Why I Read Flaubert (And Why You Should To)

In a lot of ways I'm like Gustav Flaubert, and in a lot of ways I'm not. I'm certainly not saying I've achieved the mastery over my craft the way he did, but there are similarities (and differences) between us despite that fact. As far as what we have in common, I employ an ascetic lifestyle similar to his - living day to day with my parents, as he lived with his mother, spending most hours of the day working on my writing. But while would labor for "the perfect word", I personally couldn't care less about perfection, and instead am more interested in "accurate moments" - style has never really interested me as much as character and story have, and while some people say these are all inseparable, I'm not so sure about that. 

As far as style, I've always considered that the least important aspect of writing, especially in the long term, as works are translated and re-communicated in different mediums. I think of a story like Gilgamesh now, as ancient as any example, and how it has been passed down from stone tablet, to Greek, to Latin, to French, to English, and so on. The nuances of the original writer's language may no longer be there - but the story IS.  

I'm not saying style is not important, and not enjoyable, and not beautiful. I'm just saying I don't give a shit about it. 

Still, I am obsessed with how Flaubert writes. Even translated, his prose is SO efficient and perfect. It's like they say of how Kubrick filmed his scenes the best way they could be filmed - Flaubert writes his scenes as perfectly as they could ever possibly be written.  As far as my scenes - I guess they could be written better, but as long as I feel I have communicated what I wanted to communicate, even if only vaguely - I'm happy. 

The other thing about Flaubert is his notable cynicism and dour outlook on mankind. His work is very pessimistic, and I think there's not much to argue against that. HOWEVER, when I read and think about Madame Bovary, I can't help but think that despite his posturing and disguises, Flaubert has compassion for her. I have compassion for her as well, and so do many readers.  


Finally, I think we are all indebted to Flaubert, even if we don't read him ourselves, with his contribution, and pretty much, his invention of modernism. One might not read Flaubert, but doubtlessly, we all read writers who have.