Arts Flaubert & Writing Oneself
posted by April 19 at 14:56 PMon
Apparently, the Paris Review isn’t all that great anymore (right, Christopher? I can’t recall why or when it happened), but the new issue contains some never before published letters from Flaubert to himself. Maud Newton has an excerpt from a fascinating introductory essay explaining their provenance.
Here’s one of the letters, which were written on the occasion—and the subject—of friends’ deaths. This seems appropriate. I’ve been thinking a lot about inadvertent or sideways autobiography lately: Rachel Corrie’s letters and journals, meant for an imagined public, surely, but maybe not this public at the Seattle Rep; Cho Seung-Hui’s multimedia self-portrait as oppressed martyred madman, meant for NBC and the world—but while the images speak loudly, the words are nonsensical and censored. Also, our interest in both of these is a result of death (Corrie’s, Cho’s victims), and so death becomes in some sense their subject, even as they fussily preserve a life.
We’d be interested in Flaubert’s letters even if they weren’t about death, of course. But the fact of their being about death seems one reason why they were meant for himself, for a public of one—and therefore why they joined this odd species of incidental, morbid autobiography.
But I don’t know. I really haven’t read much Flaubert. (Don’t tell Mudede.)