The Family Idiot: Gustave Flaubert, 1821-1857, Volume 3
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Seen by many as the culmination of Sartre's thought and project, and viewed by Sartre himself as an attempt to answer the question, "What, at this point in time, can we know about a man?" this monumental work continues to perplex its fascinated critics and admirers, who have argued about its precise nature. However, as reviews of the first volume in this translation agreed, whatever The Family Idiot may be called—"a dialectic" (Fredric Jameson, New York Times Book Review); "biography, philosophy, or politics? Surely . . . all of these together" (Renee Winegarten, Commentary); "a new form of fiction?" (Victor Brombert, Times Literary Supplement); or simply, "mad, of course" (Julian Barnes, London Review of Books)—its prominent place in intellectual history is indisputable.
Volume 3 consists of "School Years" and "Preneurosis," which are the second and third books of part 2 of the original French work. In vivid detail, Sartre renders Flaubert's secondary-school experiences and relationships: his part in a student rebellion against the faculty, his teenage infatuation with Romantic literature, his friendships and rivalries with his classmates, and the ironies inherent in the schoolboys' bourgeois existence. Sartre then discusses Flaubert's years at law school, where he studied at his father's insistence. This volume also contains Sartre's most sustained analysis of Madame Bovary. Sartre's approach to his complex subject, whether jaunty or judicious, psychoanalytical or political, is captured in all of its rich variety in Carol Cosman's translation.
Indeed, a shipwrecked man is dying of thirst and drinks sea water. But as we know, Gustave did not invent the despair he first suffered at the age of seven and never managed to cast off; in school he merely found good use for it through a new personalizing revolution. Let them mock his Latin verses, he exaggerates his misfortune and persuades himself that he is utterly destitute; and he is the first of men precisely because an exquisite and malign premeditation has made him the very last. This
when he depicts the Infinite as knowing and taking pleasure in itself: this all-encompassing knowledge excludes the intelligence of determinations; in it, finite differences engulf each other without control and without truth. The individual, to the degree that he plays his own part, is thereby excluded from the substantial and cosmic plenitude: he defines himself negatively and exists only in appearance; what he takes for his being is the all-nonbeing. It is therefore impossible that Gustave
Certainly the author of l'Avare [The Miser] goes beyond the concept, enriches it with his experience or inventions; but for him, for Plautus his model, and for the audience, avarice is the object of conceptual knowledge. 81. Structure du comportement, p. 234. 113 PERSONALIZATION a liturgy. This obscurity of meaning-implicitly, but never explicitly, understood-in conjunction with the permanent control exercised by their public over the creators, is sufficient evidence that the character is a
the very image of bourgeois receptions. Everyone goes to experience his absolute separation in the guise of specific difference; everyone is an audience for everyone else; the unbridgeable distance that separates each molecule from all the others becomes the orchestra pit that separates the stage from the rest of the theater. The social actor circumvents the judgment of his public by signs, symbols; through mime and recitation he offers as a model 126 FROM LEGEND TO ROLE the character he wants
Louise what he was: and of course one is nothing on this level; being is a signification one tries to objectify for the other and, through the other's gaze, for oneself by means of words and actions meant to fascinate. Be that as it may, this performance will be sincere if it strains to release and firmly fix the constantly fleeing meaning of lived experience. Flaubert talks a great deal during the ride: he wants to postpone the moment of dreaded coitus and, of course, to prepare for the