Monday, September 28, 2009

Flaubert's quote, I think

Feeling fragmented and fractured and unfocused of late (books & bees, bees & books, with forays into labels for lip balms, harvesting beets, and the mystery of inedible, decorative gourds) I started thinking about the Flaubert quote.
But what exactly did he say?
This is what I recalled: “Live like a bourgeois so that you can be wild in your fiction.”
But then I found this: “Live like a bourgeois, think like a god.” Which seemed to me very different, and not what I was looking for. So I kept looking.
And found this variation: “One’s existence should be in two parts: one should live like a bourgeois and think like a demigod.”
And also this: “Be violent and original in your art, live like a bourgeois."
Which turns out to be the closest to the French.

Soyez réglé dans votre vie et ordinaire comme un bourgeois, afin d’être violent et original dans vos oeuvres.

If you ever crave a dose of Flaubert and cannot read Madame Bovary or Bouvard and Pécuchet one more time, I cannot recommend strongly enough his Selected Letters, edited by Francis Steegmuller. (Who was married to Shirley Hazzard, a writer I admire inordinately; to whom I once wrote a fan letter. And she wrote back.)


Rebecca Rice said...

This is one of my favorite quotes, and I love that you give the original French with the various possible translations.

Merci Beaucoup, Cheri! Et tu ecrive comme un Dieu-demi!

Renee said...

Thanks for posting the quote in French. Just went on a Google journey to get here :-)