Carthachinoiserie

Paul Grimstad

  • BuyFlaubert’s ‘Gueuloir’: On ‘Madame Bovary’ and ‘Salammbô’ by Michael Fried
    Yale, 184 pp, £25.00, October 2012, ISBN 978 0 300 18705 2

‘What a bitch of a thing prose is!’ Flaubert complained in a letter to Louise Colet while at work on Madame Bovary. ‘It is never finished; there is always something to be done over.’ Fanatical in his search for a style that, as he put it in another letter, was as ‘rhythmic as verse, precise as the language of the sciences, undulant, deep-voiced as a cello, tipped with a flame’, Flaubert devised a method for purging his sentences of unwanted repetitions. What he called the gueuloir (from gueuler, ‘to bellow’) was his practice of yelling prose at the top of his lungs until he felt it had been condensed to its sonic core. During one particularly savage gueulade he told the Goncourt brothers he felt he was going to spit blood.

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