Friday, October 22, 2010

Nietzschean Flaubert

I think I'm becoming a moe sophisticated teader. I've read Madame Bovary at least twice before in my life.  I can't say I genuinely enjoyed it; I knew I was supposed to think well of it, and I was impressed by what seemed to me to be the economy--sparsity?--of the telling.  Lots of simple declarative sentences.  I liked that.

We're doing it now as a readaloud and I am astonished at what I seem to have missed.  Nothing you don't know already if you really like the book, but I'm just now catching onto, say, the deft elegance of the numberless shifts in point of view, and how subtly they work their magic in shifting one's one view of the story.  And the number of places where Flaubert' apparent artlessness inflicts a savage comedy:
Quand Charles, après être monté dire adieu au père Rouault, rentra dans la salle avant de partir, il la trouva debout, le front contre la fenêtre, et qui regardait dans le jardin, où les échalas des haricots avaient été renversés par le vent. Elle se retourna.
- Cherchez-vous quelque chose ? demanda-t-elle ?
- Ma cravache, s’il vous plaît, répondit-il
Et il se mit à fureter sur le lit, derrière les portes, sous les chaises ; elle était tombée à terre, entre les sacs et la muraille. Mademoiselle Emma l’aperçut ; elle se pencha sur les sacs de blé. Charles, par galanterie, se précipita, et, comme il allongeait aussi son bras dans le même mouvement, il sentait sa poitrine effleurer le dos de la jeune fille, courbée sous lui. Elle se redressa toute rouge et le regarda par-dessus l’épaule, en lui tendant son nerf de bœuf.
 That is:
When Charles, having gone upstairs to say goodbye to old Rouault, came back into the room before leaving, he found her standing with her hand against the window pane, gazing into the garden, where the beanpoles had been blown down by the wind.  She turned round.

"Are you looking for something?  she asked.

"My riding crop," he replied.

And he began hunting on the bed, behind the doors, under the chairs; it had fallen on the floor, between the sacks and the wall.   Mademoiselle Emma noticed it and bent over the sacks of wheat.  Charles hurried forward politely and, reaching down with his arm in a similar movement, felt his chest brush against the back of the young girl, who was bent over beneath him.  She straightened up, blushing, and looked at him over her shoulder as she handed him his whip.
 The first think I think of here is Eartha Kitt in "Uska Dasra," where she sings "...casually feeding him candies."  I'm still trying to work out the anatomical logistics Charles', um, encounter.   Meanwhile, as Nietzsche might have said, “You are going to women? Do not forget the nerf de bœuf!”

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