Mme Bovary conclusion

08 Oct

Update nr 1: Mme Bovary

Update nr 2: Mme Bovary

Mme  Bovary  ( Gustave Flaubert)  

Published:  1857

Reading challenge:  24 July – 07 October  2012

There are so many reviews out there   in “cyberspace” about Mme Bovary that I will refrain from adding another one. It is one of the true classics that took me into a world of a 19th century “desperate wife”:    femme insatisfaite, des amants et s’ennuie à la campagne

I made a list of some facts I  thought you’d like to read.

Facts about Gustave Flaubert ( 1821 – 1880)

  1. Died comparatively young
  2. Retained his powers of expression until the end but  had frequent recourse to drugs
  3. Syphilitic with symptoms as   migraines, swellings, stiffness, vomiting, vertigo
  4. Suffered from epilepsy
  5. Troubled relations with their mother and perhaps never overcame the adverse conditioning of childhood
  6. No complete and satisfactory union with a woman. Flaubert was childless.
  7. Flaubert was a hermit.
  8. Complete opposition between his literary eminence and his failure to lead a tolerable life.
  9. Physical and psychological cripple

Facts on Book Mme Bovary (1857)

  1. There are 20 translations of the book into English.
  2. Ry, France is the model for the market town that most obviously resembles Yonville-l’Abbaye in the novel.
  3. Emma’s story, 27 chapters, is embedded in her husband’s (5 chapters at the beginning and 3 at the end).

Facts abot the origins of the story:

  1. Eugène Delamar ( a former student of Flaubert’s father ) and Delmare’s wife Delphine  who   inspired  the character of of  Madame Bovary
  2. Memoires  de Mme Ludovica :  account of the amorous and financial extravagances of Louise Pradier, the wife of the sculptor James Pradir, whom Flaubert knew.
  3. Memoires of Mme Lafarge convicted of poisoning her husband in 1840
  4. Flaubert’s relationship with Louise Colet

Flaubert  and Louise Colet

Facts about the plot:

  1. Emma is detached and icy. She navigates the world of romance, passion and excitement to fulfill her dreams but often finds real-life to be inescapable.
  2. The lure of marriage to a country doctor  and motherhood is short-lived.  She falls madly in love with a cad , then with a coward.
  3. She leads a double life of domesticity and adultery.
  4. Conclusion: Marriage was no better than adultery for ensuring one’s happiness.
  5. This novel was full of bourgeois – bashing.  Flaubert despised everybody in the book, and he despised their way of life. Flaubert by his habitual use of the imperfect past tense he created a new style:
  6. “imparfait éternel” – the representation of time that makes the  event blend with memory and with repetition.
  7. “disait…mangeait…épluchait…croquait…vidait…allait…couchait…ronflait
  8. ( talk – eat – cut some cheese  – munch an apple – empty a glass  – go to bed  – snore)

Facts  about Mme Bovary in the movies:

The best known versions   of Mme Bovary are

  1. Jean Renoir ( 1934)  – a commercial  failure. Renoir underestimated the complexities of filming this classic novel.
  2. Vincente Minnelli ( 1949) – a cinematic triumph, its ball sequence at La Vaubyessard considered one of the best set pieces  in film history!
  3. Claude Chabrol ( 1991) –  best version of the  film.  Chabrol was obsessed with this classic novel and only decided to film it when Isabelle Huppert agreed to play Emma.  Chabrol once remarked that stupidity is infinitely more fascinating than intelligence because it has no limits.  This cruelly ironic view of human nature expressed in many of his films is well suited to Flaubert’s novel Madame Bovary.

Facts about satire in the book:

All the medical treatments in the novel actually fall into this category: Flaubert
quietly satirizes medicine, and his father and older brother, who were doctors.

I was surprised to find this reaction to  Mme Bovary in the form of a cartoon!

Madame Bovary recalls Achille Lemot’s famous 1869 cartoon of Flaubert himself, in hospital scrubs, dissecting Emma’s corpse. Magnifying glass in his right hand, with his left he holds aloft her bleeding heart impaled on his scalpel.

Facts  about my reading challenge:  Mme Bovary   ( In French)

I took me 12 weeks to do it and I had to push myself at certain points along the way.

A summer heat wave, exhaustion after a long day at work, intricate sentences and  pages full of  descriptions of  houses, rooms, gardens, carriages, trees, horses, flowers, clothing etc. At times it made my head spin.

In the first few days progress was slow: looked up 55 verbs in 4 pages of reading.

Sometimes there were exhausting reading sessions. I felt I was taking 2 steps forward and 1 step back. After all my efforts… words I don’t understand just keep coming. Flaubert is testing my determination every step of the way.

It took me 2 hours to read about the marriage proposal. It took Charles Bovary 2 minutes to ask for Emma’s hand .Reading great works of literature in their original form can be as demanding as it is rewarding.

Almost reached the point of no return….., toss the book away! But no, I will persevere. I guess it is a combination of intricate descriptions (les boucles molles = damp curls)or (dans les ténèbres se tordre au vent des becs de gaz = gaslight flames flicker in the darkness) and it being the hottest day of the year, 31.5 C! I feel just as exasperated as Emma but for different reasons

At times I regretted not reading 6 books in English in the same time that I read 9 chapters in Mme Bovary. Other readers were going   through books like a hot knife through butter…I, on the other hand, was trudging through molasses!

Thoughts during my journey reading Mme Bovary:
Act II Scene II Hamlet:
“Lord Polonius: What do you read, my lord?
Hamlet: Words, words, words. “”

It took Flaubert 5 years to write this book and 5  months to write chapter 8, the longest  chapter.

Emotions are running high in chapters 8-9-10. We’re doing a lot of ( trembler, grelotter, frissonner, ratatiner) quiver, shiver and tremble – ( bégayer, marmotter, balbutier) stammer, mutter and babble – (chatouiller, passer les bras de sa taille, s’essouffler, crier, defaillir) tickle, embrace, become breathless, squeal and faint. Emma is on an emotional rollercoaster and I’m in the back seat hanging on for dear life!

Here is  a note I wrote to  myself  on the18th  September 2012  to keep me going…..

The biggest reason people fail at creating and sticking to new habits is that they don’t keep doing it. I have been reading French for 57 days, average 3-4 hrs a day. It takes time but I have reached a point where I can read French newspapers with ease. If you can read Flaubert, everything else is easy!

Champagne lifestyle on a lemonade budget, Emma is drowning in debt. She’s desperate. Who can she turn to, who will help her from sliding downwards….36 pages to read!

At this point, and I am ashamed to admit it,  I wished  Emma would take the  poison as soon as possible….I have been in this book too long!

Emma is sitting next to me tonight, 01 October 2012. .  She sees me underline each French word. She whispers in my ear: “ never really gets any easier. It’s just that you are going to get so much better. ( don’t give up)…il faut s’ y tenir !

J’avais tout tenté…. Emma has tried everything to no avail. She visits the town lawyer but he wants more from Emma…”Je suis à plaindre, mais pas à vendre!” ( I am to be pitied, but not for sale!). Ex lover Ródolphe  is her only chance. Perhaps…”il est disposé à lui secourir!”( willing to help her). Final countdown begins…19 pages to read!”

I have been waiting so long for this day!  I read 23 pages ( personal best…)  0800-2230 hrs. It was a marathon but I reached the finish line. Flaubert has written a book I shall never forget. It is a masterpiece and I put so much effort into reading it in French.  Good night…I’m  still exhausted but have such a feeling of accomplishment.

…and now the fun begins….which book to read now!


Posted by on October 8, 2012 in Uncategorized


16 responses to “Mme Bovary conclusion

  1. jackiemania

    October 8, 2012 at 21:47

    I’m cheering and clapping and smiling!!!!

  2. N@ncy

    October 8, 2012 at 22:11

    Jackiemania, thanks so much for taking the time to read the review. I feel this book is part on my life. I still have it here on the table, touch it and think about all the ups and downs it put me through.

  3. Claire 'Word by Word'

    October 9, 2012 at 07:56

    Like I said, you will never, ever forget this book or this experience I am sure, what an immense journey you have been on, look forward to hearing how you will reward yourself!

    • N@ncy

      October 11, 2012 at 19:35

      Claire, my rewards are Black Count ( loved your review), L’enfant grec by Alexakis Vassilis ( Prix de la langue française 2012) and Life and Death are Wearing Me Out by Mo Yan ( Nobel Prize Literature 2012)

  4. Amy

    October 11, 2012 at 04:06

    Wow, you are my hero. I know what you’ve been through, because I do it in German, but not with nearly the time and sweat you devote to it!

    Thank you for sharing the French words and phrases–I love that–must try to do that when I talk about my German reading. And thanks for including the Klimt–love him too!

    Now go read a children’s book in French for a little relaxation! 🙂

  5. N@ncy

    October 11, 2012 at 08:07

    I’m so glad there is someone who knows what I went through! At work during a session “learning to deal with changes” I was screened. 4 factors that are “me” were: intelligence, challenge, health and discipline. Now, the last one got me from page 1 – page 446! My next book is Bel-Ami because a day without reading French is like a day without sunshine!
    Reading Maupassant is like playing football regional games after you just
    finished the Super Bowl ( Flaubert!)

  6. Karen

    October 11, 2012 at 19:02

    Certainly, Flaubert’s not the easiest to read in the original, but given his obsession with finding ‘le mot juste’ you’ve done him proud. I take my hat off to you!

  7. N@ncy

    October 11, 2012 at 19:30

    I am humbled by your “chapeau”! When you’re doing something your passionate about ( French) time seems to slip through your fingers. I cannot tell you how many times my cup of tea turned cold…I just forgot it once I started to read Flaubert. Reading in English never captivates me as reading in French does. It requires so much more concentration.. When quitting is not een option
    (now it’s Bel-Ami) I’m half way there!

  8. Brona

    October 20, 2012 at 04:29

    Congrats on an amazing achievement. I’m impressed and in awe. I gave up on Emma (about half way through) in English years ago. To persist in a language not your first is incredible. Well done. Perhaps you should try some Zola in French next!

    • N@ncy

      October 23, 2012 at 18:35

      Emile Zola is a favorite of mine,,,I should choose one of his books for my next read. Which one?

      • Brona

        November 17, 2012 at 01:47

        I’m reading Germinal at the moment (in English!) – it’s very powerful.

  9. The Classics Club

    October 25, 2012 at 02:51

    Congratulations! I am impressed that you were able to read this in French! As one that has not read this yet, I thank you for your lists of interest. I found them very interesting, and I’ll likely return to them when I’m ready to read this book! -Sarah

    • N@ncy

      October 25, 2012 at 16:52

      Sarah, thanks for taking the time to read my review as a moderator of the Classics Club! Reading the classics was my first challenge and now have tried to intensify the experience by reading one of the world’s best writers, Flaubert, in French.

  10. Julia Simpson-Urrutia

    December 29, 2012 at 05:28

    You are an amazing lady! felicitations.

  11. Cleo @ Classical Carousel

    May 15, 2014 at 06:04

    What a wonderful review, Nancy! I now have some other facts to add to my experience. I didn’t pick up the imperfect past tense but I can certainly see the creativity within it. I wonder if my experience would have been different if I had been able to read it in French.

    I’m very impressed at your perseverance. You have inspired me in my Language Freak Summer Challenge. I will pick up my “Le Petit Nicolas” soon!

  12. N@ncy

    May 15, 2014 at 12:36

    Your comments are so kind… I reread the review I wrote 2 years ago and can still feel all the emotion and effort it took me to read this book in French. Now I can read a relative easy French book in 7 – 10 days. I guess it is true what they say…..”it has to get ugly before it gets pretty!”
    “Ne t’en fait pas, vouloir, c’ est pouvoir!” ( Don’t you worry, where there’s a will, there’s a way!)


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