‘Human language is like a cracked kettle on which we beat out tunes for bears to dance to, while all the time we are wishing to move the stars to pity.’
— Flaubert, Madame Bovary
My notebook is filled with passages copied out of Madame Bovary, which I finished in bed last night. It wasn’t what I expected—Emma is far removed from the hopeless grandeur of Anna Karenina—but I wept for her all the same. With her discontent, her striving after gimcrack dreams of frills and trimmings and romantic love, she is the model of a modern heroine. She died not because she was an adulteress, but because she was addicted to retail therapy. Poor Charles Bovary weeps today in twenty villages in Long Island.
As Emma thrashed in arsenic agonies, a woman in the bungalow next to mine yowled at a boyfriend.
‘Fuckin’ piece of shit. Fuckin’ piece of worthless shit. No more. He’s bad. He’s a bad person. I take his love away from him. Take all my love back. No good. Bad. Evil, evil, evil. Take all my love back.’
She kept wailing like a drunken, potty-mouthed toddler. It was midnight already. I gave her until Emma Bovary died to sort herself out before I banged on her door. Then she started to play the flute hysterically, which I hadn’t known was possible.
Charles Bovary was plunged into despair. The flute warbled on, accompanied by further rantings. Charles Bovary discovered the letters from Emma’s lovers. Still my neighbor ranted. Charles Bovary keeled over in the garden, dead.
I think she fell asleep.
The next morning, I saw her gulping water on the porch. She was not, as I’d thought, a backpacking teenager from Ohio, rather, she was a plain fortysomething with a motorbike out front. I threw her a dirty look but my heart wasn’t in it. She’ll never move the stars to pity.
3 thoughts on “Madame Bovary, C’est Moi.”
Who actually said ‘madame bovary, c’est moi’? i dont mean who wrote it, but who actually said it?
Flaubert himself, I believe, talking about his writing.
When Flaubert wrote Madam Bovary, it was highly risque for his time period. Never before had someone taken the romanticized, fairytale concepts, shown them as they really were, and then analyzed the reason WHY with almost medical preciseness. Flaubert’s mother was a hopeless romantic, like Emma, and his father was a very down-to-earth, very successful doctor (like the doctor who is called in to attempt to save Emma in the final chapters of the novel). Because of these two backgrounds, Flaubert was gifted with an sort of psycho-analytical insight that had never shown its face in the literary (nor the medical) world up until this book. Naturally, society didn’t have a clue about the true meaning and purpose of Madam Bovary, and assumed that the book must be horrendously amoral. It was unseemly to talk of women having affairs, but it was abominable to insinuate that they enjoyed having them! So, Flaubert was taken to trial over it, and the court wanted to know if such a scandalous lady did exist, because Flaubert could not have possibly come up with all of this filth on his own. What was her name? His response? “Madam Bovary c’est moi” . . . “Madam Bovary IS ME.” He might as well have pissed in their cheerios. At any rate, he ended up being able to keep his book because he convinced the court that it was a “moral story” because Emma dies a horrid death in the end, and that the entire point is that such a dishonorable life would certainly end in inevitable fatality in a most dreadful way. Oh, the courts like that! “Yes, yes, a nice moral tale to keep our wenches afraid! Yes, how magnificent, Monsieur Flaubert! Bravo!” Bunch of morons . . . They failed to notice that the most deceitful and conniving character in the book ends up receiving the Legion of Honor. Meanwhile, Charles (who–aside from Justin–is the most morally stable and honest person in the entire book) has suffered tremendously and died of heart break. Nice guys do finish last.
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