December 10, 2008

Charles Bovary and Flaubert savoir-faire

The first Madame Bovary that we discover in the famous novel written by Gustave Flaubert is not necessarily the one we think about. The story opens with a sketch taken place in a provincial school : "the new fellow", a shy and meticulous boy does not dare throwing on the floor, like his schoolmates, the new and ridiculously pedantic cap his mother makes him wear. In one chapter, Flaubert tells how a relentless maternal love brings Charles, future husband of Emma, to surpass his mediocrity in order to reach an acceptable social status. Madame Bovary wants her son to become a doctor. The young man moves in town to study and is stunned by the list of disciplines he must follows. "He understood nothing of it all ; it was all very well to listen he did not follow. Still he worked, he had bound note-books, he attended all the courses, never missed a single lecture. He did his little daily task like a mill-horse, who goes round and round with his eyes bandaged, not knowing what work he is doing. " In this quote, we can sense Flaubert savoir-faire, the syntax made of simple and acurate sentences which build up to conclude on an obvious and almost cruel metaphor.

One night, Charles, now a rural doctor, is called to treat a fracture, by chance, "simple". He meets Emma and his father, injured. Young widow of an unhappy first marriage, Charles falls in love with Emma. It is through his eyes that we see for the first time this young and pale woman with a look "that came at you frankly, with a candid boldness." After a court whose romantic dimension seduces Emma but reflects mostly Charles clumsiness and inexperience, a marriage is quickly settled. As a happy man, Mr. Bovary becomes puffy, lost in a comfortable routine ; regarding Madam ... after only fifty pages, the issue comes as a bolt from the blue : "Before marriage, she [Emma] thought herself in love ; but the happiness that should have followed this love not having come, she must, she thought, have been mistaken. And Emma tried to find out what one meant exactly in life by the words felicity, passion, rapture, that had seemed to her so beautiful in books. "

Currently, the librairie Loliée offers :
  • Flaubert (Gustave). Madame Bovary. Mœurs de province. Paris, Michel Lévy Frères, 1857, 2 volumes bound in one, in-12, full red levant, original covers preserved, case (Chambolle-Duru). First edition.