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Madame Bovary (Penguin Classics) Paperback – December 31, 2002


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; Revised edition (December 31, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140449124
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140449129
  • Product Dimensions: 7.8 x 0.9 x 5.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (296 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #51,817 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

“Lydia Davis’s Madame Bovary translation=perfect. She somehow pulls off a respectful translation with the readability of a contemporary novel.” —@lenadunham
 
"[Flaubert's] masterwork has been given the English translation it deserves." —Kathryn Harrison, The New York Times Book Review

"Invigorating . . . [Davis] has a finer ear for the natural cadences of English, in narrative and dialogue, than any of her predecessors." —Jonathan Raban, The New York Review of Books

"Dazzling . . . translated to perfect pitch . . . [Davis has] left us the richer with this translation. . . . I'd certainly say it is necessary to have hers." —Jacki Lyden, NPR.org, Favorite Books of the Year

"One of the most important books of the year . . . Flaubert's strict, elegant, rhythmic sentences come alive in Davis's English." —James Wood, The New Yorker's Book Bench

"I liked having a chance to find more nuances in Madame Bovary in the new Lydia Davis translation and read it blissfully as though floating, as Flaubert puts it in a different context, 'in a river of milk.'" —Paul Theroux, The Guardian (London), Books of the Year

"Madame Bovary reads like it was written yesterday. . . . Emma, with her visions of a grander life and resplendent passions, is me . . . and you, too, no doubt. . . . If you haven't happened to read Madame Bovary until now, I suggest you curl up with this edition . . . and allow yourself to get lost in another time and place that yet bears a curious resemblance to our own." —Daphne Merkin, Elle

"Davis is the best fiction writer ever to translate the novel. . . . [Her] work shares the Flaubertian virtues of compression, irony and an extreme sense of control." —Julian Barnes, London Review of Books

"A brilliant new translation." —Lee Siegel, The New York Observer

"I'm grateful to Davis for luring me back to Madame Bovary and for giving us a version which strikes me as elegant and alive." —Maureen Corrigan, NPR's Fresh Air

"Flaubert's obsessive masterpiece finally gets the obsessive translation it deserves." New York magazine
--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

Language Notes

Text: English (translation)
Original Language: French --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

More About the Author

Gustave Flaubert (1821-1880), the younger son of a provincial doctor, briefly studied law before devoting himself to writing, with limited success during his lifetime. After the publication of Madame Bovary in 1857, he was prosecuted for offending public morals.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

123 of 126 people found the following review helpful By Lawrance M. Bernabo HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on April 8, 2001
Format: Paperback
When I was teaching World Literature we began class each year reading Gustave Flaubert's "Madame Bovary." Unfortunately, this is the one novel that most needs to be read in its original language since Flaubert constructed each sentence of his book with the precision of a poet. As an example of the inherent problems of translation I would prepare a handout with four different versions of the opening paragraphs of "Madame Bovary." Each year my students would come to the same conclusion that I had already reached in selecting which version of the book they were to read: Lowell Bair's translation is the best of the lot. It is eminently readable, flowing much better than most of its competitors. Consequently, if you are reading "Madame Bovary" for pleasure or class, this is the translation you want to track down.
Flaubert's controversial novel is the first of the great "fallen women" novels that were written during the Realism period ("Anna Karenina" and "The Awakening" being two other classic examples). It is hard to appreciate that this was one of the first novels to offer an unadorned, unromantic portrayal of everyday life and people. For some people it is difficult to enjoy a novel in which they find the "heroine" to be such an unsympathetic figure; certainly the events in Emma Bovary's life have been done to death in soap operas. Still, along with Scarlett O'Hara, you have to consider Emma Bovary one of the archetypal female characters created in the last 200 years of literature. "Madame Bovary" is one of the greatest and most important novels, right up there with "Don Quixote" and "Ulysses." I just wish I was able to read in it French.
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107 of 112 people found the following review helpful By Bruce Kendall VINE VOICE on August 17, 2000
Format: Paperback
Making a statement like Madame Bovary is the "greatest" novel ever written would be superfluous. It could be argued that it is the most perfectly written novel in the history of letters and that in creating it, Flaubert mastered the genre. What can't be argued is that it is one of the most influential novels ever written. It changed the face of literature as no other novel has, and has been appreciated and acknowledged by virtually every important novelist who was either Flaubert's contemporary or who came after him.
It's interesting to see the range in opinion that still surrounds this novel. Some of the Readers here at Amazon are morally affronted by the novel's central character, viewing her as something sinister and "unlikeable," and panning the novel for this reason. Such a reaction recalls the negative reviews Bovary engendered soon after its initial publication. It was attacked by many of the authorities of French literature at the time for being ugly and perverse, and for the impression that the novel presented no properly moral frame. These readers didn't "like" Emma much either, and they took their dislike out on her creator.
But this is one of the factors making Madame Bovary "modern". One of the hallmarks of modern novels is that they often portray unsympathetic characters, and Emma certainly falls into this category. How can we as readers "like" a woman who elbows her toddler daughter away from her so forcefully that the child "fell against the chest of drawers, and cut her cheek on the brass curtain-holder." After this pernicious behavior, Emma has a few brief moments of self-castigation and maybe even remorse, but very soon is struck by "what an ugly child" Berthe is.
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65 of 70 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 12, 2000
Format: Paperback
In this masterpiece of French literature, Gustave Flaubert tells the tale of Emma Bovary, née Roualt, an incurably romantic woman who finds herself trapped in an unsatisfactory marriage in a prosaic bourgeois French village, Yonville-l'Abbaye.
Her attempts to escape the tedium of her life through a series of adulterous affairs are thwarted by the reality that the men she chooses to love are shallow and self-centered and thus are unable to love anyone but themselves.
In love with a love that can never be and dreadfully overstretched financially, Emma finds herself caught in a downward spiral that can only end in tragedy.
Part of the difficulty, and the pleasure, of reading Madame Bovary comes from the fact the Flaubert refuses to embed his narrative with a moral matrix; he refuses, at least explicitly, to tell the reader, what, if any, moral lesson he should draw from the text.
It is this lack of moral viewpoint that made Madame Bovary shocking to Flaubert's contemporaries, so much so that Flaubert found himself taken to court for the novel's offenses to public and religious decency. Although today's readers will find no such apparent scandals in the book, they will still be challenged to make sense of both Emma and her story.
It is quite common to see Emma Bovary as silly, extravagant and much too romantically inclined. An avid consumer of romantic literature (a habit into which the heroine was indoctrinated in her convent school upbringing), Emma has made the morbid mistake of buying into the notion of romantic love in its fullest sense, and the mortal mistake of believing she can reach its fulfillment in her own life.
As such, Emma Bovary becomes a tragic figure of almost mythic proportion.
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