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How stupid people are

John Sturrock: Flaubert, 7 September 2006

Bouvard and Pecuchet 
by Gustave Flaubert, translated by Mark Polizzotti.
Dalkey Archive, 328 pp., £8.99, January 2006, 1 56478 393 6
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Flaubert: A Life 
by Frederick Brown.
Heinemann, 629 pp., £25, May 2006, 0 434 00769 2
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... alive! – or Flaubert’s close friend George Sand, with her ‘fine adulteries and noble lovers’. (Pécuchet is even smitten by Sand’s socialism, and her bénisseuse or benevolent side, which Flaubert, truly fond of her though he was, never ceased to protest at.) In the dénouement to the story that Flaubert didn’t live to ...

Colonel Cundum’s Domain

Clare Bucknell: Nose, no nose, 18 July 2019

Itch, Clap, Pox: Venereal Disease in the 18th-Century Imagination 
by Noelle Gallagher.
Yale, 288 pp., £55, March 2019, 978 0 300 21705 6
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... another poem in ten cantos which compares the grisly suicide of a young syphilitic to the noble death of Cato, it exposes the absurdity of the comparison and the forms of masculinity it props up.Women had their own heroic disease narratives. Memoirs of well-known prostitutes and bawds celebrated their protagonists’ survival skills as their feeble ...

Reality Is Worse

Adam Mars-Jones: Lydia Davis, 17 April 2014

Can’t and Won’t 
by Lydia Davis.
Hamish Hamilton, 304 pp., £16.99, April 2014, 978 0 241 14664 4
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... various ‘stories’ and one ‘rant’ drawn from Flaubert’s letters, most of them written to Louise Colet when he was working on Madame Bovary (of which Davis has published a translation). These are reliably sharper in tone and more highly coloured than anything Davis provides on her own account. In ‘The Funeral’, for instance, Flaubert describes the ...

A Rock of Order

Christopher Clark: Through Metternich’s Eyes, 8 October 2020

Metternich: Strategist and Visionary 
by Wolfram Siemann, translated by Daniel Steuer.
Harvard, 900 pp., £31.95, November 2019, 978 0 674 74392 2
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... aligning themselves with their former opponent by means of a dynastic match. The 19-year-old Marie Louise, Archduchess of Austria and a great-niece of Marie Antoinette, became Napoleon’s second wife. Metternich’s central role in the summit negotiations that produced this arrangement has earned him a reputation for spinelessness and lack of ...

May he roar with pain!

John Sturrock, 27 May 1993

Flaubert–Sand: The Correspondence 
translated by Barbara Bray.
HarperCollins, 428 pp., £20, March 1993, 0 00 217625 4
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Correspondence. Tome III: janvier 1859 – décembre 1868 
by Gustave Flaubert, edited by Jean Bruneau.
Gallimard, 1727 pp., frs 20, March 1991, 2 07 010669 1
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Madame Bovary: Patterns of Provincial Life 
by Gustave Flaubert, translated by Francis Steegmuller.
Everyman, 330 pp., £8.99, March 1993, 1 85715 140 2
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Madame Bovary 
by Gustave Flaubert, translated by Geoffrey Wall.
Penguin, 292 pp., £4.99, June 1992, 0 14 044526 9
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... without ever dominating this third volume as the wonderful letters Flaubert wrote to his mistress Louise Colet dominated the second. The hectic and intrusive Colet is by this date gone from Flaubert’s life, a ‘bonne Muse’ no longer requiring to be fended off by letter but sacrificed once and for all to the autonomy of Work. She resurfaces only in her ...
Congo Journey 
by Redmond O’Hanlon.
Hamish Hamilton, 480 pp., £18, October 1996, 0 241 12768 8
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... the native fauna of the genus Homo sapiens – could be interesting, helpful, loyal, brave, even noble (as well, of course, as savage and stupid). But they were not likely to find the bwana-sahib ridiculous; and if they did, it was clear that this was further evidence of the error of their ways. In O’Hanlon’s world, however, the natives are always ...

Travels with My Mom

Terry Castle: In Santa Fe, 16 August 2007

... tourist and ‘native’ alike – is forced to play his or her prescribed role: Put-Upon Noble Savage or Sympathetic but Clueless White Person. Even the babbling brook gets roped into it. The foreign tourists, of whom there are a lot (since the dollar’s in the toilet), seem to have an easier time of it than we Yanquis do. They obviously don’t ...

When Ireland Became Divided

Garret FitzGerald: The Free State’s Fight for Recognition, 21 January 1999

Documents on Irish Foreign Policy. Vol. I: 1919-22 
edited by Ronan Fanning.
Royal Irish Academy and Department of Foreign Affairs, 548 pp., £30, October 1998, 1 874045 63 1
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... a temporary cabinet of five people, the Foreign Affairs portfolio being allocated to Count George Noble Plunkett, who retained this post in the eight-member Cabinet established under Eamon de Valera’s presidency ten weeks later, in which Michael Collins was appointed Minister for Finance. Plunkett was a wealthy builder who had been made a Papal Count. His ...

In the Egosphere

Adam Mars-Jones: The Plot against Roth, 23 January 2014

Roth Unbound: A Writer and His Books 
by Claudia Roth Pierpont.
Cape, 353 pp., £25, January 2014, 978 0 224 09903 5
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... 6 is: ‘What set of aesthetic values makes you think that the cheap is more valid than the noble and the slimy is more truthful than the sublime?’ This is the sort of cheap trick that gets school debating teams disqualified. The issue doesn’t go away just because you’ve surrounded it with easy targets, lined up for satirical sniping. Those at ...

Germs: A Memoir

Richard Wollheim, 15 April 2004

... should become a milliner, and an opening was found for her in an establishment in Paris named Louise, which, rumours say, doubled as a high-class maison de passe patronised by the Prince of Wales. However, my mother was determined to go on the stage, and she returned to London, and entered the Academy of Dramatic Art, as it then was. She finished her ...

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