Sunday, 2 June 2013

Madame Bovary

I really felt close to this book. George Orwell put it best when he said “the best books... are those that tell you what you know already”. Emma's seeking, her dreaming, and her romanticism aren't unlike my day dreams. Her fate was a startling warning to me. We cope with adversity the same way.

But what is Emma? Is she ambition, fate, humanity? She's sensitive, Flaubert reminds us by having her faint frequently. And she desires wealth and status. She's only happy with her husband twice in the novel -- after his apparently successful clubfoot surgery, and just before she dies. She's never honest. Very secretive. Strikingly beautiful. Easily influenced. Totally selfish.

She could be rebelling against her fate, lamenting the life of a farmer's daughter and a doctor's wife. If that's the case, the blind old man wandering the roads is certainly an image for Oedipus (I would have missed that if I hadn't just read it!). All Emma wants is to return to the
ball given by the Marquis d'Andervilliers. Life for her is endlessly disappointing when she is acting any role but rich wife (or mistress). Then what of her increasing ambivalence during her affair with Leon? Emma is an addict of the bourgoise. She catches it from romantic novels, nurses it, and finally falls victim to its emotional and fiscal symptoms.

Such an absolutely perfect narrative. Some of the greatest novelists in the world call it the best book ever written! So much is written into the detail -- and I can only imagine what the process of translation left out -- that it would take much longer than the couple days I devoted to find all of the subtleties.

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