A. Kuznetsov: Few people pay attention to this, but the dedication that Gustave Flaubert’s famous novel Madame Bovary opens with is: “Marie-Antoine-Julie Senart, Paris lawyer, former President of the National Assembly and Interior Minister
Dear and famous friend!
Let me put your name on the first page of this book, before the dedication, for I mainly owe you its appearance. Your brilliant defensive speech indicated to me the meaning of it, which I did not attach to it earlier. Accept this weak tribute of my deepest gratitude for your eloquence and for your self-sacrifice.
Gustave Flaubert. Paris, April 12, 1857.
Immediately, we note that Gustave Flaubert, whom we now invariably perceive as classics of European literature of the 19th century, wrote “Madame Bovary”, while he was still a very young man. He began work on the novel in 1851, when he had just turned 30 years old. And this work, indeed, was not only an event in French literature, but also caused a very heated discussion. Strictly speaking, the composition of the novel itself did not cause any complaints, but here are some episodes ...
From the very beginning, when the work was still just being prepared for publication, even people who were both favorably disposed towards both Flaubert and his work had serious concerns. For example, what Flaubert wrote to his close friend Maxim Ducan, publisher of La Revue de Paris: “I was not joking earlier. The scene with a hired crew goes beyond all limits. Of course, not for a magazine that doesn’t give a damn about it, and not for me, who signs this number with the novel in print, but for the morality police, which will give us a reprimand that will not be good for all of us. ”
It should be said here that La Revue de Paris already had several warnings from the police and from the judicial authorities, so Ducane, as the owner, was worried that a friend’s romance could be the reason for closing his journal.
S. Buntman: Yes!
A. Kuznetsov: One way or another, but the novel was published from October 1 to December 15, 1856. In order to avoid possible claims, the very ones that followed, it was announced that this was not the full text, but only excerpts from the work. Well, so that you can always say that when you read the wrong impression, you need to get acquainted with the full text. And the claims began to speak out literally from the first issues. Knowing that, in general, there is a certain tradition to prosecute for violation of morality and decency, Flaubert decided to err ...
Yes, the tradition was based on the law, which was adopted on May 17, 1819. The eighth article of this law introduced sanctions "for any insults to public and religious morality and good morals." In accordance with this regulatory act, certain well-known writers, for example, flew certain sanctions. For example, the writer Xavier de Montepen was sentenced to three months in prison and a fine of 500 francs, who published, according to the title, a very frank work “Les Filles de plâtre” - “Stitched Girls”. Or the Gonkury brothers ...
S. Buntman: Them for what?
A. Kuznetsov: For the census. The fact is that in one of their writings they brought a frivolous poem of a poet of the XVI century, a certain Tayuro. For this they were prosecuted. True, in their case everything ended well. There was an acquittal. Nevertheless, nerves shook them.
Returning to Flaubert. Realizing that a situation was about to develop around his novel, which was about to turn into a legal one, he decided to insure himself - to meet with some influential people: with the Minister of Education, with prominent writers, in order to enlist (at least in words) their benevolent attitude. That is, our hero considered that with such support the judges would not dare to unwind the matter further. And the judges dared. And Flaubert, who was not in Paris at that time, received a subpoena to the 6th Chamber of the Correctional Court of the Seine Department.
Note that it was this judicial institution that was engaged in the most, as they say, unappetizing cases. These were mostly petty frauds, pimping, pandering, walking ladies, same-sex love ... And frivolous literature at the same time.
And in early 1857, a process began that took place without the participation of the jury. (Still, it is not such a serious crime to consider it in such a composition). It was chaired by someone Dupati - a man who, in fact, did not make any particular career in the judiciary, except he became famous in two trials - Flaubert and Baudelaire.
As for the prosecutor, Ernest Pinar, he has, to put it mildly, spoiled his reputation with the aforementioned cases. When you read excerpts from his speech, which, by the way, Flaubert transcribed at his own expense in order to preserve for history, you immediately understand what the prosecutor was basing his accusation on. Pinar was sure that from the very beginning the defender would say that, depicting a vice, the author did not idealize, did not romanticize him, but, on the contrary, described it so that any normal person saw him, understood. Indeed, in the end, Emma died, thus making her daughter unhappy and causing the death of her husband, and so on and so forth. The suffering of a number of people ...
Therefore, Pinar decided to expose the completely natural line of Senar: “Gentlemen, I say that the voluptuous details cannot be covered up with moralism, otherwise it will be possible to talk about every imaginable and inconceivable orgies, to describe all the abominations from the life of a public woman when she is on a poor hospital bed ".
As for the defender Flaubert, the aforementioned Marie-Antoine-Julie Senart, he gave an expressive, as is customary in the French advocacy, with a four-hour speech for high artistry ...
S. Buntman: Wow!
A. Kuznetsov: ... most of which consisted of quoting various writers recognized by this time in France as classics and samples, in which individual episodes (those read by Senar), being taken out of context, also sounded very ambiguous, to put it mildly. And, apparently, finished off the lawyers sitting at the judges' table, he is a frivolous quote from Montesquieu ...
Actually, Senar insisted that it is impossible to disassemble certain fragments of the novel, it is necessary to consider the book as a whole. After all, in fact, Flaubert's work is directed against ...
S. Buntman: ... immorality.
A. Kuznetsov: Yes. And the fate of the main character and minor characters is a constant proof of that.
An interesting quote from the writer Bernard Fauconnier, in which from the position of our time he appreciates the novelty in the meanings that Flaubert’s novel brought to French society: “Bovarism” is a state of consciousness predisposed to reverie, the illusory desire for the ideal, the mirages of ideal love, to use the sweetest words, the stupid belief that in other parts the grass is greener and the sky is bluer. Flaubert, with his inherent ruthless precision and stylistic artistry, orchestrated this score. "
S. Buntman: Great!
A. Kuznetsov: That is, the novel "Madame Bovary" really became a kind of mirror, which many French and French looked into.
Regarding the court decision, Flaubert and his "accomplices", the owner of the printing house Auguste Pyillet and the editor of La Revue de Paris Laurent Pich, were justified. Moreover, this trio was even exempt from legal fees. And the verdict itself was more like an oral reprimand: “the novel deserves severe condemnation, since the mission of literature should be to enrich and fill the spiritual sphere, improving the personality of its heroes, and not to inculcate aversion to evil by portraying the existing in society defects ”; “It is unacceptable under the pretext of transferring local color to reproduce in all the immorality of the words and deeds of the heroes whom the author considered it his duty to depict”; “The whole system, when applied to the creations of the mind and works of the visual arts, will lead to such realism, which will destroy good and beauty, which, creating insulting to the mind and eyes of the work, will lead to systematic abuse of public morality”; “His only fault is that he sometimes forgets about the rules that no self-respecting author should violate, and also that literature, like art, must be chaste and pure, not only in form, but also in to the statement: to realize the good to the creation of which literature and art are called upon. ”
In short, all these public discussions have become a real advertisement for Flaubert’s writing. Before the trial, it was planned to publish six and a half thousand copies.
S. Buntman: Yes.
A. Kuznetsov: This edition shattered like hot cakes. We have added 14 thousand more, which also did not disappear within a few weeks. Flaubert bit his elbows that he had already agreed on a fixed fee, because he could earn much more. True, the publisher, in addition to the agreed amount, handed him another premium of 500 francs. One way or another, our hero was satisfied: the glory of the novel and the acquittal did their job.
The article is based on the material of the program “Not so” of the radio station Ekho Moskvy. Leading the program - Alexei Kuznetsov and Sergei Buntman. Fully read and listen to the original interview can be on the link.