Gustave Flaubert, the French novelist who wrote what many consider to be the first modern novel, won a prize for his essay on mushrooms when he was fifteen. Twenty-two years later he published Madame Bovary: Moeurs de Province (trans: provincial mores), which was immediately prosecuted by the French government as an immoral work. His narrow acquittal of the charge was a lamp in the corner clicking on an era of literary candor that seems foreign in the present day, where, having grown accustomed to the merely salacious, our immorality greatly takes the form of indifference. Of course, no one ever gets charged.
Anyway, opening MB at random, here’s a bit from Part Two, from a translation with a note a the fronts which reads: This edition reprints the translation of Madame Bovary by Eleanor Marx Aveling (1855-1898), daughter of Karl Marx, whose tragic life bears some ironic parallels to that of Flaubert’s heroine. << Go figure.
The druggist was beginning to cut the wax when Madame Homais appeared, Irma in her arms, Napolen by her side, and Athalie following. She sat down in the velvet seat by the window, and the lad squatted down on a footstool, while his eldest sister hovered round the jujube box near her papa. The latter was filling funnels and corking phials, sticking on labels, making up parcels. Around him all were silent; only from time to time were heard the weights jingling in the balance, and a few low words from the chemist giving directions to his pupil.
“And how’s the little woman?” asked Madame Homais.
“Silence!” exclaimed her husband, who was writing down some figures in his waste-book.
“Why didn’t you bring her?” she went on in a low voice.
“Hush! Hush!” said Emma, pointing with her finger to the druggist.
But Binet, quite absorbed in looking over his bill, had probably heard nothing. At last he went out. Then Emma, relieved, uttered a deep sigh.
“How hard you are breathing!” said Madame Homais.
“Well, you see, it’s rather warm,” she replied.
So the next day they talked over how to arrange their rendezvous. Emma wanted to briber her servant with a present, but it would be better to find some safe house at Yonville. Rodolphe promised to look for one.
All through the winter, three or four times a week, in the dead of night he came to the garden. Emma had on purpose taken away the key of the gate, which Charles thought lost.
To call her, Rodolphe threw a sprinkle of sand at the shutters. She jumped up with a start; but sometime had to wait, for Charles had a mania for chatting by the fireside, and he would not stop. She was wild with impatience; if her eyes had done it, she would have hurled him out of the window. At last she would begin to undress, then take up a book, and go on reading very quietly as if the book amused her. But Charles, who was in bed, called to her to come too.
“Come, now, Emma,” he said, “it is time.”
“Yes, I am coming,” she answered.
Then, as the candles dazzled him, he turned to the wall and fell asleep. She escaped, smiling, palpitating, undressed.
Check it. Out.