Monday, July 21, 2008

Que fumez-vous Emma Bovary?

This month I dragged out my battered copy of Madame Bovary and got reacquainted.

My bet is most readers have never picked up Flaubert (unless you run in Humanities circles). Beware - it's not uplifting - unless you're out to define what not to do in your life. But it moves you - it will leave you changed. Hence, why I had to blog it. I had to jot down a few thoughts.

I love the cover of my particular copy - because this is exactly how I view Emma - constantly unsatisfied, selfish, and immature.

If you're still reading this post you're probably questioning the appeal of Madame Bovary. I'll tell you - I love the writing, the description, the prose! Flaubert is just genius when it comes to writing - I wish I could read the original French version. The translation is amazing by itself-

None of us can ever express the exact measure of his needs or his thoughts or his sorrows ... human speech is like a cracked kettle on which we tap crude rhythms for bears to dance to, while we long to make music that will melt the stars.

This is why I'll continue to read the book for years to come.

But here's where self-doubt comes into play -

She had to extract a kind of personal advantage from things and she rejected as useless everything that promised no immediate gratification -- for her temperament was more sentimental than artistic, and what she was looking for was emotions, not scenery.

How many of us can find a common bone here? Could small traces of Emma find themselves into my daily routine? Shudder...

Here's one of my favorite lines -

Our duty is to feel what is great and love what is beautiful -- not to accept all the social conventions and the infamies they impose on us.

This makes me so grateful for what I believe.

This is why Emma never finds happiness - at least lasting happiness. Nothing eternal or peaceful is born from observation or the senses. Those relationships, people, moments in our lives that have real value come about through work, dedication, and endurance. There is also humility, prayer - sincere prayer (not the couple months where Emma decided to be religious), and foresight.

You must see the bigger picture.

Emma's story always makes me hold my children tighter, linger longer by their bedside talking after stories and prayers and be more patient when they're struggling.

Emma never found this joy - her little one with the holes in her stockings, sitting alone outside while her mother wrote love letters and day-dreamed about the bourgeoisies, and tossed aside to a wet nurse for spitting up on her mother's dress.

She missed the bigger picture.

The future was a pitch-black tunnel, ending in a locked door.

Seulement pour vous Emma...


Kelly said...

Almost you have me convinced to pick it up, but I'm still trying to make it through the Madonna's of Lenigrad (Jared's been too busy to get to it). Nice review though and I love the ideas that you gleaned from it. It's nice to be moved to be better.

Amber said...

She looks like Anne Hathaway on the cover. I will have to remember to get this on my next book run.


i liked the way you presented the book.Recently Pamuk has written something about the covers of books.He says it is like 'the face of a stranger before the first meeting'(not exactly the same words..but the idea is similiar)
great blog.
me too blog.
do visit.

Esther said...

I picked this book up at Barnes and Nobles about 10 years ago intending to read it but didn't get very far before I got distracted by another book. I'll have to pick it up. You remind me ... the reason I love A Picture of Dorian Gray so much, despite its darkness, is the beautiful writing and the way he so beautiful portrays each character's unique personality. Same with Abbey's Monkey Wrench Gang, but one of his characters has a terrible potty mouth :p

I've been a bit swamped for a while but am hoping to get caught up on blogs in the next month ...