Bovary Quotes

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Human speech is like a cracked kettle on which we tap crude rhythms for bears to dance to, while we long to make music that will melt the stars.
Gustave Flaubert (Madame Bovary)
She wanted to die, but she also wanted to live in Paris.
Gustave Flaubert (Madame Bovary)
Never touch your idols: the gilding will stick to your fingers." (Il ne faut pas toucher aux idoles: la dorure en reste aux mains.)
Gustave Flaubert (Madame Bovary)
An infinity of passion can be contained in one minute, like a crowd in a small space.
Gustave Flaubert (Madame Bovary)
Love, she thought, must come suddenly, with great outbursts and lightnings,--a hurricane of the skies, which falls upon life, revolutionises it, roots up the will like a leaf, and sweeps the whole heart into the abyss.
Gustave Flaubert (Madame Bovary)
One's duty is to feel what is great, cherish the beautiful, and to not accept the conventions of society with the ignominy that it imposes upon us.
Gustave Flaubert (Madame Bovary)
What better occupation, really, than to spend the evening at the fireside with a book, with the wind beating on the windows and the lamp burning bright...Haven't you ever happened to come across in a book some vague notion that you've had, some obscure idea that returns from afar and that seems to express completely your most subtle feelings?
Gustave Flaubert (Madame Bovary)
At the bottom of her heart, however, she was waiting for something to happen. Like shipwrecked sailors, she turned despairing eyes upon the solitude of her life, seeking afar off some white sail in the mists of the horizon. She did not know what this chance would be, what wind would bring it her, towards what shore it would drive her, if it would be a shallop or a three-decker, laden with anguish or full of bliss to the portholes. But each morning, as she awoke, she hoped it would come that day; she listened to every sound, sprang up with a start, wondered that it did not come; then at sunset, always more saddened, she longed for the morrow.
Gustave Flaubert (Madame Bovary)
Everything, even herself, was now unbearable to her. She wished that, taking wing like a bird, she could fly somewhere, far away to regions of purity, and there grow young again.
Gustave Flaubert (Madame Bovary)
You forget everything. The hours slip by. You travel in your chair through centuries you seem to see before you, your thoughts are caught up in the story, dallying with the details or following the course of the plot, you enter into characters, so that it seems as if it were your own heart beating beneath their costumes.
Gustave Flaubert (Madame Bovary)
She would have liked not to be alive, or to be always asleep.
Gustave Flaubert (Madame Bovary)
But, in her life, nothing was going to happen. Such was the will of God! The future was a dark corridor, and at the far end the door was bolted.
Gustave Flaubert (Madame Bovary)
She was the amoureuse of all the novels, the heroine of all the plays, the vague “she” of all the poetry books.
Gustave Flaubert (Madame Bovary)
The denigration of those we love always detaches us from them in some degree. Never touch your idols: the gilding will stick to your fingers.
Gustave Flaubert (Madame Bovary)
Haven't you ever happened to come across in a book some vague notion that you've had, some obscure idea that returns from afar and that seems to express completely your most subtle feelings?
Gustave Flaubert (Madame Bovary)
Doesn't it seem to you," asked Madame Bovary, "that the mind moves more freely in the presence of that boundless expanse, that the sight of it elevates the soul and gives rise to thoughts of the infinite and the ideal?
Gustave Flaubert (Madame Bovary)
He had carefully avoided her out of the natural cowardice that characterizes the stronger sex.
Gustave Flaubert (Madame Bovary)
Of all the icy blasts that blow on love, a request for money is the most chilling.
Gustave Flaubert (Madame Bovary)
And she felt as though she had been there, on that bench, for an eternity. For an infinity of passion can be contained in one minute, like a crowd in a small space.
Gustave Flaubert (Madame Bovary)
La parole humaine est comme un chaudron fêlé où nous battons des mélodies à faire danser les ours, quand on voudrait attendrir les étoiles.
Gustave Flaubert (Madame Bovary)
I'm absolutely removed from the world at such times...The hours go by without my knowing it. Sitting there I'm wandering in countries I can see every detail of - I'm playing a role in the story I'm reading. I actually feel I'm the characters - I live and breath with them.
Gustave Flaubert (Madame Bovary)
After the pain of this disappointment her heart once more stood empty, and the succession of identical days began again.
Gustave Flaubert (Madame Bovary)
What baffled him was that there should be all this fuss about something so simple as love.
Gustave Flaubert (Madame Bovary)
Deep down, all the while, she was waiting for something to happen. Like a sailor in distress, she kept casting desperate glances over the solitary waster of her life, seeking some white sail in the distant mists of the horizon. She had no idea by what wind it would reach her, toward what shore it would bear her, or what kind of craft it would be – tiny boat or towering vessel, laden with heartbreaks or filled to the gunwhales with rapture. But every morning when she awoke she hoped that today would be the day; she listened for every sound, gave sudden starts, was surprised when nothing happened; and then, sadder with each succeeding sunset, she longed for tomorrow.
Gustave Flaubert (Madame Bovary)
She loved the sea for its storms alone, cared for vegetation only when it grew here and there among ruins. She had to extract a kind of personal advantage from things and she rejected as useless everything that promised no immediate gratification — for her temperament was more sentimental than artistic, and what she was looking for was emotions, not scenery.
Gustave Flaubert (Madame Bovary)
[T]he truth is that fullness of soul can sometimes overflow in utter vapidity of language, for none of us can ever express the exact measure of his needs or his thoughts or his sorrows; and human speech is like a cracked kettle on which we tap crude rhythms for bears to dance to, while we long to make music that will melt the stars.
Gustave Flaubert (Madame Bovary)
She was not happy--she never had been. Whence came this insufficiency in life--this instantaneous turning to decay of everything on which she leaned? But if there were somewhere a being strong and beautiful, a valiant nature, full at once of exaltation and refinement, a poet's heart in an angel's form, a lyre with sounding chords ringing out elegiac epithalamia to heaven, why, perchance, should she not find him? Ah! How impossible! Besides, nothing was worth the trouble of seeking it; everything was a lie. Every smile hid a yawn of boredom, every joy a curse, all pleasure satiety, and the sweetest kisses left upon your lips only the unattainable desire for a greater delight.
Gustave Flaubert (Madame Bovary)
He was bored now when Emma suddenly began to sob on his breast; and his heart, like the people who can only stand a certain amount of music, became drowsy through indifference to the vibrations of a love whose subtleties he could no longer distinguish.
Gustave Flaubert (Madame Bovary)
She was as sated with him as he was tired of her. Emma had rediscovered in adultery all the banality of marriage.
Gustave Flaubert (Madame Bovary)
For him the universe did not extend beyond the circumference of her petticoat.
Gustave Flaubert (Madame Bovary)
for her, life was as cold as an attic with a window looking to the north, and ennui, like a spider, was silently spinning its shadowy web in every cranny of her heart.
Gustave Flaubert (Madame Bovary)
Unicorns, dragons, witches may be creatures conjured up in dreams, but on the page their needs, joys, anguishes, and redemptions should be just as true as those of Madame Bovary or Martin Chuzzlewit.
Alberto Manguel (Dark Arrows: Great Stories of Revenge)
Before her marriage she had thought that she had love within her grasp; but since the happiness which she had expected this love to bring her hadn’t come, she supposed she must have been mistaken. And Emma tried to imagine just what was meant, in life, by the words “bliss,” “passion,” and “rapture” - words that had seemed so beautiful to her in books.
Gustave Flaubert (Madame Bovary)
I detest common heroes and moderate feelings, the sort that exist in real life
Gustave Flaubert (Madame Bovary)
How oft the warmth of the sun above Makes a pretty young girl dream of love.
Gustave Flaubert (Madame Bovary)
For every bourgeois, in the heat of youth, if only for a day, for a minute, has believed himself capable of immense passions, of heroic enterprises. The most mediocre libertine has dreamed of oriental princesses; every rotary carries about inside him the debris of a poet.
Gustave Flaubert (Madame Bovary)
She did not believe that things could remain the same in different places, and since the portion of her life that lay behind her had been bad, no doubt that which remained to be lived would be better.
Gustave Flaubert (Madame Bovary)
Love, to her, was something hat comes suddenly, like a blinding flash of lightening - a heaven-sent storm hurled into life, uprooting it, sweeping every will before it like a leaf, engulfing all feelings.
Gustave Flaubert (Madame Bovary)
He took it for granted that she was content; and she resented his settled calm, his serene dullness, the very happiness she herself brought him.
Gustave Flaubert (Madame Bovary)
The time to read Madame Bovary is when your romantic hopes and desires have crashed, and you will believe that your future relationships will have disappointing - even devastating - consequences.
John Irving (In One Person)
Language is like a cracked kettle on which we beat out tunes for bears to dance to, while all the time we long to move the stars to pity.
Gustave Flaubert (Madame Bovary)
As for the piano, the faster her fingers flew over it, the more he marveled. She struck the keys with aplomb and ran from one end of the keyboard to the other without a stop.
Gustave Flaubert (Madame Bovary)
Emma was no asleep, she was pretending to be asleep; and, while he was dozing off at her side, she lay awake, dreaming other dreams.
Gustave Flaubert (Madame Bovary)
It was the fault of destiny!
Gustave Flaubert (Madame Bovary)
Not to me," I said. Kafka wrote his first story in one night. Stendhal wrote The Charterhouse of Parma in forty-nine days. Melville wrote Moby- Dick in sixteen months. Flaubert spent five years on Madame Bovary. Musil worked for eighteen years on The Man Without Qualities and died before he could finish. Do we care about any of that now?
Paul Auster (The Brooklyn Follies)
We must not touch our idols; the gilt sticks to our fingers.
Gustave Flaubert
Irony cleans away all those secret stains. Irony is the path that leads safely back to official realities.
Geoffrey Wall (Madame Bovary)
She loved the sea only for its storms, and greenery only when it was scattered among ruins.
Gustave Flaubert
¿Qué mejor cosa que estarse por la noche al amor de la lumbre con un libro, mientras el viento pega en los cristales, y arde la lámpara...?
Gustave Flaubert (Madame Bovary)
Let us not kid ourselves; let us remember that literature is of no use whatever, except in the very special case of somebody's wishing to become, of all things, a Professor of Literature.
Gustave Flaubert (Madame Bovary)
But you have read Madame Bovary?' (I'd never heard of her books.) 'No.
David Mitchell (Black Swan Green)
The smooth folds of her dress concealed a tumultuous heart, and her modest lips told nothing of her torment. She was in love.
Gustave Flaubert (Madame Bovary)
But what was making her unhappy? Where was the extraordinary catastrophe that had wrecked her life?She raised her head and looked around, as though trying to find the cause of her suffering.
Gustave Flaubert (Madame Bovary)
Indeed, for the last three years, he had carefully avoided her, as a result of the natural cowardice so characteristic of the stronger sex...
Gustave Flaubert (Madame Bovary.)
… Her heart remained empty once more, and the procession of days all alike began again. So they were going to follow one another, like this, in line, always identical, innumerable, bringing nothing!
Gustave Flaubert (Madame Bovary)
But vilifying those we love always detaches us from them a little. We should not touch our idols: their gilding will remain on our hands.
Gustave Flaubert (Madame Bovary)
One's duty is to feel what is great, cherish the beautiful, and not accept all the conventions of society with the ignominy that it imposes upon us.
Gustave Flaubert (Madame Bovary)
Perhaps she would have liked to confide all these things to someone. But how tell an undefinable uneasiness, variable as the clouds, unstable as the winds? Words failed her—the opportunity, the courage.
Gustave Flaubert (Madame Bovary)
Every notary carries about inside him the debris of a poet.
Gustave Flaubert (Madame Bovary)
La conversation de Charles était plate comme un trottoir de rue, et les idées de tout le monde y défilaient dans leur costume ordinaire, sans exciter d'émotion, de rire ou de rêverie
Gustave Flaubert (Madame Bovary)
At last she sighed. "But the most wretched thing — is it not? — is to drag out, as I do, a useless existence. If our pains were only of some use to someone, we should find consolation in the thought of the sacrifice.
Gustave Flaubert (Madame Bovary)
In reading, one should notice and fondle details. There is nothing wrong about the moonshine of generalization when it comes after the sunny trifles of the book have been lovingly collected. If one begins with a readymade generalization, one begins at the wrong end and travels away from the book before one has started to understand it. Nothing is more boring or more unfair to the author than starting to read, say, Madame Bovary, with the preconceived notion that it is a denunciation of the bourgeoisie. We should always remember that the work of art is invariably the creation of a new world, so that the first thing we should do is to study that new world as closely as possible, approaching it as something brand new, having no obvious connection with the worlds we already know. When this new world has been closely studied, then and only then let us examine its links with other worlds, other branches of knowledge.
Vladimir Nabokov
Has it ever happened to you," Léon went on, "to come across some vague idea of one's own in a book, some dim image that comes to you from afar, and as the completest expression of your own slightest sentiment?
Gustave Flaubert (Madame Bovary)
Self-confidence depends on environment: one does not speak in the same tone in the drawing room than in the kitchen.
Gustave Flaubert (Madame Bovary)
But she—her life was cold as a garret whose dormer window looks on the north, and ennui, the silent spider, was weaving its web in the darkness in every corner of her heart.
Gustave Flaubert (Madame Bovary)
But her life was as cold as an attic facing north; and boredom, like a silent spider, was weaving its web in the shadows, in every corner of her heart.
Gustave Flaubert (Madame Bovary)
...as if the fullness of the soul did not sometimes overflow in the emptiest metaphors, since no one can ever give the exact measure of his needs, nor of his conceptions, nor of his sorrows; and since human speech is like a cracked tin kettle, on which we hammer out tunes to make bears dance when we long to move the stars.
Gustave Flaubert (Madame Bovary)
The hours go by without my knowing it. Sitting there I'm wandering in countries I can see every detail of--I'm playing a role in the story I'm reading. I actually feel I'm the characters--I live and breathe them.
Gustave Flaubert (Madame Bovary)
Financial demands, of all the rough winds that blow upon our love, (are) quite the coldest and the most biting.
Gustave Flaubert (Madame Bovary)
Speech is a rolling-mill that always thins out the sentiment.
Gustave Flaubert (Madame Bovary)
He leaned against the writing desk and stayed there till nightfall, lost in sorrowful thoughts. After all, she had loved him.
Gustave Flaubert (Madame Bovary)
Beautiful things spoil nothing.
Gustave Flaubert (Madame Bovary)
What could be better than to sit besides the fire with a book and a glowing lamp while the wind beats outside the windows...
Gustave Flaubert (Madame Bovary)
Because lascivious or venal lips had murmured the same words to him, he now had little belief in their sincerity when he heard them from Emma; they should be taken with a grain of salt, he thought, because the most exaggerated speeches usually hid the weakest feelings - as though the fullness of the soul did not sometimes overflow into the emptiest phrases, since no one can ever express the exact measure of his needs, his conceptions, or his sorrows, and human speech is like a cracked pot on which we beat out rhythms for bears to dance to when we are striving to make music that will wring tears from the stars.
Gustave Flaubert (Madame Bovary)
Emma was just like any other mistress; and the charm of novelty, falling down slowly like a dress, exposed only the eternal monotony of passion, always the same forms and the same language.
Gustave Flaubert (Madame Bovary)
Charles went to kiss her shoulder. -Leave me alone! she said, you're creasing my dress.
Gustave Flaubert (Madame Bovary)
Emma repeated to herself, "Good Heavens! Why did I marry?
Gustave Flaubert (Madame Bovary)
76. David Hume – Treatise on Human Nature; Essays Moral and Political; An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding 77. Jean-Jacques Rousseau – On the Origin of Inequality; On the Political Economy; Emile – or, On Education, The Social Contract 78. Laurence Sterne – Tristram Shandy; A Sentimental Journey through France and Italy 79. Adam Smith – The Theory of Moral Sentiments; The Wealth of Nations 80. Immanuel Kant – Critique of Pure Reason; Fundamental Principles of the Metaphysics of Morals; Critique of Practical Reason; The Science of Right; Critique of Judgment; Perpetual Peace 81. Edward Gibbon – The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire; Autobiography 82. James Boswell – Journal; Life of Samuel Johnson, Ll.D. 83. Antoine Laurent Lavoisier – Traité Élémentaire de Chimie (Elements of Chemistry) 84. Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, and James Madison – Federalist Papers 85. Jeremy Bentham – Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation; Theory of Fictions 86. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe – Faust; Poetry and Truth 87. Jean Baptiste Joseph Fourier – Analytical Theory of Heat 88. Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel – Phenomenology of Spirit; Philosophy of Right; Lectures on the Philosophy of History 89. William Wordsworth – Poems 90. Samuel Taylor Coleridge – Poems; Biographia Literaria 91. Jane Austen – Pride and Prejudice; Emma 92. Carl von Clausewitz – On War 93. Stendhal – The Red and the Black; The Charterhouse of Parma; On Love 94. Lord Byron – Don Juan 95. Arthur Schopenhauer – Studies in Pessimism 96. Michael Faraday – Chemical History of a Candle; Experimental Researches in Electricity 97. Charles Lyell – Principles of Geology 98. Auguste Comte – The Positive Philosophy 99. Honoré de Balzac – Père Goriot; Eugenie Grandet 100. Ralph Waldo Emerson – Representative Men; Essays; Journal 101. Nathaniel Hawthorne – The Scarlet Letter 102. Alexis de Tocqueville – Democracy in America 103. John Stuart Mill – A System of Logic; On Liberty; Representative Government; Utilitarianism; The Subjection of Women; Autobiography 104. Charles Darwin – The Origin of Species; The Descent of Man; Autobiography 105. Charles Dickens – Pickwick Papers; David Copperfield; Hard Times 106. Claude Bernard – Introduction to the Study of Experimental Medicine 107. Henry David Thoreau – Civil Disobedience; Walden 108. Karl Marx – Capital; Communist Manifesto 109. George Eliot – Adam Bede; Middlemarch 110. Herman Melville – Moby-Dick; Billy Budd 111. Fyodor Dostoevsky – Crime and Punishment; The Idiot; The Brothers Karamazov 112. Gustave Flaubert – Madame Bovary; Three Stories 113. Henrik Ibsen – Plays 114. Leo Tolstoy – War and Peace; Anna Karenina; What is Art?; Twenty-Three Tales 115. Mark Twain – The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn; The Mysterious Stranger 116. William James – The Principles of Psychology; The Varieties of Religious Experience; Pragmatism; Essays in Radical Empiricism 117. Henry James – The American; The Ambassadors 118. Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche – Thus Spoke Zarathustra; Beyond Good and Evil; The Genealogy of Morals;The Will to Power 119. Jules Henri Poincaré – Science and Hypothesis; Science and Method 120. Sigmund Freud – The Interpretation of Dreams; Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis; Civilization and Its Discontents; New Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis 121. George Bernard Shaw – Plays and Prefaces
Mortimer J. Adler (How to Read a Book: The Classic Guide to Intelligent Reading)
Deep in her soul, however, she was waiting for something to happen. Like a sailor in distress, she would gaze out over the solitude of her life with desperate eyes, seeking some white sail in the mists of the far-off horizon. She did not know what this chance event would be, what wind would drive it to her, what shore it would carry her to, whether it was a longboat or a three-decked vessel, loaded with anguish or filled with happiness up to the portholes. But each morning, when she awoke, she hoped it would arrive that day.… —GUSTAVE FLAUBERT, Madame Bovary
Lena Dunham (Not That Kind of Girl: A Young Woman Tells You What She's "Learned")
Chaque sourire cachait un bâillement d'ennui, chaque joie une malédiction, tout plaisir son dégoût, et les meilleurs baisers ne vous laissaient sur la lèvre qu'une irréalisable envie d'une volupté plus haute.
Gustave Flaubert (Madame Bovary)
Her great desire, in fact, was to have something more solid, more tangible than love to rely upon.
Gustave Flaubert (Madame Bovary)
Why was it? Who drove you to it?' She replied, 'It had to be, my dear!' 'Weren't you happy? Is it my fault? I did all I could!' 'Yes, that is true — you are good — you.
Gustave Flaubert (Madame Bovary)
There is always after the death of anyone a kind of stupefaction; so difficult is it to grasp this advent of nothingness and to resign ourselves to believe in it.
Gustave Flaubert (Madame Bovary)
Oh, if somewhere there were a being strong and handsome, a valiant heart, passionate and sensitive at once, a poet's spirit in an angel's form, a lyre with strings of steel, sounding sweet-sad epithalamiums to the heavens, then why should she not find that being?
Gustave Flaubert (Madame Bovary)
In her enthusiasms she had always looked for something tangible: she had always loved church for its flowers, music for its romantic words, literature for its power to stir the passions and she rebelled before the mysteries of faith just as she grew ever more restive under discipline, which was antipathetic to her nature.
Gustave Flaubert (Madame Bovary)
Maybe it’s not, in the end, the virtues of others that so wrenches our hearts as it is the sense of almost unbearably poignant recognition when we see them at their most base, in their sorrow and gluttony and foolishness. You need the virtues, too—some sort of virtues—but we don’t care about Emma Bovary or Anna Karenina or Raskolnikov because they’re good. We care about them because they’re not admirable, because they’re us, and because great writers have forgiven them for it.
Michael Cunningham (By Nightfall)
I believe in the Supreme Being, in a Creator, whatever he may be. I care little who has placed us here below to fulfil our duties as citizens and fathers of families; but I don't need to go to church to kiss silver plates, and fatten, out of my pocket, a lot of good-for-nothings who live better than we do. For one can know him as well in a wood, in a field, or even contemplating the eternal vault like the ancients. My God! mine is the God of Socrates, of Franklin, of Voltaire, and of Beranger! I am for the profession of faith of the 'Savoyard Vicar,' and the immortal principles of '89! And I can't admit of an old boy of a God who takes walks in his garden with a cane in his hand, who lodges his friends in the belly of whales, dies uttering a cry, and rises again at the end of three days; things absurd in themselves, and completely opposed, moreover, to all physical laws, which proves to us, by the way, that priests have always wallowed in turpid ignorance, in which they would fain engulf the people with them.
Gustave Flaubert (Madame Bovary)
Love, she believed, must come suddenly, with great thunderclaps and bolts of lightening - a hurricane from heaven that drops down on your life, overturns it, tears away your will like a leaf, and carries your whole heart with it off into the abyss.
Gustave Flaubert (Madame Bovary)
Future joys are like tropical shores; like a fragrant breeze, they extend their innate softness to the immense inland world of past experience, and we are lulled by this intoxication into forgetting the unseen horizons beyond.
Gustave Flaubert (Madame Bovary)
Love, she felt, ought to come all at once, with great thunderclaps and flashes of lightning; it was like a storm bursting upon life from the sky, uprooting it, overwhelming the will, and sweeping the heart into the abyss. It did not occur to her that rain forms puddles on a flat roof when the drainpipes are clogged, and she would have continued to feel secure if she had not suddenly discovered a crack in the wall.
Gustave Flaubert (Madame Bovary)
She remembered the summer evenings all full of sunshine. The colts neighed when any one passed by, and galloped, galloped. Under her window there was a beehive, and sometimes the bees wheeling round in the light struck against her window like rebounding balls of gold.
Gustave Flaubert (Madame Bovary)
No era feliz, no lo había sido nunca. ¿De dónde venía, pues, aquella insuficiencia, de la vida, aquella instantánea podredumbre de las cosas en que se apoyaba?[...]. Cada sonrisa disimulaba un bostezo de aburrimiento, cada alegría una maldición, cada placer su propio asco, y los mejores besos no dejaban sobre los labios más que un delirio irrealizable de una voluptuosidad más alta.
Gustave Flaubert (Madame Bovary)
Well, quite softly, one day following another, a spring on a winter, and an autumn after a summer, this wore away, piece by piece, crumb by crumb; it passed away, it is gone, I should say it has sunk; for something always remains at the bottom as one would say—a weight here, at one's heart.
Gustave Flaubert (Madame Bovary)
Deep in her soul, however, she was waiting for something to happen. Like a sailor in distress, she would gaze out over the solitude of her life with desperate eyes, seeking some white sail in the mists of the far-off horizon. She did not know what this chance event would be, what wind would drive it to her, what shore it would carry her to, whether it was a longboat or a three-decked vessel, loaded with anguish or filled with happiness up to the portholes. But each morning, when she awoke, she hoped it would arrive that day, and she would listen to every sound, spring to her feet, feel surprised that it had not come; then at sunset, always more sorrowful, she would wish the next day were already there.
Gustave Flaubert (Madame Bovary)
Every fairy tale offers the potential to surpass present limits, so in a sense the fairy tale offers you freedoms that reality denies. In all great works of fiction, regardless of the grim reality they present, there is an affirmation of life against the transience of that life, an essential defiance. The affirmation lies in the way the author takes control of reality by retelling it in his own way, thus creating a new world. Every great work of art, I would declare pompously, is a celebration, an act of insubordination against the betrayals, horrors and infidelities of life. The perfection and beauty of form rebels against the ugliness and shabiness of the subject matter. This is why we love "Madame Bovary" and cry for Emma, why we greedily read "Lolita" as our heart breaks for its small, vulgar, poetic and defiant orphaned heroine.
Azar Nafisi (Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books)
There was an air of indifference about them, a calm produced by the gratification of every passion; and through their manners were suave, one could sense beneath them that special brutality which comes from the habit of breaking down half-hearted resistances that keep one fit and tickle one’s vanity—the handling of blooded horses, the pursuit of loose women.
Gustave Flaubert (Madame Bovary)
But the flames did die down, perhaps from lack, perhaps from excess of fuel. Little by little, love was quenched by absence, and longing smothered by routine; and that fiery glow which tinged her pale sky scarlet grew more clouded, then gradually faded away. Her benumbed consciousness even led her to mistake aversion toward her husband for desire for her loved, the searing touch of hatred for the rekindling of love; but, as the storm still raged on and her passion burnt itself to ashes, no help came and no sun rose, the darkness of night closed in on every side, and she was left to drift in a bitter icy void. So the bad days of Tostes began again. She believed herself much more unhappy, now, because she had experienced sorrow, and knew for certain that ti would ever end.
Gustave Flaubert (Madame Bovary)
But the more Emma recognised her love, the more she crushed it down, that it might not be evident, that she might make it less. What restrained her was, no doubt, idleness and fear, and a sense of shame also. She thought she had repulsed him too much, that the time was past, that all was lost. Then pride, the joy of being able to say to herself 'I am virtuous', and to look at herself in the glass taking resigned poses, consoled her a little for the sacrifice she believed she was making.
Gustave Flaubert (Madame Bovary)
Charles's conversation was commonplace as a street pavement, and everyone's ideas trooped through it in their everyday garb, without exciting emotion, laughter, or thought. He had never had the curiosity, he said, while he lived at Rouen, to go to the theatre to see the actors from Paris. He could neither swim, nor fence, nor shoot, and one day he could not explain some term of horsemanship to her that she had come across in a novel. A man, on the contrary, should he not know everything, excel in manifold activities, initiate you into the energies of passion, the refinements of life, all mysteries? But this one taught nothing, knew nothing, wished nothing. He thought her happy; and she resented this easy calm, this serene heaviness, the very happiness she gave him.
Gustave Flaubert (Madame Bovary)
Il s’était tant de fois entendu dire ces choses, qu’elles n’avaient pour lui rien d’original. Emma ressemblait à toutes les maîtresses ; et le charme de la nouveauté, peu à peu tombant comme un vêtement, laissait voir à nu l’éternelle monotonie de la passion, qui a toujours les mêmes formes et le même langage. Il ne distinguait pas, cet homme si plein de pratique, la dissemblance des sentiments sous la parité des expressions. Parce que des lèvres libertines ou vénales lui avaient murmuré des phrases pareilles, il ne croyait que faiblement à la candeur de celles-là ; on en devait rabattre, pensait-il, les discours exagérés cachant les affections médiocres ; comme si la plénitude de l’âme ne débordait pas quelquefois par les métaphores les plus vides, puisque personne, jamais, ne peut donner l’exacte mesure de ses besoins, ni de ses conceptions, ni de ses douleurs, et que la parole humaine est comme un chaudron fêlé où nous battons des mélodies à faire danser les ours, quand on voudrait attendrir les étoiles.
Gustave Flaubert (Madame Bovary)