Page 47

“Style and bombast are two entirely different things,” came the reply. “And you have mistaken one for the other.” think!’ Bouillet was naturally timid, but no one could express himself more fearlessly when he had once made up his mind to speak. It was he who replied. ‘We think you should throw it in the fire, and never speak of it again.’

Flaubert was appropriately devastated by his friends’ response to Saint Anthony. His first reaction to Bouillet’s pronouncement was to “[jump] from his chair in horror.” What followed was basically the worst workshop experience imaginable, as “knife after knife was plunged into the poor author.” Flaubert did his best to defend his vision, but with little success. At one point, when Bouillet and Du Camp criticized Saint Anthony’s plot—or lack thereof—

Flaubert cried out, “But style!” “Style and bombast are two entirely different things,” came the reply. “And you have mistaken one for the other.” ustave Flaubert was born in Rouen, a small medieval city in the north of France. At the center of town is a cobblestoned square where Joan of Arc was burnt at the stake, as well as a massive cathedral that Monet painted over and over again, trying to capture the shifting light and shadows. When I was twenty-two, I spent ten months there, and to me, Rouen represented a fairytale, a dream. Since childhood I had longed for far-away lands and earlier eras, and now my soul thrilled at the sight of halftimbered houses leaning at impossible angles over narrow streets, down which one could easily imagine landous and barouches (horsedrawn carriages) rolling. How happy I would have been, I imagined, riding in a barouche! For Flaubert, however, Rouen was a pit, a trap. “Old Rouen,” he calls it in a letter to the best friend of his youth, Alfred Le Poittevin. “Old Rouen where I have been bored on every sidewalk, and yawned with depression at every street corner.” Flaubert rode in plenty of barouches (and even, in Madame Bovary, set a brilliant sex scene in one), but he dreamed of Roman chariots. “The love of antiquity is in my


Propeller 2.4  

books art film music life