignited his desire for her, then archly stubbed it out by asking for cash:
"'I haven't got it, my dear lady'. He was not lying. If he had it he would doubtless have given it to her, distasteful though it usually is to perform such noble deeds: a request for money being of all the icy blasts that blow upon love the coldest and most uprooting."
Poor Emma. Her downfall was tragic and complete. But at least the lady lived and loved - what else was she to do? - whiling away hour upon hour in the endless mire of a marriage to the puny cipher that was her husband, in the dormant village that was her captor?

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