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Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Horrible, cruel and naked truth- 2 passages by Flaubert

Flaubert once said "If ever I play an active part in the world, it will be as a thinker and a demoralizer. I shall simply tell the truth, but it will be horrible, cruel and naked." (http://classiclit.about.com/od/flaubertgustave/fr/aatp_flaubert.htm)
Look at these 2 passages from Sentimental Education (trans. Robert Baldick): 
"... Then, catching sight of a volume of Hugo and another of Lamartine in the bookcase, [Hussonnet] launched out on to a sarcastic attack on the Romantic school. Those poets lacked both common sense and grammar, and above all they were not French. He prided himself on knowing his language and criticized the finest phrases with that cantankerous severity, that pedantic taste which characterizes frivolous-minded people when they come face to face with serious art..."

"... Pellerin used to read every book on aesthetics he could lay his hands on, in the hope of discovering the true theory of Beauty, for he was convinced that once he had found it he would be able to paint masterpieces. He surrounded himself with every conceivable accessory- drawings, plaster casts, models, engravings- and hunted around fretfully, blaming the weather, his nerves or his studio, going out into the street to seek inspiration, thrilling with joy when he had found it, but then abandoning the work he had begun, to dream of another which would be even finer. Tortured by a longing of fame, wasting his days in argument, believing in countless ridiculous ideas, in systems, in criticisms, in the importance of the codification or reform of art, he had reached the age of 50 without producing anything but sketches. His robust pride prevented him from feeling any discouragement, but he was always irritable, and in that state of excitement, at once natural and artificial, which is characteristic of actors. 
[...] 
His hatred of the vulgar and the mediocre found expression in sarcastic outburst of superb lyricism, and he held the old masters in such veneration that it almost raised him to their level..."

Startled. 

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