Tag Archives: Lydia Davis

The Pleasure of Reading A Few Pages At A Time..

Some of you might remember my post on Madame Bovary Part 1, two months ago. At one point, I had to abandon the read along, but I did continue reading. Just not at my usual pace. Usually, reading slowly for me means that I am not enjoying what I read, or that I feel too much pressure to like or understand what I read, or that I’m struggling with the book in question, or the style of the writer. But none of that is the case this time. Right after I posted about part 1, I fell in love with the book. This translation really brings some extra magic to the story, I believe. Or maybe it was always there, and I just did not notice it when I read it before.

Now, when reading Madame Bovary (because yes – I am still somewhere in part 2), I am continually torn between wanting to hurry on & read it all and wanting to savour every word of it, remember every passage. I simply cannot choose. I am opting for the latter at the moment, even if I’m sure I will forget every single word I wanted to remember in the end. The thing is, if you start paying attention to the details, there is SO MUCH going on in this book. And the language, detailed but sparse, is incredibly beautiful with a tinge of depravedness to it? Surely Flaubert wants you to roll your eyes at the dramatics at times? It is as if he combines romance and beauty with something so unlikeable.

“The material of her riding habit caught on his velvet coat. She tipped back her head, her white throat swelled with a sigh; and weakened, bathed in tears, hiding her face, with a long tremor she gave herself up to him.”

My feelings for Emma are still unresolved. Last time I read Madame Bovary, I could not feel any sympathy for her. Sorry Sasha. But now, I’m torn. On the one hand, I want to slap her, and shake her, and make her see what a calculating bastard Rudolphe is. With his grand gestures that have little meaning to them. His empty words. How could she fall for his endeavours? (But I am guessing this is part of Flaubert’s critique, again?)

But then there is this passage, after she gave herself to him. And I feel.. something. Not sympathy, I don’t think. But I am starting to see where she is coming from. Parts of it, anyway. And then within a sentence or two, I am back to thinking she is acting spoiled, complaining too much, selfish. But not completely, I cannot shake the little spark of fondness I feel for her.

“She said to herself again and again: “I have a lover! A lover!” revelling in the thought as though she had come into a second puberty. At last she would possess those joys of love, that fever of happiness of which she had despaired. She was entering something marvelous in which all was passion, ecstasy, delirium; a blue-tinged immensity surrounded her, heights of feeling sparkled under her thoughts, and ordinary life appeared only in the distance, far below, in shadow, in the spaces between those peaks.
Then she recalled the heroines of the books she had read, and this lyrical throng of adulterous women began to sing in her memory with sisterly voices that enchanted her. She herself was in some way becoming an actual part of those imaginings and was fulfilling the long daydream of her youth, by seeing herself as this type of amorous woman she had so much envied. Besides, Emma was experiencing the satisfaction of revenge. Hasn’t she suffered enough? But now she was triumphing, and love, so long contained, was springing forth whole, with joyful effervescence. She savored it without remorse, without uneasiness, without distress.”

I am not sure how long I will last with my plan to read this slowly, but for now, I am enjoying it. Or maybe, I am going slow because I simply do not want to give up having this pretty cover on my side bar?

Madame Bovary Part 1

The first time I read this it was 33 degrees celsius outside, full summer, and I sat reading in front of our tent, at a campsite in France. The location might have been more fitting, but the season surely wasn’t. Autumn, with its orange & yellow colours and its melancholy feel must be the perfect season to read Madame Bovary.

This time, my second time reading the book, I was surprised by the many things I had forgotten about it. The first 58 pages tell so much, and I had remembered so little about them. Being introduced to the boy Bovary, the new boy, almost made me feel sympathetic to him. And the fact that Madame Bovary is not just the one that takes centre stage later on in the novel, but is first the mother and then the first wife of Charles, had completely slipped my mind. I did remember the despair I felt when the wedding of Charles and Emma was agreed on, that was no different this time.

Is Madame Bovary above all a description of the vulgarity of life? The wedding, the lies? If anything, Flaubert seems to describe it almost ruthlessly. I had not considered his style before, being too busy to figure out the plot the first time around. I might not want to make any guesses now, since I am saving the introduction for later.

For more thoughts on the first part of this new translation by Lydia Davis, see Frances’ blog Nonsuch Book for the other participants in this read along.