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Madame Bovary Hardcover – Deckle Edge, September 23, 2010
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"[Flaubert's] masterwork has been given the English translation it deserves."
-Kathryn Harrison, The New York Times Book Review
"[A] brilliant new translation."
-Lee Siegel, The New York Observer
"[Davis] has a finer ear for the natural cadences of English, in narrative and dialogue, than any of her predecessors, and there are many moments in her Madame Bovary when one pauses to admire how clean and spare a sentence seems by comparison with its earlier translated versions. . . . Only a very good writer indeed could have written it. . . . The bones of the original French show clearly through her English, and the rawness of her translation is, on the whole, invigorating."
-Jonathan Raban, The New York Review of Books
"How tickled Madame Bovary herself would be by the latest homage paid to her. . . . 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."
"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. . . . Davis's Madame Bovary is a linguistically careful version, in the modern style, rendered into an unobtrusively American English."
-Julian Barnes, London Review of Books
"Davis captures with precision the sensitivity of the novel's language. . . . [Her] version . . . ultimately demonstrates her own empathy with Emma."
-The New Republic
"At last, the real Madame Bovary . . . The publication of the Davis version is an event. . . . Davis has come closer than any previous translator to capturing Flaubert's style and content accurately for English-language readers. . . . Her version benefits from her finesse as a writer and seems fresh and different compared to other translations."
-The American Spectator
"Davis has produced a very fine [translation that] displays a cool detachment not at all dissimilar to Flaubert's own."
-The New Criterion
"Davis [is] operating in top form in her new translation of Madame Bovary. . . . I was struck delirious by the force of Flaubert's writing, and the precision (the perfection) of Davis's translation."
-Macy Halford, The New Yorker's Book Bench
"Davis's edition should bring a new generation to Flaubert's classic of bourgeois ennui and adultery."
"A new translation that spans the ages [and] hews as close to the original as may be possible. . . . Davis's translation strives for-and largely achieves-the flavor of Flaubert's realism. . . . It provides such an unfussy, straightforward narrative that it underscores how truly modern a writer Flaubert was."
"Davis has forged a masterpiece out of a masterpiece. . . . This Madame Bovary is a veritable page-turner. . . . In French, the story leapt out at me like a hallucinatory Technicolor poem; in the lapidary English of Lydia Davis, I receive the same frisson of recognition-that the novel still lives. . . . Thanks to Lydia Davis, the book remains: a great, companionlike, eternal gilded mirror of Flaubert's world."
-Neil Baldwin, The Faster Times
"Davis . . . does a brilliant job of capturing Flaubert's diamond-hard style. . . . Davis's English prose has precisely the qualities she notes that Flaubert was striving for in French; it is 'clear and direct, economical and precise.' This translation reminds you what an aggressively modern writer Flaubert is."
"[Davis] is one of the most innovative prose stylists of our time, and thus an excellent match for Flaubert's masterpiece. Flaubert's sentences are certainly sonorous in French, and the sentences in this translation reveal a similar attention to sound. . . . We are in debt to Flaubert for his influence on much of the writing we have today; the extent of our debt has never been so clear."
Acclaim for Lydia Davis and her translation of Swann's Way
"[Her] capacity to make language unleash entire states of existence reveals the extent to which Davis's fiction is influenced by her work as a translator."
-The New York Times
"Few writers now working make the words on the page matter more."
"Davis is the best prose stylist in America."
"Swann's Way is transformed into something even more enchanting in Lydia Davis's new translation."
"Davis is closer, much closer, to Proust's French. . . . [Her] Swann's Way is one of those translations . . . that put the question of languages out of your mind, and leave you only with questions of language."
-The Village Voice
"Accessible and faithful to Proust. Davis replicates the hesitations and digressions, the backward looks and forward glances that swell Proust's sentences and send them cascading to their conclusion-without sacrificing the natural air of his style."
-Los Angeles Times Book Review
"Davis is an extraordinary technician of language, capable of revealing elusive human tendencies through the most unusual means."
"[Davis] commands language and imagery, playing the reader like a master."
-Los Angeles Times
"The subtleties of the French language, in spite of their difficulty, hold no secrets from you. . . . No literary genre deters you. You helped to make known to the English-speaking public some of the finest French literature of the century. . . . You have found a way not only to put your many talents at the service of the French language and culture, but also to place your stamp on the literary legacy of our times."
-French Insignia of the Order of Arts and Letters citation
About the Author
Gustave Flaubert (1821-1880) was born in Rouen, France, and was brought to popular attention when Madame Bovary was deemed immoral by the French government.
Lydia Davis (translator) is a MacArthur Fellow, National Book Award finalist, and Chevalier of the Order of Arts and Letters and was awarded the 2003 French-American Foundation Translation Prize for her translation of Marcel Proust's Swann's Way. She lives near Albany, New York.
Top customer reviews
It's like I read two different books. Davis's translation is everything this perfect novel could hope to be in a different language. Flaubert was a master of description, tone, mis-en-scene, and showing rather than telling, and having the story's true meanings hidden enigmatically below the surface. Davis grasped this perfectly; you could tell every page it carefully modulated with respect to the original. I look forward to improving in my French to make a more well-informed comparison someday with the original. Emma's boredom with the world- and what she and her tedious neighbors say about human nature- is fascinating to read, to ponder, to compare with your own views. The book's classic scenes- Emma and Rodolphe meeting in the garden, Emma- and Leon's carriage racing through town- are as exciting as they have ever been.
Madame Bovary is one of the very best novels ever written, and this stunning reincarnation is reason enough for even the most casual of readers to experience this masterwork. It really cannot be praised enough. Hopefully this will be the definitive translation.
I thought this translation loses a little much of the period details for my taste but Marx-Aveling translation helps with that. Also helps that have a copy of the dictionaire by l'academie de francais on my kindle also as goes into great detail on everything (dictionaire from the mid 1800s when the book was written approximately anyhow I guess sure helps - instance defines every little cart that shows up at the wedding in great detail. Love it!!! (the dictionaire that is).
The main thing this book has really helped me with is where Marx-Aveling misses some places in her translation..
Flaubert may have intended this to be read as darkly comic as he satirizes most of the characters and scenes. With humorous juxtaposition, he has intensely sentimental or dramatic scenes interrupted by more prosaic. For example, in one scene, Emma and her current amour are protesting their undying love for each other while talk of agriculture and manure is wafting through the open window.
The translator, Lydia Davis, created beautiful imagery out of Flaubert's words. In one description, the traipsing of townspeople on a road is compared to a vivid and colorful long scarf unfolding. Flaubert is the master of what a writing instructor would describe as the "telling detail" - those details which distinguish a scene or character and the translator captured these. The book seemed much more contemporary (not modern) with this translation as if we were transported to the 1800's and watching the action unfold in present time.
Flaubert is revered by authors for this novel. Although the plot is depressing, I found the book inspiring as a work of literature and believe any writer would benefit from examining Flaubert's craft as a writer.