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Flaubert's Parrot (1984)

by Julian Barnes

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
3,587682,751 (3.67)1 / 321
Geoffrey Braithwaite is a retired doctor haunted by an obsession with the great French literary genius, Gustave Flaubert. As Geoffrey investigates the mystery of the stuffed parrot Flaubert borrowed from the Museum of Rouen to help research one of his novels, we learn an enormous amount about the writer's work, family, lovers, thought processes, health and obsessions. But we also gradually come to learn some important and shocking details about Geoffrey and his own life.… (more)
  1. 30
    Three Tales by Gustave Flaubert (wrmjr66)
    wrmjr66: If you like Three Tales, you might enjoy Flaubert's Parrot, but if you like Flaubert's Parrot, you must read Three Tales!
  2. 20
    Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov (the_awesome_opossum)
  3. 20
    The Fiction of Julian Barnes (Readers' Guides to Essential Criticism) by Vanessa Guignery (KayCliff)
  4. 10
    Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert (JuliaMaria, KayCliff)
    JuliaMaria: "Madame Bovary, c'est moi": Wer also mehr über Flaubert erfahren möchte (und jeder und jede andere auch), sollte unbedingt diesen Klassiker lesen.
  5. 10
    The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro (KayCliff)
    KayCliff: Two inhibited, unreliable narrators
  6. 00
    Something to Declare by Julian Barnes (KayCliff)
  7. 00
    The Good Soldier by Ford Madox Ford (KayCliff)
    KayCliff: Both novels have self-deluded narrators using strategies of deferral and digression.
  8. 00
    The Conjuror's Bird by Martin Davies (bergs47)
  9. 01
    Gesammelte Werke. 8 Bände. Schriften zur Literatur. by Jean-Paul Sartre (JuliaMaria)
    JuliaMaria: Was können wir über Flaubert wissen, hat sich auch Sartre gefragt und in "Der Idiot der Familie" beantwortet. Es handelt sich um eine mehrbändige (!) Biografie vermischt mit philosophischen und psychoanalytischen Betrachtungen.
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English (59)  Spanish (6)  Hebrew (1)  Dutch (1)  Norwegian (1)  All languages (68)
Showing 1-5 of 59 (next | show all)
Julian Barnes’s francophilia pulls him in two directions in this novel. In one direction, the fascination — bordering on obsession — with Gustave Flaubert, one of the great (perhaps the greatest) of the masters of the classic nineteenth-century novel. In the other, the postmodern assertion, proclaimed in particular by French writers, that the traditional novel is as dead as the traditional symphony and can no longer be written. The result of this tension is an enjoyable read.
The narrator is Geoffrey Braithwaite, a sixtyish retired surgeon and amateur Flaubert scholar. His quest for Flaubert is a refracted way of telling his own life story — a fine example of British reticence. The result is Braithwaite’s admission, toward the end of the tale: “Books make sense of life. The only problem is that the lives they make sense of are other people’s lives, never your own” (p. 168 in the edition I read).
Along the way, Barnes launches amusing jabs at the lit-crit industry. Another recurrent theme is the struggle to make sense of the past. The narrator’s pessimistic view of the possibilities of success in this doesn’t run so deep as to keep him from trying. The outcome of the endeavor is embodied by the parrot of the title. But I’ll leave that for you to find out. ( )
  HenrySt123 | Jul 19, 2021 |
I wasn't expecting to like this at all, largely due to it being designated "post-modern". In reality, I loved it. It's fragmented, but the fragments form a perfect whole, and there is some gorgeous language in here and some very striking passages that made it deep into my mind.
  Tara_Calaby | Jun 28, 2021 |
It was a little hard to get into at first, and I was apprehensive that I didn't know enough about Flaubert to appreciate the work. After finishing it, I DO know a good deal about Flaubert, his times, and his character. I also know a lot about the fictional narrator. This is a very thoughtful work, touching on death, love, sex, fidelity, convention and all supported by extensive scholarship.
There is a very penetrating discussion of the narrator's experience as a cuckold. ( )
  brianstagner | Jun 15, 2021 |
What a strange little novel. At first glance, it is a compendium of chapters, many of them arranged about singular characteristics about this great French author. (I like to say that I know everything there is to know about women because I have read Anna Karenina and Madame Bovary, thereby allowing me to occupy the position in life that I hold today!) After awhile, however, the readers of this most literary tome finds themselves preoccupied with a sense of disquiet. Just who is the unknown voice describing his obsession with this dead literary giant? And which parrot is which? No spoilers here! ( )
  larryking1 | Nov 2, 2019 |
It's a book about Flaubert's books (mainly Bovary), very clever with a very particular style which in some points makes it boring, but if you read it up to the end you are rewarded. Barnes reveals the Flaubert's Parrot secret closing his eye to the reader. In life we believe as true what we want to believe. Truth is subjective. ( )
  dimi777 | May 1, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 59 (next | show all)
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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.
The greatest patriotism is to tell your country when it is behaving dishonourably, foolishly, viciously.
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Geoffrey Braithwaite is a retired doctor haunted by an obsession with the great French literary genius, Gustave Flaubert. As Geoffrey investigates the mystery of the stuffed parrot Flaubert borrowed from the Museum of Rouen to help research one of his novels, we learn an enormous amount about the writer's work, family, lovers, thought processes, health and obsessions. But we also gradually come to learn some important and shocking details about Geoffrey and his own life.

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