Read Госпожа Бовари, Саламбо [Gospozha Bovari, Salammbô] by Gustave Flaubert Free Online
Book Title: Госпожа Бовари, Саламбо [Gospozha Bovari, Salammbô]|
The author of the book: Gustave Flaubert
Date of issue: 1999
ISBN 13: 9785040023660
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 25.65 MB
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Reader ratings: 6.7
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I'd not intended to read Salammbô, Flaubert's close-to-unknown second novel, but I was at the end of Madame Bovary and saw a yellowing 1922 edition in the 1 Franc pile at the Geneva flea market's book stall. How could I resist? It's a strange book, and at first I had trouble getting into it. I'd expected it to be like Madame Bovary, and it really isn't. Instead of the tedium of French provincial life and the brilliant character development, we have a wide-screen historical epic set around Carthage, shortly after the end of the first Punic War. There is no character development to speak of, and the story is a non-stop thrill ride featuring, among other things, mass gladiatorial combat, cannibalism, parades of crucified lions, war-elephants with scythes strapped to their trunks, and magic rites involving nude women and pythons. For the first few chapters I wondered if Flaubert had gone mad, or was at best having a really serious off-day.
As I got further into Salammbô, though, I began to like it more, and by the time I was half-way through I couldn't put it down. You have to hand it to Flaubert. With Madame Bovary, he created the modern psychological novel; most authors would have been content to do it again for the rest of their careers. Flaubert thought he'd try something different, and created another, less respectable type of book, the decline-and-fall blockbuster. Since then, it's been copied innumerable times, and is particularly popular in the SF/fantasy genre: Salammbô reminded me rather strongly of Foundation, Dune, Conan the Barbarian and Star Wars, to name just a few. I immediately recognised the decadent, overcivilized Empire, the uncouth but virile barbarians, the sexy virgin priestess, the twisty, double-crossing intrigues and the graphic battle scenes. They've become standard ingredients that any author can take down from the shelf and stir into a plot that needs a little livening-up. But the 20th century imitations I'd come across had mostly been written by hacks; it was weird to see it all presented in Flaubert's beautiful, ornate French.
It's a remarkably modern story. Carthage is playing host to a large army of mercenaries, who are waiting to be paid for their services in the recently concluded war; the greedy council are reluctant to part with their gold; negotiations turn sour; soon the merceneries have started an insurgency that lays the country waste. As the war becomes more and more savage, the polytheistic Carthaginians lose faith in the benevolent Tanit, goddess of the Moon and fertility, and come under the sway of the dreadful Moloch, god of fire and destruction. The scene where the children are sacrificed in the belly of the bronze Moloch-idol is the most horrifying thing I have read this year.
If the novel had came out today, I would have believed I saw references to current events. We are turning away from Tanit, and towards Moloch. It'd make a good movie: I can already see the poster, with Gerard Butler as Mâtho, the hunky leader of the Mercenaries, Emmy Rossum as Salammbô, the beautiful priestess of the Temple of Tanit, and Sean Penn as General Hamilcar, her father. If you happen to be in the movie business and you're looking for ideas, consider asking a hungry young screenwriter to put together a draft script.
Oh yes, and here's the oddest thing: I looked it up on Wikipedia, and pretty much the whole story is true. That really made me think.
Ah... I was saying it was surprisingly modern, and would make a great movie. Having done a little googling, I've discovered that there is indeed a bad and completely forgotten 1960 movie. More interestingly, there's a video game! Here's a picture of the title character:
I don't think they've taken the costume directly from the book (at least, I don't recall her wearing this precise outfit), but it's true to the spirit of the thing. Salammbô is a hot chick and dresses to display her assets to best advantage.
I'm still stunned by the idea that one of Flaubert's novels exists in game form. What other classics have been given this treatment?
After some more googling, I find that there's a moderately famous painting by Gaston Bussière featuring the aforementioned scene with the magic rites and the python. Given this site's strict no-nudity policy, I'd better not include the picture itself. But you can see most of it on the cover of the edition I'm reviewing here.
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Read information about the authorGustave Flaubert (December 12, 1821 – May 8, 1880) is counted among the greatest Western novelists. He was born in Rouen, Seine-Maritime, in the Haute-Normandie Region of France.
Flaubert's curious modes of composition favored and were emphasized by these peculiarities. He worked in sullen solitude, sometimes occupying a week in the completion of one page, never satisfied with what he had composed, violently tormenting his brain for the best turn of a phrase, the most absolutely final adjective. It cannot be said that his incessant labors were not rewarded. His private letters show that he was not one of those to whom easy and correct language is naturally given; he gained his extraordinary perfection with the unceasing sweat of his brow. One of the most severe of academic critics admits that in all his works, and in every page of his works, Flaubert may be considered a model of style.
That he was one of the greatest writers who ever lived in France is now commonly admitted, and his greatness principally depends upon the extraordinary vigour and exactitude of his style. Less perhaps than any other writer, not of France, but of modern Europe, Flaubert yields admission to the inexact, the abstract, the vaguely inapt expression which is the bane of ordinary methods of composition. He never allowed a cliché to pass him, never indulgently or wearily went on, leaving behind him a phrase which almost expressed his meaning. Being, as he is, a mixture in almost equal parts of the romanticist and the realist, the marvellous propriety of his style has been helpful to later writers of both schools, of every school. The absolute exactitude with which he adapts his expression to his purpose is seen in all parts of his work, but particularly in the portraits he draws of the figures in his principal romances. The degree and manner in which, since his death, the fame of Flaubert has extended, form an interesting chapter of literary history.
The publication of Madame Bovary in 1857 had been followed by more scandal than admiration; it was not understood at first that this novel was the beginning of something new, the scrupulously truthful portraiture of life. Gradually this aspect of his genius was accepted, and began to crowd out all others. At the time of his death he was famous as a realist, pure and simple. Under this aspect Flaubert exercised an extraordinary influence over Émile de Goncourt, Alphonse Daudet and Zola. But even after the decline of the realistic school Flaubert did not lose prestige; other facets of his genius caught the light. It has been perceived that he was not merely realistic, but real; that his clairvoyance was almost boundless; that he saw certain phenomena more clearly than the best of observers had done. Flaubert is a writer who must always appeal more to other authors than to the world at large, because the art of writing, the indefatigable pursuit of perfect expression, were always before him, and because he hated the lax felicities of improvisation as a disloyalty to the most sacred procedures of the literary artist.
He can be said to have made cynicism into an art-form, as evinced by this observation from 1846:
To be stupid, and selfish, and to have good health are the three requirements for happiness; though if stupidity is lacking, the others are useless.
His Oeuvres Complètes (8 vols., 1885) were printed from the original manuscripts, and included, besides the works mentioned already, the two plays, Le Candidat and Le Château des avurs. Another edition (10 vols.) appeared in 1873–1885. Flaubert's correspondence with George Sand was published in 1884 with an introduction by Guy de Maupassant.
He has been admired or written about by almost every major literary personality of the 20th century, including philosophers such as Pierre Bourdieu. Georges Perec named Sentimental Education as one of his favou
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