Gustave Flaubert’s Unsimple Heart

I as soon as spent a yr within the manuscript room of the previous French National Library on the Rue de Richelieu. Toward the top of my keep, the curator supplied to provide me a going-away current: a day at my carrel with any manuscript in her archives. I had almost all of French literature to select from, however there was no contest. I requested for Flaubert’s “The Sentimental Education.” This best Bildungsroman, one of many first fashionable novels, tells the mock-epic, tragicomic story of Frédéric Moreau, a provincial dilettante who fritters away an inheritance on the fallacious girls, mates, pleasures, investments, and causes, and whose ambitions are thwarted as methodically as his illusions are demolished. The ebook was printed in 1869, 13 years after “Madame Bovary,” to excoriating evaluations. Writers of an ironic temperament revere it for the qualities which have alienated the bigger studying public: its arduous purity of favor; its uncompromising pessimism, freed from cant; and its refusal to ennoble human nature.

“A romantic anarchist with a small private income,” Flaubert lived within the nation along with his mom for many of his writing life.Illustration by J. J. Sempé

Flaubert wrote a rabidly depressed letter in regards to the novel’s reception to his good friend George Sand, and he or she responded with a maternal nudge, typical of their correspondence, for she favored to faux that his misanthropy was an affectation. “This man who is so kind, so friendly, so cheerful, so simple, so congenial, why does he want to discourage us from living?” she puzzled rhetorically. But Sand, who foraged tirelessly for pleasure and companionship, and wrote with complacent fluency, misunderstood the tonic nature of Flaubert’s despair. Less of the world is extra for him as a result of there can by no means be sufficient, and his discouragement with life units the bar that his pitiless ambition retains forcing him to transcend.

The draft of “The Sentimental Education” runs to 25 hundred shagreen-bound folio pages—a fortune in stationery. The author so cautious of self-indulgence was profligate with ink and paper. He coated his leaves minutely, on each side, with wiry black script. Almost each line is altered or crossed out, then recopied dozens of occasions. The manuscript has the facet of a battlefield on which every inch of ahead momentum has been wrested at exorbitant human price from an implacable enemy. An epitaph for this expense of valor involves thoughts: Flaubert’s phrases of mourning and comfort from a scene midway into “Madame Bovary,” the place Emma’s romantic effusions start, fatally, to bore her lover Rodolphe. Here the creator inserts a really uncommon editorial apart: a protection of his heroine’s ineloquence, which appears like a plea to his personal conscience for mercy—“As if the soul’s fullness didn’t sometimes overflow into the emptiest of metaphors, for no one, ever, can give the exact measure of his needs, his apprehensions, or his sorrows; and human speech is like a cracked cauldron on which we bang out tunes that make bears dance, when we want to move the stars to pity.”

The greatest literary biographies give probably the most actual doable measure of the overflow from a author’s being into his work. In that respect, “Flaubert: A Life” (Farrar, Straus & Giroux; $27), by Geoffrey Wall, is an admirable if not utterly satisfying ebook. The creator—a British college professor—has a penchant for the pastoral “we,” and he sometimes succumbs to what, for a Flaubertian, is the deadly pitfall of solemnity. Discussing “Herodias,” the final of the “Three Tales” (a late masterpiece that additionally consists of the novellas “A Simple Heart” and “The Legend of Saint Julian"), Wall complains, as might a nineteenth-century cleric writing to the Journal de Rouen, that the ending lacks a proper sense of exaltation. Why? Because the disciples of John the Baptist set off for Galilee with his severed head on a dish, and “as it was very heavy, they each carried it in turn.” He finds this “a conclusion so inscrutably prosaic that it leaves us yearning for the poetry of the sacred.” But only two things are sacred to Flaubert: impiety and perfection.

Anyone foolhardy enough to enter the lists with Flaubert must submit to the ordeal-by-humiliation of sharing a page with his sentences, and Wall survives. His style has flair (if at times too much), and so does his erudition. Citing the famous passage at the end of the “Education,” which must be one of the bleakest elegies ever written—seven telescopic sentences devoid of embellishment that sum up the futility of Frédéric’s later life—Wall notes that Flaubert is “showing his successors how to smuggle their old Romantic contraband into a modern realist novel.” Wall understands that cunning is necessary, too, when dealing with an obsessive teaser and connoisseur of farce. It is daunting enough to establish a critical beachhead on a character so well defended, in Wall’s words, by “lucid comic anguish.” But it is practically impossible to ascertain when Flaubert’s self-mockery is contrived, and to resist its subversiveness. He was a man who could write of his own violent moods, “I go from exasperation to a state of collapse, then I recover and go from prostration to Fury, so that my average state is one of being annoyed.” Two weeks before his death, he told his niece, “Sometimes I think I’m liquefying like an old Camembert.”

Wall’s condensed portrait is drawn mostly from previously published material, and it doesn’t, and perhaps wasn’t intended to, enrich Flaubert scholarship. Earlier biographers have mapped the terrain in multiple volumes. Wall is not as dogged as Enid Starkie, as urbane as Francis Steegmuller, or as microscopic as Sartre. No abbreviation of the life may ever match the cranky wit and wry felicity of Julian Barnes’s “Flaubert’s Parrot” (which, however, enjoys the riffing privileges of fiction). But the author of the “Dictionary of Received Ideas”—the glossary of clichés that Flaubert appended to “Bouvard and Pecuchet,” his “encyclopedia of human stupidity” in novel form—would surely have bellowed with joy at the themes listed after his name in Wall’s index. With a few minor omissions, they are as follows: “Flaubert, Gustave: aesthetic mysticism; alleged sadism; artistic intransigence; attitude to marriage; castration complex; celebrity and influence; chevalier de la Légion d’honneur; death; debts; dogs; fatness; hallucinations; interest in history; masturbation; modernity; pleasure taken in books; pleasure taken in travelling; realism; recitations; romanticism; sexual abstinence; sexual initiation; sexual passion; syphilis; use of prostitutes; views on book illustrations.”

Flaubert might also have argued against spoiling the effect of such a deliciously incriminating catalogue with the clutter of elaboration.

In February of 1848, Flaubert travelled to Paris from his native Rouen to join, or at least to observe, the so-called “beautiful revolution.” This insurrection of workers and enlightened bourgeois against the aristocracy was fomented by an alliance of socialists, liberals, and Romantic intellectuals (Lamartine was one of its leaders), and, without much bloodshed, it toppled the corrupt regime of King Louis Philippe, instituting the Second Republic—a period of giddy political reform and debate on the Social Contract. Flaubert had just turned twenty-six. He had given up his law studies and had seen something of the world. His father and sister had recently died. He had also embraced his vocation, though its path was obscure. Having scuttled several earlier fictional projects, he was deep into a visionary tale set in the fourth century—“The Temptation of Saint Anthony.” “We think you ought to throw it into the fire and never mention it again,” said his friends and lifelong literary confidants Louis Bouilhet and Maxime Du Camp when he read them the manuscript. (Flaubert would always be a frugal recycler. He drafted the saint’s history at least three times, and the definitive version—his mature view of martyrdom—was published in 1874.)

The pleasures of Flaubert’s intense masculine friendships helped to relieve his periodic fits of boredom and gloom, but he still considered “the great event of his life” to have been his encounter, at fourteen, with the maternally lovely older woman—Elisa Schlésinger—who inspired the character of Mme. Arnoux in “The Sentimental Education.” If meeting her was the high point of his youth, its nadir was the onset, at twenty-two, of a malady that Flaubert would always refer to evasively as “my nervous attacks.” His father, a celebrated surgeon, had recognized the symptoms—hallucinations, convulsions, migraines, blackouts, disturbances of vision, and “cerebral congestion”—and had treated Gustave with the only palliatives then known: regular bloodletting and mercury massages bolstered by a regimen of swimming and a restricted diet. Neither the patient nor his family would ever admit the truth: that Flaubert had epilepsy.

He was supposed to avoid violent stimuli, but when news of the republican insurrection reached Rouen he couldn’t resist the chance, as he put it, “to watch the riot ‘from the artistic point of view.’ ” Bouilhet came with him, and they met Du Camp in Paris. There wasn’t anything dramatic to see, so they went to dinner at their favorite restaurant. At the door of Du Camp’s apartment, they heard gunfire but mistook it for fireworks, and missed the massacre taking place a hundred yards away, on the Boulevard des Capucines. They spent the evening listening to Bouilhet recite his poetry. The next morning, they were able to witness a little picturesque street fighting around the Palais-Royal, and Flaubert and Du Camp (they had lost Louis in the melee) were among the first new “citizens” to tour the liberated Tuileries. At this point, Wall says, the royal apartments were still intact, the crowd was in a festive mood, and two stout apostles of the people sat cheerfully at the King’s table finishing his breakfast. But, as the palace wine cellars were emptied, their contents fuelled a spree of looting and vandalism. “Feeling uncomfortably and identifiably bourgeois,” the friends retreated, though they managed to talk a mob out of executing some prisoners. Decades later, Flaubert recalled these scenes from 1848 in the dénouement of the “Education.” He repudiated all parties, right and left, and, with them, the naïveté of his generation. But he reserved his most unbridled contempt for the Jacobin sanctimony of the ideologues and “speechifiers.” Du Camp, deeply influenced by the account, remarked in his memoirs that revolution is always “initiated by simpletons, helped along by fools, pushed through by rogues, then taken over by the opportunists.”

Their age of disaffections was still remote when Flaubert and Du Camp—who had exchanged friendship rings in a spirit of manly Hellenic devotion—left France, in October of 1849, for eighteen months of vagabondage in the Romantic holy lands of southern Europe and the Middle East. Wall gives the flavor of their journey to the Orient in a gamy little inventory of the souvenirs that Flaubert shipped home:

All the gazelle skins and the lizard skins had been devoured by worms; the pots of ibis . . . broken in transit; and the Nubian garments (female) were horribly rancid. But many other items . . . had happily survived. . . . Hashish, “something special” from Cairo. One small crocodile, Nubian, embalmed. Ten feet of gold-embroidered fabric (wool and silk) from Beirut. Rosaries, eight dozen, from Jerusalem. One rose, ditto, blessed on the Holy Sepulchre. . . . Marble from the Temple of Apollo, one piece. . . . Flowers, for Louis Bouilhet, picked from just by the door of a brothel in Pompeii.

Sated with sublimity and degradation, the adventurers returned to sit by the fire, dreaming, as Flaubert put it, “about hairless cunts.” Or at least that’s what he did. He would always suffer, Wall writes, from the indignity of being that absurd creature, “a romantic anarchist with a modest private income,” and this costly expedition had depleted his capital. Du Camp, heir to a fortune, repaired to the well-furred lairs of Paris.

The Second Republic was short-lived. In 1851, it fell to the coup d’état of “the people’s prince,” Louis Bonaparte, who had been democratically elected President of France by five and a half million newly enfranchised (male) citizens, including peasants and workers. He quickly became a reactionary tyrant. “The Second Empire was the ridiculous, Ruritanian outcome of three exhausting, audacious years of political experiment,” Wall writes. “Pedantic censorship to crush the disobedient, lavish patronage to reward the compliant—these were the blunt instruments of the state’s cultural policy. Flaubert endured the full force of both. He was to be persecuted and patronised in almost equal measure.”

Nearly thirty, Flaubert had just begun writing “Madame Bovary.” He spent the next four and a half years living with his widowed mother and orphaned niece in the family manor at Croisset, on the banks of the Seine south of Rouen. The lamp in the window of his study became a beacon to the rivermen. Like Penelope, he worked through the night, mostly unravelling. The book was composed, Flaubert said, at the rate of “five hundred irreproachable words a week” and published in six installments in Du Camp’s literary journal, the Revue de Paris. They were read as avidly by the imperial police of Napoleon III as by the thousands of stifled provincial housewives—les bovarystes enragées—who saw themselves as Emma.

In 1857, after much intrigue and publicity—all of it a vile distraction, in Flaubert’s view—he was prosecuted by the state for “grossly offending against public morality, religion, and decency.” To his lawyer, he declared himself “puzzled as to the nature of my misdeed”:

Sincere books may sometimes have a certain salutary pungency. Personally I deplore . . . those sugary confections which readers swallow without realizing that they are quietly poisoning themselves. It had always been my belief that the novelist, like the traveller, enjoyed the liberty to describe what he saw. Following the example of many others, I could have chosen a subject drawn from the “exceptional” or ignoble ranks of society. I chose, on the contrary, from among the most prosaically ordinary. . . . Readers in search of lascivious material . . . will never progress beyond the third page of what I have written. The serious tone will not be to their taste. People do not go to watch surgical operations in a spirit of lubricity.

“The son and brother of famous doctors,” Sainte-Beuve wrote in his often quoted review of “Madame Bovary,” “Gustave Flaubert wields the pen like a scalpel.” Wall, for his part, is smitten unapologetically by the doctor-father’s greatness of character and detects, “beneath the brilliant, educated surface” of his mind, “the same tension, between explicit impersonality and unspoken compassion [that] animates the mature style of his son.” Flaubert also happens to have been the child of a surgeon’s niece, Caroline Fleuriot, but Wall manifests an odd and hostile incuriosity about her. Except to denigrate Mme. Flaubert as “glacial,” “querulous,” and “coldly aristocratic,” he treats her as a cipher. Yet Gustave lived with his “Maman” for most of his life. In a certain sense, he inherited her “cult for form,” as Sand describes Flaubert’s true religion. He respected her advice and depended upon her purse. She provided him with many kinds of comfort and containment. Upon her death, in 1872, Flaubert realized, he told Sand, “that my poor dear mother was the person I have loved most. It feels as though a piece of my guts has been torn out.”

Flaubert and his two siblings, Achille and Caroline, spent their earliest years in a wing of their father’s hospital, the Hôtel-Dieu, a labyrinthine public institution. Dr. Flaubert’s dissection room looked onto the family’s garden, and, by climbing the trellis and clinging to the vines, Gustave and his sister could see the corpses laid out, abuzz with flies, and their father standing above them with a sharpened blade. At the age of five or six, he told Sand, he had wanted to “ ‘send my heart’ to a little girl I was in love with (I mean my actual heart). I could see it on a bed of straw, in a hamper, a hamper full of oysters.” In the same period, the Flauberts employed a fetching, “simple-hearted” peasant nursemaid called Julie. Fetching, simple-hearted peasant nursemaids seem to occupy an inordinately prominent place in French literature and biography. Julie (not her real name, she said) liked to overexcite her pet, “Monsieur Gustave,” with amorous kisses and fairy tales of the grimmer, more fabulous variety. She also told him—dubiously, considering her station—that she had once spent an entire year reading in bed. “All our lives we still smell of our nurse’s milk,” Flaubert wrote. In his case, however, the smell of childhood was of a sunlit garden, cuisine bourgeoise, and a warm, lactating breast mixed with blood and rotting flesh.

By the time of the “Madame Bovary” trial, Flaubert, at thirty-five, was prematurely decrepit. He would always tower above his contemporaries—he was over six feet tall—but he had lost the striking Apollonian beauty of his youth to the Nubian desert sun; to a sedentary life; to his venereal souvenirs from the dives of Esneh; to an excessive fondness for his pipe; and to the periodic attacks of epilepsy that, with syphilis, probably killed him. He had become a nearly bald and paunchy giant with a heavy, saturnine countenance chronically plagued, as was his body, by eczema and boils—the sort of man, he once joked, “that whores wince at when it comes to the shagging.”

Not every woman winced, however. It is true that Flaubert was celibate by choice for long periods; that he never consummated his greatest love (for Mme. Schlésinger); and that masturbation—the vice of the self-employed—was his most reliable source of release. But Flaubert also dallied with housemaids, actresses, artists’ models, society hostesses, and the English governess of his niece, Caroline. The story of his longest, most flamboyant affair has probably enthralled more readers than any of his obscurer fictions, and, while this irony might or might not have amused him, it would certainly have confirmed his opinion of the book-buying public.

Wall describes the mistress in question, who was eleven years Flaubert’s senior, in the style of the “Dictionary of Received Ideas.” Louise Colet: “Socialist-feminist writer . . . victim of much misogynist ridicule, notoriously vain and spiteful. An impossible person.” She and Flaubert were thus ideally suited to drive each other crazy, and they did. At the beginning, his frustrated ardor responded ecstatically to her vitality. “You would breathe love into a dead man,” he told her. He paid her the compliment, which she resented, of using her the way he used his most intimate male friends, as a sounding board for his work-in-progress and his literary enthusiasms. ("So what the satan would you like me to speak to you about if not Shakespeare?") But she was extra thinking about flowery raptures and maybe a child. Quite quickly, Gustave was correcting her “illusions” about him—“You deserved better”—after which he took to shouting, as if at somebody stone deaf, that for him love might by no means be “the main dish of existence.”

A pious utopian (bleeding hearts are a leitmotif of Flaubert biography), Louise objected, Wall writes, to “Flaubert’s ‘aristocratic ideas’ about women,” and he or she complained that his mockery had killed her love. Confident about her appears to be like (“My bust . . . and arms are extremely beautiful. . . . My nose is charming . . . my legs are perfect”), and their impact on males, she had all the time been beneficiant along with her favors. But she cherished the touching hope of marrying nicely—certainly, of marrying Flaubert—and he or she didn’t like being handled “as a woman of the lowest order.” The passionate sincerity with which, at first, he defended himself in opposition to her accusations and calls for gave method to frigidly ironic politeness and, as time handed, to exasperated brutality: “If you could have been content with gallantry spiced up with a little sentiment and a little poetry, perhaps you would not have met with this fall which has caused you so much suffering.” Even then, she was unimaginable to shake off.

The egomania of Louise Colet, in contrast to the egomania of Gustave Flaubert, was so unpolluted by self-consciousness that it achieves a sure comedian grandeur. She lived in Paris on the margins of the demimonde, depending on a collection of celeb protectors (Alfred de Musset, Alfred de Vigny, and Victor Cousin, amongst others), and valiantly eked out a debt-ridden dwelling, like Mlle. Vatnaz in “The Sentimental Education,” by contributing to bluestocking journals, writing about trend, and composing mawkish verse that she proudly despatched to her paramour, who—ever incorruptible—felt morally obliged to savage it: “Do not imagine you can exorcise what oppresses you in life by giving vent to it in art.” For almost a decade, on and off, Louise and Gustave met each few months for what he was happy to name a “big fuck,” normally at an inexpensive resort close to the railway station in Mantes, a city conveniently located midway between their two abodes. (“O bed! If you could speak,” Louise exclaims in a single her poems, a twelve-part opus.) These erratic trysts have been hardly sufficient to gratify a girl of her socio-literary aspirations. While she obsessed about assembly Flaubert’s mom, pined for his devotion, griped about his ingratitude, schemed to arouse his jealousy, bristled at his insistence on coitus interruptus, and despatched him a lock of Chateaubriand’s hair, he toyed along with her emotions in immortal epistolary prose laced with fairly a little bit of childish whining. “You have hurt yourself on the secrets of my heart,” he chided her. And he in contrast himself to an offended leper turning in opposition to the misguided do-gooder who stops to decorate his sores.

Flaubert was acquitted of the fees in opposition to him within the case of Emma Bovary. In sure quarters—having been forged because the Ted Hughes of the nineteenth century—he has by no means been acquitted of the fees in opposition to him within the case of Louise Colet. In one respect, maybe, justice was served divinely: wherever posterity entertains the nice man, his ex-girlfriend is invited. But “with [her] passing,” Wall writes, “some portion of Flaubert’s inner life disappears from view. . . . A new, unexpected, public figure now enters the scene . . . a man of the salon and the boulevard, master of intrigue, expert in ‘the art of shaking hands,’ an author indeed.”

Even earlier than “Madame Bovary” was completed, Flaubert had warned his mates that he was feeling “a need for immense epics.” He yearned for a trip from the austerity of his type and the claustrophobia of his subject material, and now he was free to take one. In 1858, he spent six weeks touring the ruins of Carthage and having fun with the taverns of Tunis (and maybe its male brothels—his letters confer with them in passing). When he returned, he started to distill his impressions of the journey and his avid studying of historical historical past into “Salammbô,” the type of febrile costume drama his mates had as soon as urged him to feed to the fireplace. Fastidiously documented tales of half-dressed pagan practitioners of human sacrifice offered nicely, and this redolent “stew” of barbaric horrors, perversities, and sacred rites was the preferred of Flaubert’s novels amongst his contemporaries. It turned a “cult book” to the decadents, then an opera, and impressed a college of kitschy salon artwork, most of it that includes some model of a dusky princess in deshabille posed ecstatically with a snake. When the manuscript of “Salammbô” was almost accomplished, Flaubert invited a small celebration of mates, together with the prissy Goncourt brothers, to a non-public studying—or, fairly, a declamation, for he favored to bray his work on the high of his lungs—that lasted for ten hours. “To mark the occasion,” Wall writes, “a special Oriental dinner was to be served. The menu included ‘human flesh, brain of bourgeois and tigress clitorises sautéed in rhinoceros butter.’ ”

Corruption and hypocrisy, the previous as lavish because the latter was rank, have been the hallmarks of the Second Empire, and the identical regime that had prosecuted the obscure degenerate answerable for “Madame Bovary” now fêted the best-selling érudit who had conceived “Salammbô.” The Emperor’s witty cousin Princess Mathilde, whose nickname was Notre Dame des Arts, requested him to her Wednesday receptions, and their friendship generated a correspondence that was ardent although high-minded on each side. The courier who delivered her dinner invites, in a uniform “bristling with medals,” Wall notes, “always made a great impression on Flaubert’s Parisian concierge.”

At the Princess’s mansion on the Rue de Courcelles, Flaubert was launched to the Empress Eugénie, who requested his permission to repeat one in all Salammbô’s costumes for a ballgown. He additionally met the Tsar of the Russians (“a slob,” he instructed George Sand) and plenty of different literary and imperial luminaries. “Elegantly dressed and copiously perfumed,” Wall writes, and “joking that he looked like Almanzor, the worst of de Sade’s old aristos,” Flaubert ultimately penetrated even the royal nation home at Compiègne. As he paid his respects to the Emperor, he should have recalled—with what bemusement?—that distant banquet of impudence on the Tuileries in 1848. Later, he would use his affect as a courtier to dispense patronage, fixing lawsuits and securing commissions for his mates. And in August of 1866 he obtained—ostensibly for “Salammbô” however absolutely additionally for deploying his powers to make bears dance—the Legion of Honor. I agree with Wall that “the last word” on the paradox of what Flaubert known as his “prolonged moral cohabitation with the bourgeois” needs to be his: “Legion of Honor, Medal of the: To be sneered at, even though you rather covet one.”

In the fourteen years left of his life—he died in 1880—Flaubert consorted with the chums he deserved: Turgenev, Zola, Maupassant, and Sand. But Louis Bouilhet died in 1869, a couple of months earlier than “The Sentimental Education” was printed, and Flaubert mourned the loss not solely of a person he had beloved for over twenty years however of “my midwife” and “my compass.” Afflicted by syphilis, and maybe even extra so by the cures prescribed for it, his well being declined. France declared warfare on Prussia, and the ignoble defeat and seize of Napoleon III at Sedan was adopted by a murderous civil rebellion. “I feel we are entering into darkness,” Flaubert prophesied to Sand. “Perhaps race wars are going to begin again? Over the next hundred years we shall see several million men killing each other at a single sitting. All of the Orient against all of Europe, the old world against the new.” Then he added, usually, “Why not?”

In 1875, the brothers Flaubert found that their nephew-in-law, Ernest Commanville—a quintessential Second Empire speculator and profiteer—had gathered money owed of 1 and a half million francs. In an try and avert the break of his niece, Flaubert sacrificed his inheritance. Early the subsequent yr, he discovered that Louise Colet had died. That summer time, Sand succumbed to abdomen most cancers at Nohant. “My heart is becoming a necropolis,” he instructed Princess Mathilde. He and Sand had exchanged visits to Nohant and Croisset, and a few of the most eloquently fraternal letters on the métier of literature ever written, however they’d by no means ceased to argue about his inventive “intransigence” and her metaphysical “idealism.” In one in all their final sallies, she begged him—as a result of “you must have a success”—to put in writing one thing a big public might love. “Retain your cult for form,” she stated. But “don’t hold true virtue to be a cliché in literature.” He replied that he had begun a humane “little work” that might present her “I am not as obstinate as you think.”

In writing “A Simple Heart,” his tribute to Sand—a narrative that makes a real advantage of affection however refuses to derive any ethical from it—Flaubert briefly skilled a buoyancy he had hardly ever recognized and would by no means recuperate. It was midsummer, and he was dwelling at Croisset. In the warmth of August, he swam within the Seine, parsing phrases in his head, and his sentences got here again to him as soon as he fell asleep, rolling “like the chariots of some Roman emperor, and they wake me with a start by . . . their endless rumbling.” He had not too long ago introduced his previous nurse Julie, now historical and blind, to dwell within the nation with him. She loved the air, and a baby led her across the backyard. The week she arrived, Flaubert had additionally acquired a stuffed parrot—his mannequin for Félicité’s Loulou within the story. It stood on his writing desk and stared at him by a glass eye. “The sight of the thing is beginning to annoy me,” Flaubert instructed his niece. “But I’m keeping him there, to fill my mind with the idea of parrothood.” ♦

Sourse: newyorker.com

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