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richardderus

Expendable Mudge Muses Aloud

Madame Bovary: Provincial Ways - Gustave Flaubert BkC153) Flaubert, Gustave, [MADAME BOVARY] (tr. Lydia Davis): Classic novel, deathless. Sorta like a literary zombie. Rating: 3* of fiveThe Book Description: As if one is really necessary. Well, here it is:A literary event: one of the world's most celebrated novels, in a magnificent new translation.Seven years ago, Lydia Davis brought us an award-winning, rapturously reviewed new translation of Marcel Proust's Swann's Way that was hailed as "clear and true to the music of the original" (Los Angeles Times) and "a work of creation in its own right" (Claire Messud, Newsday). Now she turns her gifts to the book that redefined the novel as an art form.Emma Bovary is the original desperate housewife. Beautiful but bored, she is married to the provincial doctor Charles Bovary yet harbors dreams of an elegant and passionate life. Escaping into sentimental novels, she finds her fantasies dashed by the tedium of her days. Motherhood proves to be a burden; religion is only a brief distraction. In an effort to make her life everything she believes it should be, she spends lavishly on clothes and on her home and embarks on two disappointing affairs. Soon heartbroken and crippled by debts, Emma takes drastic action with tragic consequences for her husband and daughter. When published in 1857, Madame Bovary was deemed so lifelike that many women claimed they were the model for its heroine. Today the novel is considered the first masterpiece of realist fiction. Flaubert sought to tell the story objectively, without romanticizing or moralizing (hence the uproar surrounding its publication), but whereas he was famously fastidious about his literary style, many of the English versions seem to tell the story in their own style. In this landmark translation, Lydia Davis honors the nuances and particulars of a style that has long beguiled readers of French, giving new life in English to Flaubert's masterwork. My Review: Realism à la Balzac gets a hefty infusion of Romanticism. The novel will always be very important for this reason. It was Flaubert's trial for obscenity, due to his authorial refusal to explicitly condemn Emma Bovary for adultery, that opened the floodgates of “immoral” realistic fiction. If anyone needs any further reason to read the book, it's also got some juicy Faustian bargaining in it. Plus everybody dies. (Srsly how can anything about this famous book be a spoiler? Don't complain to me about it.)So the review is really about this translation by Lydia Davis. She's alleged to have done a fabulous, marvelous job.Uh huh.Then, in sudden tenderness and discouragement, Charles turned to his wife, saying:“Kiss me, my dear!”“Leave me alone!” she said, red with anger.“What is it? What is it?” he said, stupefied. “Calm yourself! Don't be upset!...You know how much I love you!...Come to me!”“Stop!” she shouted with a terrible look. (Part II, ch.8)Literal translation isn't always the best. Can you, like me, hear the nails and smell the sawdust as this wooden edifice is erected? Can you, like me, feel the uncertain sway of the uneven floorboards as we ascend ever farther up Flaubert's towering if creaky scaffolding?A well-furnished mind has Bovary in it. Unless you want to slug through the mannered 19th-century French, or have a high tolerance for sawdusty English prose, I'd say do the Cliffs Notes and call it good.