[ilds] Flaubert

Bruce Redwine bredwine1968 at earthlink.net
Thu May 19 13:12:42 PDT 2016


Thanks for the hard work, James.  I have a few comments below your commentary.

Perhaps Marc can translated the second quotation:  “Vous êtes lié fatalement aux meilleurs souvenirs de ma jeunesse.  Savez-vous qu'il y a plus de vingt ans que nous nous connaissons?  Tout cela me plonge dans les abîmes de rêverie qui sentent le vieillard.  On dit que le présent est trop rapide.  Je trouve moi, que c’est le passé qui nous dévore" (839).


Bruce


> On May 19, 2016, at 12:20 PM, James Gifford <james.d.gifford at gmail.com> wrote:
> 
> Hi Bruce,
> 
> For the two quotations, "On ne saura jamais ce qu'il a fallu être triste pour entreprendre de ressusciter Carthage" is from Flaubert's 29-30 Nov. 1859 letter to Ernest Feydeau according to Frederick Brown's biography (p. 360).  Of course, he gives no citation, though the passage in French seems to be frequently quoted in scholarly works (again, generally without citation).  It shows up in a slight variation in the new edition of /Correspondance/ (Arvensa editions, 2014) as "Quand on lira /Salammbô/, on ne pensera pas, j'espère, à l'auteur! Peu de gens devineront combien il a fallu être triste pour entreprendre de ressusciter Carthage" (940).  Whether Durrell had a different source, muddle the transcription, or changed it deliberately I can’t say.


I tend to think Durrell “changed it deliberately.”

> 
> Brown gives the translation as "Few people will guess what sadness provoked the attempt to resuscitate Carthage,"  which is a bit loose (it's Flaubert's sadness and attempt in /Salammbô/).  However, the rest of the passage might be what Durrell's really pointing to (think of how "Now for bisexuality, I am sure you are right!" is cut from the opening epigram from Freud in /Justine/ yet is so crucial to the book).  The sentence continues “C'est là une thebaïde où le dégoût de la vie moderne m'a poussé", or in Brown's rendering, "how I've lost myself in it out of disgust with modern life."  (again, loose, and I'd give "That's Thebaid in which I've lost myself from disgust with modern life." and I'm sure you know the region).


“Thebaid” may refer to the southern nomes of ancient Egypt (Thebes to Aswan area).  Flaubert traveled in Egypt (c. 1849-) and left a journal, later published.  (Edward Said takes issue with it.)  So Durrell sees a parallel with his own experiences?  Yes you say below. 

  
> 
> The second quotation is also from his letters (to the novelist Marie-Sophie Leroyer de Chantepie in 1857): "Vous êtes lié fatalement aux meilleurs souvenirs de ma jeunesse. Savez-vous qu'il y a plus de vingt ans que nous nous connaissons? Tout cela me plonge dans les abîmes de rêverie qui sentent le vieillard. On dit que le présent est trop rapide. Je trouve moi, que c'est le passé qui nous dévore." (839). Durrell's "aging Flaubert" would have been 36, I think...
> 
> This would have been in the first year of their correspondence, his second letter to her, so depending on which edition Durrell was reading, right near to the beginning of the book.  Anthony Zielonka has a good article on the correspondence:
> 
> "Flaubert and the Centrality of Literature: An Analysis of the Correspondence with Mademoiselle Leroyer de Chantepie." /Romance Quarterly/ 59.3 (2012): 177-188.
> 
> The letter is, like the previous passage, about writing /Salammbô/ and again emphasizes his disgust with modernity: "Je vais écrire un roman dont l’action se passera trois siècles avant Jésus-Christ, car
> j’éprouve le besoin de sortir du monde moderne, où ma plume s’est trop trempée et qui d’ailleurs me fatigue autant à reproduire qu’il me dégoûte à voir."  He also outlines his emphasis on impersonality in his writing.
> 
> It might also be because that Mlle Leroyer de Chantepie identified herself with Madame Bovary, and Durrell could be thinking of readers who could identify with Justine (I don't think that's nearly as possible in /Tunc/!) or else a way of characterizing Iolanthe in her dying moments. That’s pretty speculative though.


Iolanthe’s deadbeat scene is very real and very moving.  I read it as Durrell at Claude’s bedside in Geneva, when she was dying of cancer.  In fact, I tend to see Iolanthe as some version of Claude-Marie Vincendon, transposed from Melissa, the Greek prostitute of Alexandria.

> 
> Alas, we can only guess at the edition/source.  Durrell's library holdings in Carbondale have Flaubert's /Correspondence/ but in a 1973 edition, which means it's not what he used for /Tunc/.
> 
> I'd personally tend to look at the recurrence of modernity as disgusting -- that strikes me as the common thread in both and also as the point of connection with /Tunc/.  That Flaubert is reflecting on his own work as a product of his disgust with modernity speaks, I should think, to Durrell’s implicit reflections on writing /The Revolt of Aphrodite/.

Yes.
> 
> I hope that’s a help!
> 
A big help—and thanks!


> Best,
> James




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