Fact and Fiction with Gustave Flaubert – Culture

For eighteen months the gentlemen “Bouvard and Pécuchet”, the heroes of the last and strangest of Flaubert’s novels, had been looking for a house in the province where they could lead the lives of wealthy privateers and pursue their intellectual interests. They had traveled through the entire area around Paris, they had come to Amiens in the north and Le Havre in the west, without success: “They were looking for a landscape that was really rural, without necessarily insisting on a picturesque location, but one Limited horizons made them sad. They fled the neighborhood from settlements and yet shied away from loneliness. ” An acquaintance who knows her dream will ultimately bring salvation. It is located even further west, in the Calvados, more precisely: between Caen and Falaise, and consists of a leasehold of thirty-eight hectares with a kind of castle and a very productive garden.

They move in March, two furniture vans are packed, and the two drive to their new home on separate routes. In the middle, near Bretteville-sur-Laize, the two trucks meet, in the middle of the night and in bad weather. They get lost, nobody opens them, and dogs bark at them. But it’s not far from there. When they wake up the next morning, the sun is shining. You stand by the window to look at the area: “In front of you you had the fields, on the right a barn and the church tower, on the left a poplar wall”. The village in the neighborhood is said to be called Chavignolles.

For the novel “Bouvard and Pécuchet”, Flaubert wrote to his sister, he had to make “three trips to different regions” “in order to find their setting, the setting that fits the plot”. This is how it is with this writer: he makes a plan and then he searches until the reality fits his vision. Reality is the backdrop here, but it is there, down to the seemingly incidental.

Poetry is supposed to be an intensified daydream, truer than reality

In the summer of 1874 Flaubert traveled himself, and during these trips he must have found the right home for his heroes. The writer also traveled to get the material for his book. So he sent his student Guy de Maupassant to the coast to find the place where the earth threatens to open under Bouvard, while he fears that the sky will fall on his head: “Here is my plan where I can’t change anything, “wrote Flaubert to the young colleague after he had not only described but also drawn the rocks of Étretat. “Nature has to be suitable (the difficult thing is not to contradict it and not to anger those who have seen the area).” The last sentence may be due to convention. Behind this is the idea that poetry may be a kind of heightened daydream, full of small details that seem truer than they really are.

“My folder with notes is eight inches high,” boasted Flaubert, shortly before death tore him from working on a novel that he probably could have worked on forever. Because he wanted to put in it no less than the entire erudition of his time, knowledge of agriculture and fruit growing, chemistry and anatomy, and so it goes until the two former copyists also worked on philosophy, pedagogy and the Despair of morality. And everything that Flaubert wrote in his book seemed true to him: “Throughout the entire book there shouldn’t be a word that would have grown on my dung, and if you had read it once, you wouldn’t dare to open your mouth . “

At the end of the novel there would probably have been a universal silence, the same silence that should have descended on the house in Normandy when the two copyists had finally returned to their desks, as planned by the author. In extreme realism, one could say, there is something utterly fantastic hidden. It can be seen from the fact that the time that Bouvard and Pécuchet would have to spend on their research must be much longer than the historical time in which the book is embedded. The houses, villages and landscapes through which Flaubert lets his characters move are also marked by the same intermingling of realism and fantasy.

In “Bouvard and Pécuchet”, too, what is invented is true

The locations for “Madame Bovary” are known, and where the “Éducation sentimentale” takes place can be determined from a map of Paris. But also in “Bouvard and Pécuchet” what is invented is true. You can see for yourself: Take the road from Falaise to Pont D’Ouilly, turn right just before reaching the Orne river, until you come to a house that is alone on a hill. The view goes over fields, on the right there is a church tower of compact form with a pointed tower covered with slate. And if you drive (or rather: go) further, you will see a castle with a white facade on the other, lower side of the Orne, “and a meadow extends down to the river, in which the shadows of the plane trees are visible. “

Elisabeth Edl’s “Memoirs of a Madman”

Elisabeth Edl is one of the very few literary translators in Germany who have their own readers, i.e. people who buy their Flaubert translations not only because of Flaubert, but also because of her. Her numerous classic translations have made her a classic herself, as the literary critic Ursula März recently put it. The latest opportunity to experience the dynamic duo Flaubert & Edl is their retransmission of the “Memoirs of a Crazy”, Flaubert’s first novel, the love story of a 15-year-old boy and a ten-year-old woman. Unfortunately she is married, love remains one-sided, but the motive of in vain love accompanies Flaubert throughout his work. Felix Stephan

With the church tower in view, always keeping a certain distance from the village, it doesn’t take long, and there is a manor house with a barn and a large garden that is enclosed by a wall. And a little above, over a site that may once have been a small vineyard, the pavilion that is mentioned in the book should have stood. Was this building the setting for a novel? “Oh, go away,” the owner calls from afar when you start to approach, and the dogs bark.

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