Thursday, February 6, 2014

Flaubert's Parrot by Juilian Barnes

Its has been a week of quiet introspection so far. The Icy weather in Philly has cast a spell on me. The roads are wet with speckles of ice dropping from high rise buildings , creating small little puddles that will quickly freeze again as temperatures drop in the night. As i look out of my window, I see couple of homeless people standing near the lamp post with tattered clothes , vacant eyes and shivering hands holding out a placard pleading for help. There is a resolute stoicism about their bearing. Pedestrians pass by , blissfully unmindful of their presence, caught up in their own world and hurrying towards a destination. Down the road, babbled voices emerge out of a pub that has glittering neon signs reflecting its jarring colors on the wet concrete outside. There is obviously a party going on there. The garrulous voices of inebriation is a testimony to it..

I started reading Julian Barnes "Flaubert s parrot" on Sunday in Atlanta airport; and in three straight days I find that I have reached the end of this magnificent work. It is not what one could call a conventional novel; or even a piece of literary fiction. This is a book that cannot be defined or categorized into any genre. Part biography;part autobiography, part fiction : interspersed with nuggets of social life in eighteenth century France and England, revolving around Gustave Flaubert uncompromising and philandering genius - this book opens up a whole new world of writing. Flaubert's "Madam Bovary" stirred a morally upright generation, when it was published in 1856. Th idea of adultery, infidelity was an anathema until Flaubert broke the barriers with his characterization of Madame Bovary . The novel form never remained the same after that. The world wanted to know the truth about Flaubert ,and consequently stories, ,myths, rumors were interminably woven to disgrace and ostracize him. Julian Barnes questions these half truths, and in "Flaubert s parrot" tries to bring home the point that the novel need not necessarily reflect an author's life. One should not be worried about the truth behind a work of fiction. It is enough, if the work is enjoyed and passed on; that is the true value of art. To know that Michelangelo painted the Sistine chapel is sufficient ; and it is not necessary to question his religious convictions or beliefs to arrive at an appreciation of it. Likewise,Literary criticism is good if it can curtail itself to analyzing the contents of the work, but the moment it steps into the dubious territory of ascertaining the true intentions of the author, or prying into motives that are based on hearsay - the line is crossed and an great disfavor is done to the artist, for whom the work may after all only be a consummation of his creative imagination, and nothing else.

Barn's book is for lovers of literature as an art form. I would not recommend this for casual reading. If you so attempt it, you may not get beyond the first few pages. The sheer joy of words, the underlying sarcasm and a riveting narrative makes "Flaubert's Parrot" a book that can forever change ones perspective on fiction.

I fly to Seattle tomorrow morning. Its going to be a long flight. Until then....

God bless.......

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