Madame Bovary: Provincial Ways

Gustave Flaubert, Lydia Davis (trs.)

Madame Bovary: Provincial Ways

A new translation of Flaubert's classic, first published in 1857. Emma Bovary is beautiful and bored, trapped in her marriage to a mediocre doctor and stifled by the banality of provincial life. An ardent reader of sentimental novels, she longs for passion and seeks escape in fantasies of high romance, in voracious spending and, eventually, in adultery. But even her affairs bring her disappointment and the consequences are devastating. 3.8 out of 5 based on 6 reviews
Madame Bovary: Provincial Ways

Omniscore:

Classification Fiction
Genre Classic Fiction
Format Hardback
Pages 384
RRP £20.00
Date of Publication November 2010
ISBN 978-1846141041
Publisher Penguin Classics
 

A new translation of Flaubert's classic, first published in 1857. Emma Bovary is beautiful and bored, trapped in her marriage to a mediocre doctor and stifled by the banality of provincial life. An ardent reader of sentimental novels, she longs for passion and seeks escape in fantasies of high romance, in voracious spending and, eventually, in adultery. But even her affairs bring her disappointment and the consequences are devastating.

Reviews

The New York Times

Kathryn Harrison

Faithful to the style of the original, but not to the point of slavishness, Davis’s effort is transparent — the reader never senses her presence. For Madame Bovary, hers is the level of mastery required.

30/09/2010

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The Observer

Nick Fraser

Something of provincial France – the sheer crudeness of much of the dialogue, its obsessive rehashing of vulgar cliche – has gone badly missing … But I don't agree with the eminent Flaubertians who find Davis's efforts clunky. Emma's passions extend to shopping as well as sex, and the connection is spelled out by Davis's spare prose. She has also caught for the first time in English the powerfully filmic aspect of Flaubert's narrative

28/11/2010

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The Sunday Times

Sebastian Faulks

Where Davis has really put down her mark is in her handling of the imperfect tense. One of the ways Flaubert stressed the repetitive monotony of Emma’s provincial life was by saying “elle allait” … Davis sticks throughout to the imperfect, but she uses the “would” form: he “would ask”, she “would reply”, and so on. While undoubtedly “faithful”, this is wearing on the eye; sometimes it is hard to see the trees for the woulds.

21/11/2010

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The Literary Review

Anthony Cummins

To British readers, this new Madame Bovary risks seeming especially superfluous: [Geoffrey] Wall’s text, which Penguin apparently intends to keep in print, is tailored to them. Non-Americans reading Davis’s translation are bound to trip up on phrases like ‘Charles’s conversation was as flat as a sidewalk’ or ‘the hem of Emma’s dress would catch against his pants’. Davis isn’t to blame for that, of course. But the first quote shows why, in her introduction, she might have been kinder to the novel’s previous translators; many of them, she says, didn’t bother much with stylistic fidelity and simply rewrote Madame Bovary ‘in their own preferred manner’

01/12/2010

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The London Review of Books

Julian Barnes

Davis’s Madame Bovary is a linguistically careful version, in the modern style, rendered into an unobtrusively American English. At its best, it conveys the precision – which some think dryness – of Flaubert’s prose in this novel, while its syntactical mirroring of the French sometimes brings us closer to Flaubert. At its worst, it takes us too far away from English, and makes us less aware of Flaubert’s prose than of Davis being aware of Flaubert’s prose. And such defects come from something very old-fashioned: a lack of love for the work being translated.

18/11/2010

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The Times

Michèle Roberts

Her translation displays occasional hesitations, clumsiness and inconsistencies. For example, Emma, sewing bare-shouldered in the hot kitchen, sweat beading her skin, wears no fichu. Davis tells us that Emma wore no scarf: surely an incongruity that destroys the eroticism of the image ... Sometimes she simply gets things wrong: la grande route is not the big road but the main road.

13/11/2010

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