In Honor of Flaubert

April 16, 2006

In his review of Frederick Brown's Flaubert: A Biography, renowned critic and Harvarad scholar James Wood writes the following about Gustave Flaubert: "He rose late and worked from 1 p.m. to 1 a.m., in gray thickets of pipe smoke. Sentences were laid as carefully as fuses. Progress was excruciatingly slow. In six weeks, he wrote to Louise Colet, he had produced only 25 pages. He fretted that all he had were sentences, 'a series of well-turned paragraphs that don't flow into one another.' In the beautiful letters he wrote to Colet, his temperamental contradictions are palpable. He diligently researched scenes like the famous agricultural fair, in which, while Rodolphe seduces Emma in an upstairs room, the crowd outside the window talk about feed and manure — he wanted to get such details exactly right. He dreamed with his characters and suffered with them, claiming in later life that when Emma took arsenic he himself suffered from sympathetic stomach pains. But he complained of loathing his little bourgeois creations, of feeling imprisoned in his chosen world. The romantic in him wanted to soar above it all, to write a book of pure music, 'a book about nothing,' a book held together only by the 'internal force of its style.'"


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