‘Flaubert’s Parrot’, by Julian Barnes


October 24, 2012 by Me and My Monkeys

How submerged does a reference have to be before it drowns?

Geoffrey Braithwaite concedes that his biographer’s net is “a collection of holes tied together with string”. He constructs Flaubert from fragments, shadows and reflections.

This is the “hesitating” narrator (Braithwaite) trying to save the Author (Flaubert) from the guillotine of Barthes, Foucault and other hit-men.

The power of this novel isn’t undermined by it also being as good a biography as you’re likely to read. As Braithwaite/Barnes says, “history is merely another literary genre: the past is autobiographical fiction pretending to be a parliamentary report”.

But Braithwaite’s report on “a foreign writer dead for a hundred years” is just one of ‘[t]hree stories that contend within”. The other stories – those of himself and of his dead wife – are so deeply submerged that the real motifs of the novel are avoidance and escape.

“Ellen’s is a true story; perhaps it is even the reason why I am telling you Flaubert’s story instead.”

The virtually unspoken depths of despair and confusion in Braithwaite’s life are vividly assumed amidst the Flaubertian noise. He is “seemingly absent” yet “hauntingly present”.

Awash with histories, love affairs, animals, minutiae and several layers of ironies, Barnes deserves the Legion D’honneur, if not a Booker, for Flaubert’s Parrot. He didn’t have to wait too long.

Recommended? Yes.

Out of 10? A very strong 8, with some moments of 10+.

My monkeys suggest:

  • All three Schrödingerian parrots belong to Flaubert. And none of them do.
  • Read Madame Bovary first.

One thought on “‘Flaubert’s Parrot’, by Julian Barnes

  1. One of my favorite’s. I love the way Barnes uses realism to tell his postmodern tale.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


Eight hundred words per film. For moviegoers and those only crawling in the world of cinema.

The Daily Omnivore

Everything is Interesting


A path through the great books


----------- Writer / Music re-views / inter-views / and my points of view ----------- The GROUND Magazine / HungerTV


The art of the music video

artemis projects

exploring the far side of the moon

A Little Blog of Books

Book reviews and other literary-related musings

Wellreadweare's Blog

Just another WordPress.com weblog


Microfiction meets Matt Damon


A look at films, music and everything in-between

Simply Film

Film Explained Simply

Random Musings

Book Reviews and More..

Grace Hilton

Journalistic recordings of a pursuit of certainty.

Richard & Sophia's Big Adventure

Tales from the trail: 2011-2012


Writing about movies, monsters, cinematic events and other wild trips

the word of mick

you know I always have an opinion...

Australian Film Review

Reviews, Articles, Events, Giveaways, Ponies.

%d bloggers like this: