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Madame Bovary: (Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition) Paperback – Deckle Edge, October 4, 2011
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Winner of the French-American Foundation Translation Prize
One of New York magazine’s Ten Best Books of the Year
A Providence Journal Best Book of the Year
One of National Public Radio’s Favorite Books of the Year
“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
About the Author
Lydia Davis (translator) is a MacArthur Fellow, National Book Award finalist, and Officier of the Order of Arts and Letters and was awarded the 2011 French-American Foundation Translation Prize for her translation of Gustave Flaubert's Madame Bovary and the 2003 French-American Foundation Translation Prize for her translation of Marcel Proust's Swann's Way. She lives near Albany, New York.
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See, Flaubert is perhaps the first solid example of masterful handling of what writers and English professors refer to as Free Indirect Speech. You'll notice that the story opens with an unnamed first person narrator, then, without warning, the story shifts to third person omniscient, having already utterly and completely drawn you into the story. It's brilliant, and even today, Flaubert is the one you'll be encouraged to study if you wish to master writing from this point of view.
I highly recommend this story, for philosophers, for writers, and for those just looking for an interesting tale exploring some important truths.
A beautifully written story of discontent; told objectively, without romanticizing or moralizing. Madame Bovary is a masterpiece of realist fiction.
The author did a remarkable job of making Madame Bovary's frustration almost palpable. The frantic life of lies and desperation that she lived in pursuit of her illusive dream manifested itself in a madness that would not even allow her to love her own daughter.
Flaubert does an engaging job of instilling in the reader a hope that Madame Bovary would not come to a tragic end. But, as the reader expected from the beginning, it was not to be.
Top international reviews
I subsequently bought the Amazon edition (at no cost at all) which is perfectly fine. Here are a couple of the bizarre translations that I've found: 'parents' becomes 'mom and dad' and 'fort' becomes 'fortress'. After one chapter I found the book unreadable and gave up.
Don't bother with this edition.
This is a very clunky, heavy handed translation which uses unnecessarily abstruse words and deftly manages to render some sentences unintelligible.
But far, far more irritating is the Kindle edition which has a huge number of misspellings which make nonsense of the meaning of a phrase e.g. "along" instead of "alone"; "seem" instead of "seen" ... and many many more.
I think it has been done by scanning the original with recognition software -- so there are some errors in the text and the typeface and layout are very basic and look like they were done on a fairly basic word processor.
More importantly, there are no notes and no introduction. I really missed these as I am an Englishman who is still learning to read French. Fortunately my wife had a copy of the book in English to which I could refer. Based on the dozen or so books I have read to date in French, I'd recommend books published by either "Le livre de Poche" or, even better, "Folio Classique".
at the time I wrote the draft for this review the only audio version was as far as I knew, the Whole story audio books unabridged 11 CDs version read by Davina Porter who does a great job, she does not overdo it and while keeping perfect balance in the voice she is not too cold or too impartial or too melancholy which is a great thing. in a few words you have the feeling that she is impartial but not too cold or detached, she reads at the right point
Recently Naxos released their own version of the book (11 CDs) and when I knew the reader was Juliet Stevenson I could not resist buying this version as well. for those who do not know Juliet Stevenson she is excellence and to me her voice has also an evocative power that transports me there especially if listened to at night in complete silence ... magic
This CD version, read by Juliet Stevenson is a real delight to hear. The narrator has a fine range of voices that takes the listener into provincial France and the world of one of literature's most famous adulteresses, Emma Bovary. Even as the novel opens, we feel the atmosphere of the classroom, as Stevenson effortlessly describes the clumsy 'new fellow', Charles Bovary in his first day of school.
Any fans of Madame Bovary, or novels like that, will find that this audio book is essential to their collection.
This is borne out in the hypocrisy which permeates the novel, positively rising from the page, as Flaubert consummately undermines the faux-sincerity of middle-class provincial life; in a society where appearances are almost everything. Without wishing to go too deeply into the storyline, there are also intriguing themes arranged around Madame Bovary herself which conflict with eachother constantly; conformity / personal fulfilment, marriage / sexuality representing a small example. The novel successfully portrays a very realistic human character, a woman in possession of raging passions we may feel a range of emotions towards as the novel progresses. When asked of his inspiration for this unforgettable character, Flaubert replied "Madame Bovary, c'est moi". Apart from sounding far more enigmatic in French, this remark reveals something of the author's personal 'complexities', which are also touched upon in the well-written introduction to the novel.
I highly recommend this book. It does not require an iron will to stick with it until it becomes interesting; rather, it coaxes you in to the story, into Yonville itself, until you find yourself chuckling with recognition at some small observation Flaubert sardonically throws out about one of the many inhabitants. I enjoyed reading this book for many different reasons - the delicious irony, the beautiful (and at times haunting) imagery and, of course, simply for the engaging story of a restless butterfly -(edit - plot spoiler!)... I'm sure you will find your own reasons to love this novel too.