Flaubert's Parrot

Flaubert's Parrot

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Which of two stuffed parrots was the inspiration for one of Flaubert's greatest stories? Why did the master keep changing the colour of Emma Bovary's eyes? And why should it matter so much to Geoffrey Braithwaite, a retired doctor haunted by a private secret? In "Flaubert's Parrot", Julian Barnes spins out a multiple mystery of obsession and betrayal (both scholarly and romantic) and creates an exuberant enquiry into the ways in which art mirrors life and then turns around to shape it. "A gem: an unashamed literary novel that is also unashamed to be readable, and broadly entertaining. Bravo!" - John Irving. "Endless food for thought, beautifully written ...A tour de force" - Germaine Greer. "Delightful and enriching ...A book to read" - Joseph Heller. "A dazzling achievement ...remarkably inventive as well as audacious" - Walter Abish. "A delight ...Handsomely the best novel published in England in 1984" - John Fowles.show more

Product details

  • Paperback | 192 pages
  • 130 x 194 x 16mm | 181.44g
  • Pan MacMillan
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • New edition
  • 0330289764
  • 9780330289764
  • 376,496

Review Text

Sly, quite witty, and very smart: an elegant meditation on the precincts of Art and Life, embodied in that great polar-bear of these two antipodes - Flaubert. English critic and novelist Barnes (Metroland) gives over the narration of this playful but quite serious literary investigation to a fictional retired doctor, Geoffrey Braithwait, an amateur Flaubert scholar whose wife (sporadically unfaithful to him in the past) has recently committed suicide. (This murmurous subtext flickers like a compass point beneath all the discussion of Flaubert's bachelorhood and misanthropy.) Braithwait is a dazzling, easy-going, discriminating guide - whether tracking down the stuffed parrot Flaubert kept on his desk or giving poor maligned Louise Colet (F.'s mistress) a rebuttal opportunity, whether discussing friends. . . or the place of trains in Flaubert's life. As criticism of criticism, too, the novel is deliciously sane and supple, especially when skewering critics from Sartre to Enid Starkie - who complained that the color of Emma Bovary's eyes changes on different pages of the novel. ("Eyes of brown, eyes of blue. Does it matter? Not, does it matter if the writer contradicts himself; but does it matter what colour they are anyway? I feel sorry for novelists when they have to mention women's eyes: there's so little choice, and whatever colouring is decided on inevitably carries banal implications. Her eyes are blue: innocence and honesty. Her eyes are black: passion and depth. Her eyes are green: wildness and jealousy. Her eyes are brown: reliability and common sense. Her eyes are violet: the novel is by Raymond Chandler.") And Braithwait's tangential dictates against fashion in fiction will delight anyone who knows the territory: "A quota system is to be introduced on fiction set in South America. The intention is to curb the spread of package-tour baroque and heavy irony. Ah, the propinquity of cheap life and expensive principles, of religion and banditry, of surprising honor and random cruelty." Indeed, Braithwait/Barnes is continuously entertaining and telling - as he acidly dismisses some of the many stupid "accepted ideas" about Flaubert, as he drily satirizes literary obtuseness in its assorted flavors. So - for connoisseurs of Flaubert or of fiction generally: an economical, balanced, gliding defense of the artist and his art - cast in an oddly undefinable form that's very special but never precious. (Kirkus Reviews)show more

About Julian Barnes

Julian Barnes has published nine novels, Metroland, Before She Met Me , Flaubert's Parrot, Staring at the Sun, A History of the World in 10 Chapters, Talking It Over, The Porcupine, England, England and Love, etc; two books of short stories, Cross Channel and The Lemon Table; and also two collections of essays, Letters from London and Something to Declare. His work has been translated into more than thirty languages. In France he is the only writer to have won both the Prix Medicis (for Flaubert's Parrot ) and the Prix Femina (for Talking It Over). In 1993 he was awarded the Shakespeare Prize by the FVS Foundation of Hamburg. He lives in London.show more