Stochastic Bookmark

abstruse unfinished commentary

about correspondence


Bad Craziness

Flaubert's juvenilia doesn't merit a post on its own, but I'll dispose of it briefly: Germaine Greer's foreword to Memoirs of a Madman, a loose narrative of jaded adolescence, properly warns against biographical interpretation (before indulging a bit herself) and identifies ETAHoffmann's influence, but she and translator Andrew Brown see this work, unfinished as it is in many respects, as more seminal than I can credit: it does not seem to prefigure The Sentimental Education, nor is it a storehouse of ideas Flaubert might later have mined. What is interesting is that it saw the light of day when the Decadents were at their zenith -- it probably owes publication (which Flaubert did not permit in his lifetime) in part to their reverence for Salammb├┤ (which I've put off reading interminably) -- there is something that makes it fit better here than with contemporary works (such as Gogol's Diary of a Madman) or as part of any progression from Romanticism, and indicates Flaubert was ahead of his time even before he was able. Credit Brown with a proposed addition to The Dictionary of Received Ideas: "FLAUBERT: Spent days laboring over a single sentence. -- But some say his works lack vitality. -- Don't forget to mention Flaubertian irony, with a knowing look." Worth mentioning in and of itself. Unlike the book.


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