Saturday, November 27

Everything we make up is true | Babelia

Gustave Flaubert.
Gustave Flaubert.SCIAMMARELLA

France is sinking “like a rotten ship”, “debasement, stupidity, chockiness” are universal; the writer does nothing more than “think about those who are dead”, he suffers with his work, he complains: nobody understands him. Anyone who read only the late correspondence of Gustave Flaubert might think that his character soured in the end, but the truth is that the author of Madame Bovary He was already showing signs of temperament to the (in his case) little tender age of 12 (1833), when he wrote to a fellow student: “How stupid are men, how limited the town.” And six years later he announced, “I bet I’ll never get printed or represented. Not for fear of failure, but for the tricks of the bookseller and the theater, which would disgust me. However, if I ever take an active part in the world, it will be as a thinker and as a demoralizer. (…) The only thing I will do is tell the truth, but it will be the horrible, cruel and naked one ”.

Throughout his correspondence, which Alianza publishes in selection and editing of Antonio Álvarez de la Rosa, professor of French Literature at the University of La Laguna (Tenerife), Flaubert shows himself as a man with strong ideas from the beginning: marry him he scares, everything bores him (“I wish I had never been born or die. Deep down inside me, there is a radical, intimate, acrid and incessant boredom”, 1846) and romanticism disgusts him. Misogynistic (“being jealous of whores is like being jealous of a piece of furniture”, 1852; “the oriental woman is a machine, and nothing else”, 1853; in the inkwell “is the true vagina of men of letters”, 1859) ; contrary to the Government (“immoral, it is like calming injustice with the poultice of fear”, 1852), critical of progress and contrary to universal suffrage (“the shame of human intelligence”, 1871), his philippics recall Georg Christoph Lichtenberg , who admitted that they caused him pain “many things that others only feel sorry for.” The nineteenth century (“a century of whores, in which, until now, the least prostituted are prostitutes”, 1854), romantic literature, the press, the bourgeoisie (“I do my best to rub their infamy under their noses “, 1868), politics, nationalisms (” all the flags have been so stained with blood and shit that it is time to have absolutely none! “, 1869). At the age of 24, he tells Maxime Du Camp: “From a very young age I had a complete feeling of life: it was like the smell of foul food escaping from a skylight. We do not need to have eaten it to know that it is vomiting. ” A year earlier he had already announced: “Fucking no longer tells me anything”, only to write shortly after to his lover that he was “like cigarettes, only when they suck me they light me up.”

He was a misogynist who was disgusted by romanticism: “Being jealous of whores is like being jealous of a piece of furniture”

Flaubert did not dismiss any opportunity to make literature, even in the face of what appears in his correspondence as the rejection of some of his correspondents, especially George Sand; His letters are, in that sense, an exceptional document of the kind of interests, motivations and difficulties that the writer experienced while producing works such as Sentimental education, Bouvard y Pécuchet Y A simple heart, but also a work in itself, encouraged by the certainty that literature is “the least liar of lies” (1846). When he writes that “you have to put your heart in art, your intelligence in world commerce, your body where you are well, the bag in your pocket and hope nowhere” (1846), Flaubert is doing literature, for Of course, and he does it in many other ways in all his correspondence. Through it parade the disgust caused by the reaction of Du Camp and Louis Bouilhet to the reading of The temptation of San Antonio, that both friends recommended to Flaubert that he “throw himself into the fire”; trips through the Mediterranean area; the prostitute contest (“in Esneh, and in a single day, I put on five powders and ate rabbit three times (…) the powders were very good”, 1850); the literary plans; the discovery of “the comicity of the serious” (1850), which would underlie the best passages of his work; the happy accident that forever removed him from the liberal professions; the laborious process of writing Madame Bovary (“It is time to triumph or to throw yourself out the window”, 1852), and the subsequent trial for moral offenses, of which he was acquitted; also his friendship with writers such as Jules Michelet, Iván Turgenev, Émile Zola, Guy de Maupassant and, especially, George Sand; the doubts about Salambó (“I have undertaken a damn job that blinds me and makes me desperate. I feel like I’m on the wrong foot, do you understand?”, 1857); the writing of Sentimental education (“The moral history of the men of my generation”, 1864), the Franco-Prussian war, anti-Semitism, a progressive isolation (“all my friends have died. Those that remain are not so important or are so changed that I no longer recognize them “, 1872) and their health problems (” I would not like to die without continuing to throw a few buckets of shit on the heads of my fellow men, “he wrote in November 1879, six months before his death). And the embalmed parrot that he borrowed from the Museum of Natural History for “documentation.”

Flaubert admitted to once feeling like a “pen-man.” “I feel through and because of her, about her and much more with her” (1852); but it was not necessary for him to do so to understand that his enthusiasms, his battles, and the tension in his correspondence were literary. “Everything we invent is true,” he wrote in 1853. And Flaubert’s greatest invention was that of himself: it is that creation that we witness in this extraordinary correspondence in which, by the way, the author never affirms “Madame Bovary it’s me”; in fact, he apparently never said so.

Volume of Gustave Flaubert's correspondence published by Alianza.

The necklace thread: Correspondence

Gustave Flaubert
Translation, selection and notes
by Antonio Álvarez de la Rosa
Alliance, 2021.
672 pages. 16.30 euros

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