Ever wondered if stark realities of life were humans, how would they converse? What would death reveal to Satan which may surprise agony? What may joy surmise on pain that might recall God’s support? What might greed and insanity bring to table worthy of discussion in peace’s eyes? Where would loyalty stand should all others be permitted to share the same house?
Flaubert embarks on a bold journey, by giving voice to these very boundless giants and drawing a territory around them by erecting three walls of formidable texture and strength, painted with magnanimous coats of deceptive prose and magnetic rhythm. Reverberating within their throes are three teeming groups of conversations – the unsettling yet hypnotizing exchange on continuity and termination between death and satan, the rising and falling chronicles of an assiduous man with a coal-black barbaric streak and the indefatigable affection of a gregarious maid towards her bountiful parrot. The stories have powerful mouthpieces and their innermost themes dance with vigor at Flaubert’s deft call. One has to be a sworn cynic to deny Flaubert, his versatility and adroitness.
But even the best architect in this world cannot lay claim (without sumptuous debate) on completeness of a house having chosen to withhold a fourth wall to his structure. The three walls, in this story, also could not undermine the importance of a fourth wall on my dwelling tastes. While the stories ran with unrestrained velocity, the stability that imparts gravitas to their colossal mass was missing. While I could sense Flaubert’s great passion as a beaming halo behind his two characters, Julian in The Legend of Saint Julian the Hospitaller and Felicite in A Simple Soul, the characters themselves did not assume a life of their own despite their manifold perditions. Regard me with pessimism if you wish but my limited observations indicate that the greatest characters have risen from the flames of failures and damnations. And Flaubert’s miserly shower of these redemptive pulses on his characters seemed like outright injustice to their etching.
I wish I had peppered a prayer on my lips, standing by Julian’s hours of penance; may be, straightened a few wrinkles on the fatigued brows of Felicite’s loneliness. Alas! my empathies quietly escaped from the open space of this house. But not before taking the idiosyncrasies of loulou surreptitiously in my bag, who went on to adorn the chief mantle in Julian Barnes’ Flaubert’s Parrot !
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