the rigorous m

bits and bobs, quotes and catching up

quotes: Mme Bovary in review

Posted by rigorousm on January 13, 2011

… the emphasis is not upon the commonplace little events of Emma’s career. … what she does or fails to do is of very small moment.

… Her futility then is a real value; it can be made amusing and vivid to the last degree, so long as no other weight is thrown on it; she can make a perfect impression of life, though she cannot create much of a story.

— Percy Lubbock, “The Craft of Fiction in Madame Bovary” from The Craft of Fiction.

Realism removed many social, moral, and puristic barriers that stood in the way of numberless words. While making considerable use of this new-gained freedom, Flaubert curtails it by a set of new restrictions. He doesn’t want the freedom to become lawlessness; such a relaxation of rules would take language away from its spiritual origins. Flaubert cannot tolerate the distance which, as a result of the development of civilization and of language, now separate the inner feeling from its expression, the thing from the word. … Flaubert demands a new discipline, which he first of all forces upon himself.

— W. von Wartburg, “Flaubert’s Language” in Evolution et Structure de la Langue Francaise (trans. Paul de Man).

Madame Bovary seems to be a biography of human life in general rather than of a particular person (in its most extreme form, a novel would, in theory, consist of a pure scheme of life, whereas the most extreme form of drama would be a pure scheme of motion). To be human is to feel oneself as a conglomeration of possibilities, a multiplicity of potential potentialities; the artist is the one who makes this potential real.

… Mme. Bovary is not simple. Her sensuality is combined with a vulgar imagination and a considerable degree of naivete– or, in other words, of stupidity. Flaubert needed a character of this kind to satisfy his poetical as well as his critical instinct, his sense of beauty as well as his taste for a sad, grotesque incongruity.

— Albert Thibaudet, Gustave Flaubert.

… life no longer surges and foams, it flows viscously and sluggishly. The essence of happenings of ordinary contemporary life seemed to Flaubert to consist… in the prolonged chronic state whose surface movement is mere empty bustle, while underneath it there is another movement, almost imperceptible but universal and unceasing, so that the political, economic, and social subsoil appears comparatively stable and at the same time intolerably charged with tension. Events seem… hardly to change; but in the concretion of duration… there appears something like a concealed threat: the period is charged with stupid issuelessness as with an explosive.

— Eric Auerbach, “The Realism of Flaubert,” Mimesis: The Representation of Reality in Western Literature.


One Response to “quotes: Mme Bovary in review”

  1. There’s a Mme Bovary in all of us. This book perfectly captures the human struggle. Plus, it is so beautifully written!

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