After reading [b:The Sense of an Ending|10746542|The Sense of an Ending|Julian Barnes|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1311704453s/10746542.jpg|15657664], I was very keen to read another Julian Barnes book. "Flaubert’s Parrot" seems to be his most famous, and I remember reading glowing reviews way back around the time it came out, so I set out to read it.
The narrator of this exploration of Flaubert seems a completely uninteresting person, and his voice is surprisingly similar to that of the narrator in "The Sense of an Ending." Like that book, though, there is a bit of a twist that makes him more intriguing, despite the dull surface. In this case, it’s what he has in common with Charles Bovary, the cuckolded husband of Flaubert’s most famous character. His fascination with Flaubert is part of trying to make sense of his own life.
Still, about 3/4s through, in the chapter reimagining Flaubert’s lover Louise Colet, I began to weary, and wonder why I should care about this “story,” not being a huge Flaubert fan. I said to myself that what this book needs is more darkness. It needs despair. Luckily, right after that chapter, while we don’t get despair, we get a very lively and funny “dictionary” of Flaubert trivia with things like:
Bouilhet, Louis: The less successful Doppelgänger that every great man needs.
Epilepsy: Stratagem enabling Flaubert to sidestep a conventional career, and Flaubert the man to sidestep life. The question is merely at what psychological level the tactic was evolved. Were his symptoms intense psychosomatic phenomena? It would be too banal if he simply had epilepsy.
And right after that we get the chapter “Pure Story,” which has despair to spare, and plenty of dark. I won’t say this novel dazzles, but it was well executed and worthwhile. I will read more Barnes.