Tuesday 23 May 2023

Charles Bovary, Country Doctor

Finished May 22
Charles Bovary, Country Doctor: Portrait of a Simple Man by Jean Améry, translated by Adrian Nathan West

This book is a combination of novel and literary criticism, unlike any other book I've read. The book starts in the voice of Charles Bovary after the death of Emma, as he grieves and reflects. In this first section he interacts with other characters like Berthe, Homais and Lheureux, and for some of these he shows both sides of the conversation. He also addresses his late wife, and revisits past conversations. 
In the second section he revisits the past, scenes from the novel, where he relates his inner response to these and we see how it differs from the novel. He shows how Charles is made to be stupid and ridiculous, not a real person. 
The third section switches to essay format and is literary criticism of a sort, but focused on the author and how his experience relates to what he wrote, both in terms of inspiring and in terms of limiting. 
This essay form continues in the fourth section where the author focuses on Flaubert's view of the bourgeois and how that led him to make his characters fit that mold.
The fifth section takes us back to Charles Bovary and how a man of his time and experience would have acted and felt, as opposed to the way he is portrayed in Madame Bovary. 
The last section takes us back to the novelistic format, speaking as Charles as he accuses Flaubert of betraying his reality and as he experiences the loss of his wife, both over time as she pulled away from him and in the end with her final choice. 
This book was ahead of its time in how it looked at a classic novel and responded to it. While written in 1978, it has only recently been translated into English and allows the reader of the classic a new way of looking at Madame Bovary. It definitely addresses some of the issues that I had when I read it, and shows me good arguments for my reactions to the classic. 
A great addition to the field of literature. It also had me with a dictionary by my side to look up some of the less common terminology used. 

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