I've read Madame Bovary before, 30 years ago in a comparative lit class in college. I remember quite a lot about about that semester--I took my first journalism class; I fulfilled my math requirement and consequently threw my statistics notebook into the trash as I left the classroom after completing the statistics final; I got an A plus on my paper comparing Hamlet and Faust despite my T.A.'s conviction that contrasting the men was the only logical approach; my mother had her first heart attack the week before spring break and my dad was hospitalized along with her since he was at that time incapacitated with back pain. And I spent what free time I had over that spring break plowing through Hard Times, which I hated, for my history class, only to be told in the next class that time was short, and we wouldn't have to read Dickens after all. Etc.
But Madame Bovary--I'm afraid it's not a book that's stayed with me through the years. Adultry, debt, poison, mainly it's the poison that I remember since L.'s mother's Shetland sheepdog puppy ate rat poison not long after I read this--Sunny survived, incredibly enough--so I had mental reinforcement for that portion of the book, along with little sidebar memories of a carriage ride, the fact that it was reading that led Emma astray, as well as a bit of a class lecture on shifting points of view--did Flaubert start a sentence alone with Emma playing the piano and then pull out far enough to bring in the entire listening village, or is that from some other book? I honestly don't remember.
So I'm very happy Frances arranged a group read to celebrate the new Lydia Davis translation and am very curious to see if any other memories come back to me over the course of reading the book a second time.
Edited to add:
I've found the paragraph about Emma playing the piano!
In the Davis translation:
She would draw, sometimes; and Charles found it most entertaining to stand there and watch her bending over her pad, half closing her eyes to see her work better, or forming pellets of bread crumbs on her thumb. As for the piano, the faster her fingers raced, the more he marveled. She would strike the keys with assurance and run down the entire keyboard from top to bottom without stopping. When it was thus assaulted by her, the old instrument, with its buzzing strings, could be heard as far as the edge of the village if the window was open, and often the bailiff's clerk, who was passing on the main road, bareheaded and in slippers, would stop to listen, holding his piece of paper in his hand.
And from the Francis Steegmuller translation, which I orginally read:
She drew occasionally; and Charles enjoyed nothing more than standing beside her watching her bent over her sketchbook, half shutting his eyes the better to see her work, or rolling her bread-crumb erasers between his thumb and finger. As for the piano, the faster her fingers flew the more he marveled. She played with dash, swooping up and down the keyboard without a break. The strings of the old instrument jangled as she pounded, and when the window was open it could be heard to the end of the village. The huissier's clerk often stopped to listen as he passed on the road--bareheaded, shuffling along in slippers, holding in his hand the notice he was about to post.
Who's reading the original? Why don't the translators agree on who is closing their eyes, who is rolling the bread crumbs on their fingers?
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