A man who despises a given societal reality but makes not the least attempt to transcend it

From Jean Amery’s Charles Bovary, Country Doctor (pg 61 of the NYRB edition):

To the danger of “good” sentiments – of melioristic conventionality, as found in bourgeois authors a la Romain Rolland and proletarian ones of the Martin Andersen Nexo or Maxim Gorky stamp – Flaubert refuses to be subject, for the simple reason that he does not have them.  He detests mankind, if not individuals exactly, for he is a tender and obedient son, a faithful friend, and a loyal citizen, though this last quality makes him suspect from the perspective of humanity.  His hatred of his class, of which, in his private life, he represents an ideal specimen, may be the simple projection of self-hatred.  His obsequiousness before “art,” before “style,” embodies the existential situation of a man who despises a given societal reality but makes not the least attempt to transcend it or even to recognize the positive elements it contains.  The reality of Gustave Flaubert is language, his language, and if, as Bovaqry’s master, he becomes the greatest realist writer of the century, he does so in opposition to his own aesthetic theories, in contradiction to his notion of his own artistic gestalt.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s