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Flaubert's Parrot by Julian Barnes
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Flaubert's Parrot (original 1984; edition 1990)

by Julian Barnes

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2,902521,988 (3.66)220
Member:mdplante
Title:Flaubert's Parrot
Authors:Julian Barnes
Info:Vintage (1990), Paperback, 192 pages
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Work details

Flaubert's Parrot by Julian Barnes (1984)

Recently added byblkrk4000, Berly, private library, orioc22, _dafne_, HeKaAlt, kevinfwalsh, bolero, revliz, knotbox
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English (47)  Spanish (2)  Hebrew (1)  Norwegian (1)  Dutch (1)  All languages (52)
Showing 1-5 of 47 (next | show all)
I had planned to read "Flaubert' Parrot" after I'd read a good quantity of Flaubert, but, three or four years after I'd bought a copy of this novel, that didn't seem so likely. I went ahead and read it anyway, sans Flaubert. It isn't a bad read, even for someone who knows nothing about that particular mustachioed French author, but I'm not sure I'd go out of my way to recommend it, either. While many novels are political tracts in disguise, and many others read like lightly doctored diaries, "Flaubert's Parrot" is something a little rarer: the literary essay as novel. It's an affectionate collection of musings, jokes, opinions, theories, and rather good thoughts about someone's favorite author, the nineteenth century, and French things in general. Sure, there's a character involved here somewhere -- a widowed English doctor -- but his experience hardly seems essential to the novel. Some readers will likely to be moved to want to ask Barnes why he couldn't have made "Flaubert's Parrot" a collection of short essays and left it at that. Heck, I might, too. But Barnes's writing is fine: flowing and easy, like a good Philip Roth, so reading it is unlikely to do anyone any harm. I'm a bit mystified why it came close to taking home a Booker Prize, but that's a discussion for another day. Otherwise, this is a fine, if somewhat shaggy, collection of literary ephemera, the product of one man's love for and dedication to a favorite author. Many bibliophiles, I expect, will look upon it sympathetically. ( )
1 vote TheAmpersand | Mar 30, 2016 |
This book is not for every reader, it is for those who love literary criticism, and who are interested in learning about Gustave Flaubert. It felt like one long fun book discussion. I would reread it over and over again. This is my second Barnes book, it is quite different from 'the sense of an ending', yet equally amazing and clever. At times, I laughed aloud at the irony and subtle sarcasm. It was quite an enjoyable journey.
Barnes has made me want to go to the bookstore and buy every single book of Flaubert's! How witty of him to revolve this whole unusual narrative around the meaning of parrots in Flaubert's life and works! I want to verify for myself what was fictive, and what was real about Flaubert.
The book has some amazing quotes that I found myself repeating after pausing my reading. I would read the quote twice or thrice, and admire the cleverness.
I regret having read it as an ebook, but I shall grab a physical copy soon and devour it again :)

Some of the quotes that I loved are:

'The author in his book must be like God in his universe, everywhere present and nowhere visible.'

'Style is a function of theme. Style is not imposed on subject-matter, but arises from it. Style is truth to thought. The correct word, the true phrase, the perfect sentence are always 'out there' somewhere; the writer's task is to locate them by whatever means he can.'

'In the ideal I have of Art, I think that one must not show one's own, and that the artist must no more appear in his work than God does in nature. Man is nothing, the work of art everything…It would be very pleasant for me to say what I think and relieve Monsieur Gustave Flaubert's feelings by means of such utterances; but what is the importance of the said gentleman?'

'I must confess that in all the times I read Madame Bovary, I never noticed the heroine's rainbow eyes. Should I have? Would you? Was I perhaps too busy noticing things that Dr Starkie was missing (though what they might have been I can't for the moment think)? Put it another way: is there a perfect reader somewhere, a total reader? Does Dr Starkie's reading of Madame Bovary contain all the responses which I have when I read the book, and then add a whole lot more, so that my reading is in a way pointless? Well, I hope not. My reading might be pointless in terms of the history of literary criticism; but it's not pointless in terms of pleasure. I can't prove that lay readers enjoy books more than professional critics; but I can tell you one advantage we have over them. We can forget. Dr Starkie and her kind are cursed with memory: the books they teach and write about can never fade from their brains. They become family. Perhaps this is why some critics develop a faintly patronising tone towards their subjects. They act as if Flaubert, or Milton, or Wordsworth were some tedious old aunt in a rocking chair, who smelt of stale powder, was only interested in the past, and hadn't said anything new for years. Of course, it's her house, and everybody's living in it rent free; but even so, surely it is, well, you know…time?
Whereas the common but passionate reader is allowed to forget; he can go away, be unfaithful with other writers, come back and be entranced again. Domesticity need never intrude on the relationship; it may be sporadic, but when there it is always intense.' ( )
  pathogenik | Feb 18, 2016 |
This was an interesting look into the life of Gustave Flaubert through the eyes of Geoffrey Braithwaite. It is cleverly written with diverse chapters which are biographical, comical, interesting but sometimes reads like a textbook. If you are a Flaubert scholar and enjoy his writings such as; Madame Bovary, then I suggest that you read this book in order to learn more information about Flaubert. ( )
  EadieB | Jan 19, 2016 |
The narrator is Geoffrey Braithwaite, a retired English doctor who is obsessed with everything about French author Gustave Flaubert. The book consists primarily of his meditations, both factual and supposed, about Flaubert’s life, work, and relationships. Braithwaite spends a lot of time focused on details about Flaubert that are so minor that they don’t really matter. As the novel progresses, the reader also can’t help but notice how Braithwaite’s own personal life and problems seem to be taking up more of his thoughts and how similar they seem to be to Flaubert’s.

My opinion of this book changed several times while I was reading it. My initial impression from the first few pages were that it wasn’t bad, but that Barnes had crossed the line with his language from intelligent to pretentious. That was mildly annoying but manageable. As I got into the middle of the book, I really enjoyed the poetic beauty of the whole thing. I really enjoyed reading it slowly and savoring every sentence and image. The end of the book, starting with Chapter 11, really got annoying. The focus in the last few chapters was on Louise Colet (one of Flaubert’s lovers) and on Braithwaite’s own wife, Ellen, and all three of these characters got on my nerves because I didn’t like how Barnes portrayed them. I think the quality of the book itself and what Barnes was trying to do both border on brilliant, but when an author takes a book that was really enjoyable and changes the direction to make it not enjoyable, I just get annoyed. ( )
  AmandaL. | Jan 16, 2016 |
3.5 stars ( )
  Lynsey2 | Jan 15, 2016 |
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Epigraph
When you write the biography of a friend,
you must do it as if you were taking revenge for him.

Flaubert, letter to Ernest Feydeau, 1872
Dedication
To Pat
First words
Six North Africans were playing boules beneath Flaubert's statue.
Quotations
Books say: she did this because. Life says: she did this. Books are where things are explained to you; life is where they aren’t.
On the site there now stands a large paper-mill ... The vast paper factory was churning away on the site of Flaubert's house. I wandered inside; they were happy to show me round. I gazed at the pistons, the steam, the vats and the slopping trays: so much wetness to produce something so dry as paper. I asked my guide if they made any sort of paper that was used for books; she said they made every sort of paper. The tour, I realized, would not prove sentimental. Above our heads a huge drum of paper, some twenty feet wide, was slowly tracking along on a conveyor. It seemed out of proportion to its surroundings, like a piece of pop sculpture on a deliberately provoking scale. I remarked that it resembled a gigantic roll of lavatory paper; my guide confirmed that this was exactly what it was.
Literature includes politics, and not vice versa. Novelists who think their writing an instrument of politics seem to me to degrade writing and foolishly exalt politics. No, I'm not saying they should be forbidden from having political opinions or from making political statements. It's just that they should call that part of their work journalism. The writer who imagines that the novel is the most effective way of taking part in politics is usually a bad novelist, a bad journalist, and a bad politician.
When she dies, you are not at first surprised. Part of love is preparing for death. ... Afterwards comes the madness. And then the loneliness. ... Other people think you want to talk ... you find the language of bereavement foolishly inadequate.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0679731369, Paperback)

Just what sort of book is Flaubert's Parrot, anyway? A literary biography of 19th-century French novelist, radical, and intellectual impresario Gustave Flaubert? A meditation on the uses and misuses of language? A novel of obsession, denial, irritation, and underhanded connivery? A thriller complete with disguises, sleuthing, mysterious meetings, and unknowing targets? An extended essay on the nature of fiction itself?

On the surface, at first, Julian Barnes's book is the tale of an elderly English doctor's search for some intriguing details of Flaubert's life. Geoffrey Braithwaite seems to be involved in an attempt to establish whether a particularly fine, lovely, and ancient stuffed parrot is in fact one originally "borrowed by G. Flaubert from the Museum of Rouen and placed on his worktable during the writing of Un coeur simple, where it is called Loulou, the parrot of Felicité, the principal character of the tale."

What begins as a droll and intriguing excursion into the minutiae of Flaubert's life and intellect, along with an attempt to solve the small puzzle of the parrot--or rather parrots, for there are two competing for the title of Gustave's avian confrere--soon devolves into something obscure and worrisome, the exploration of an arcane Braithwaite obsession that is perhaps even pathological. The first hint we have that all is not as it seems comes almost halfway into the book, when after a humorously cantankerous account of the inadequacies of literary critics, Braithwaite closes a chapter by saying, "Now do you understand why I hate critics? I could try and describe to you the expression in my eyes at this moment; but they are far too discoloured with rage." And from that point, things just get more and more curious, until they end in the most unexpected bang.

One passage perhaps best describes the overall effect of this extraordinary story: "You can define a net in one of two ways, depending on your point of view. Normally, you would say that it is a meshed instrument designed to catch fish. But you could, with no great injury to logic, reverse the image and define the net as a jocular lexicographer once did: he called it a collection of holes tied together with string." Julian Barnes demonstrates that it is possible to catch quite an interesting fish no matter how you define the net. --Andrew Himes

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:10:43 -0400)

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In an Appalachian city recovering from a plague called the Crumble, Anna waits for her friend's return and the plague's sole survivor Rory finds his solitary life interrupted by Eugenio, who is investigating the cause of the catastrophe.

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