Tiens International follows the pyramid scheme

Trivium

1As Flaubert, the manuscript for his first novel Madame Bovary with which he gave shape to his novel poetics, he surely suspected that it would make waves and rekindle the discussion on the great aesthetic question of the time, namely realism. For this term, which was only transferred to literature with changing meanings since the 1840s, no precisely defined concept existed, and so its definition should increasingly become a central issue for work in literature and the visual arts. The novelist could expect that he would take a stand in the future, that he would have to justify his decisions and bold procedures, but that he would also have to answer in court, he had certainly not thought of that. Nor could he foresee that, as a result of his legal proceedings, a new meaning of the term "realism" ("tendency to depict the low, trivial and offensive aspects of the real"), which came from the amicable and vengeful pen of Charles Baudelaire, that companion in misery who attributed a calculated, methodical ordinariness to Flaubert, which he regarded as emblematic of the aesthetics of his century: "Let us be ordinary in the choice of our subject [...]." / "Soyons donc vulgaire dans le choix du sujet ".1

2Baudelaire's judgment is not wrong; it even describes Flaubert's preliminary decision in favor of the banal with a certain degree of accuracy, which explicitly applied to his entire project from the start, but without any affiliation with a realistic aesthetic being derived from it. Some letters, for example to Madame des Genettes, which he wrote shortly before the legal dispute broke out, even seem to prove the opposite:

“Was I real? Is it the? I really want to spend a long time with you [...] about the theory to entertain the matter. It is believed that I am infatuated with reality when I detest it, for I wrote this novel out of hatred of realism. But I no less hate the false ideality with which we are mocked today. "

»Ai-je été vrai? Est-ce ça? J’ai bien envie de causer longuement avec vous […] sur la theory de la chose. On me croit épris du réel, tandis que je l’exècre; car c’est en haine du realisme que j’ai entrepris ce roman. Mais je n’en déteste pas moins la fausse idéalité dont nous sommes bernés par le temps qui court. «2

Even if these lines formulate a rather complex position on the question of the real, Flaubert emphatically confirms his will to break with any realistic postulate, and his violent choice of words ("out of hatred of realism") leaves no doubt that that he wants to stay away from any school that makes the real the exclusive object of art. The question would thus be resolved if the correspondence during the entire creative period between 1851 and 1856 did not contain countless declarations, which with just as great conviction demand a comprehensive option for the real, but with the futuristic perspective of a rapprochement between artistic and scientific creation, and so that Justify the project of a letter that is able to depict reality with the same accuracy as science:

“The further it goes, the more scientific the art will be, just as science will be artistic. Both will meet at the summit after parting at the starting point. No human thought can now foresee the dazzling psychic suns into which the works of the future will unfold. "

“Plus il ira, plus l’Art sera scientifique, de même que la science deviendra artistique. Tous deux se rejoindront au sommet après s’être séparés à la base. Aucune pensée humaine ne peut prévoir, maintenant à quels éblouissants soleils psychiques écloront les œuvres de l’avenir. «3

Incidentally, Flaubert is very keen on writing Madame Bovary Inwardly certain that he creates the foundations of an inductive system with which the novel can assert itself as a true representation of the real:

“Everything you invent is true, be sure of that. Poetry is as precise a thing as geometry. Induction is as good as deduction, and from a certain point on one is no longer mistaken about the soul. My arms Bovary at this hour he undoubtedly suffers and weeps in twenty villages in France. "

"Tout ce qu'on invente est vrai, sois-en sûre. La poésie est une chose also précise que la géométrie. L’induction vaut la déduction, et puis, arrivé à un certain point, on ne se trompe plus quant à tout ce qui est de l’âme. Ma pauvre Bovary sans doute, souffre et pleure dans vingt Villages de France à la fois, à cette heure même. «4

Flaubert wants to talk about the real with the claim to "reveal" it as scientifically as possible, but by no means in order to enhance it as an aesthetic object. The ugliness and inconsistency of the real are the material that art has to deal with as an object and goal, and art can, precisely because it is "true", that is, radical in analysis, relentlessly against false appearances and scientific in method, transform that hateful object into beauty. With this goal in mind, he develops a poetics that employs a strategy of distancing itself (impersonality) by means of which the subject withdraws in order to develop a conceptual approach instead. The real object of the artistic illusion is not reality, but rather the representation, which reveals its formal structure via style, that is, with means of a realism of the essentials, which make prose an "absolute method of seeing things" want.

“On the contrary, the illusion (if there is one) comes from the Impersonality of the work. […] In addition, art must rise above personal inclinations and nervous sensitivities! It is time to use a relentless method to give it the precision of the physical sciences! The main difficulty for me is no less the style, the form, the indefinable beauty, the self from the conception itself and that is the splendor of truth, as Plato said. "

"L’illusion (s’il y en a une) vient au contraire de l’impersonnalité de l’œuvre. [...] l’Art doit s’élever au-dessus des affections personnelles et des susceptibilités nerveuses! Il est temps de lui thunder, par une méthode impitoyable, la précision des sciences physiques! La difficulté capitale, pour moi, n’en reste pas moins le style, la forme, le Beau indéfinissable résultant de la conception même et qui est la splendeur du Vrai comme disait Plato. «5

Ten years later, the author undertakes with the Education Sentimentale the representation of something real that is noticeably more complex than in his first novel. Now it is no longer about the failure of an existence that occurs within the narrow framework of a provincial village and outside of historical time, but about the failure of a generation, indeed the end of an epoch in the saturated and non-totalizable space of a large capital at the moment political and social upheaval. We are in the period between 1863 and 1869, that is to say in an era when the question of realism is on the agenda more than ever before, with an urgency reinforced by the "Salon des refusés", industrial art and photography becomes. Flaubert's positions have become radicalized in ethical and aesthetic terms. But also methodically. It is therefore quite logical when the novelist entrusts a painter, who later becomes a photographer, with the task of explaining the process of realism - out of mockery, but not without a certain ambivalence. As a provocation, to have fun, to take the opposite position to Balzac's intervention in the novel, to make the "morality" of his story more complex and the reading of his work more problematic, Flaubert likes to use a variety of ambassadors - brilliant or ridiculous; He likes to put his own views into the mouths of ridiculous people in order to make the beginning of an identification in any word meaning unlikely. This is how the pharmacist represents Homais in Madame Bovary, who turns out to be a true phrase threshing machine, precisely Flaubert's positions on certain topics. And in the Education Sentimentale It is entrusted to the unsuccessful artist Pellerin to express certain aesthetic principles of the author himself, the formulations of which anyone familiar with Flaubert's correspondence will recognize immediately, and whose zeal provokes the immediate approval of another occasional clone of Flaubert: this is how young Frédéric can his enthusiasm in the face of his master's voice could hardly be restrained.

»[Frédéric] could hardly hold back his enthusiasm when Pellerin suddenly exclaimed:
- Just leave me alone with your hideous reality! What does that mean, reality? Some see black, others blue, the majority see without understanding. Nothing less natural than Michelangelo, nothing more powerful! Trying to be real shows how deep we have sunk today; and if we go on like this, art becomes some scrap, in its poetry under religion, and of less use than politics. You will not achieve your goal with your pathetic works despite all the finesse in the execution - yes, your goal! - namely to put us in a universal high flight. [...] but without an idea there is nothing big! nothing beautiful without size! Mount Olympus is a mountain range! The boldest building will always be the pyramids. Better exuberance than taste, better a desert than a sidewalk, and better a savage than a hairdresser! "

»[Frédéric] eut du mal à contenir son enthousiasme quand Pellerin s’écria:
- Laissez-moi tranquille avec votre hideuse réalité! Qu’est-ce que cela veut dire, la réalité? Read us voient noir, d’autres bleu, la multitude voit bête. Rien de moins naturel que Michel-Ange, rien de plus fort! The souci de la vérité extérieure dénote la bassesse contemporaine; et l’art deviendra, si l’on continue, je ne sais quelle rocambole au-lingerie de la religion comme poésie, et de la politique comme intérêt. Vous n’arriverez pas à son but, - oui, son but! qui est de nous causer une exaltation impersonnelle, avec de petites œuvres, malgré toutes vos finasseries d’exécution. [...] Sans l’idée, rien de grand! sans grandeur, pas de beau! L'Olympe est une montagne! Le plus crâne monument, ce sera toujours les Pyramides. Mieux vaut l’exubérance que le goût, le désert qu’un trottoir, et un sauvage qu’un coiffeur! "6

Such pre-punched formulations "dreadful reality", "the majority sees without understanding", "how deep we have sunk today", "put us into a universal high flight" are without a doubt authentic expressions of the person Flaubert, but one would be very mistaken, in it one Mise en abyme to seek his novel aesthetic. Rather, exactly the opposite is true. The Education sentimentale makes the historical and political real its real object and goes far beyond the means that in Madame Bovary were used. Flaubert now has the experience of Salammbô with its historical themes behind it and thereby developed a scientific set of instruments that can be assigned to documentary realism. But he has also developed his artistic ambition to the limit, at which novel-like writing almost involuntarily comes into conflict with the norms of the genre. The reality that imposes itself in every line of the narrative no longer has the form nor the organic unity that made it interpretable and understandable. But it is precisely from this anomaly, from this impenetrability, that, contrary to all expectations, results in its new strength: it is the penetration of contingency that disturbs and shocks; its flow seems to impose its logic on all fiction.

3Where does this strong sense of the real come from in the Education Sentimentale, and which real is it? Why is it that this novel was so badly received by the public in 1870, whereas today, after Proust, Joyce and Faulkner, it has become a kind of symbol for the beginning of the contemporary novel? Both questions are related. The work could probably not be understood in its time because it converted a radically new form of the "described real" into fiction. And it is certainly useful to take a closer look at this failure of reception, because the lack of understanding was so complete at the time that it paradoxically impaired the author's image of himself and his work.

4Flaubert spent five or six years searching painfully for the reasons for this complete and irrevocable shipwreck of the novel, but in vain:

“What is on my mind is the failure of the 'Éducation sentimentale'. I am amazed that no one has understood this book. "

“Ce qui me reste sur le coeur, c’est l’échec de L’Éducation sentimental; qu’on n’ait pas compris ce livre-là, voilà ce qui m’étonne. "7

Thinking further, he realizes that the work was apparently a victim of circumstances. For Flaubert she had Education sentimentale To play a role "unknowingly" in the story, but the very "story with its big ax" did not allow it. As soon as the novel was published, events rolled over: the Franco-German War, the defeat of Sedan, the collapse of the Second Empire, the Paris Commune with its secession, then the civil war, Paris recaptured with cannons, the public buildings in flames , Street fights, the repression by Versailles, tens of thousands of dead in the capital. For the writer, the story has stuttered; it is the return of June 1848, in an even worse shape. In his »Souvenirs littéraires«, Maxime Du Camp recalls Flaubert's words, which are indicative of his view of the political significance of his work:

“[...] when we saw the blackened skeleton of the Tuileries, the Cour des Comptes and the Palais de la Légion d'honneur in June 1871 and I broke out in regret, he said to me: If you had them Education sentimentale understood, none of this would have happened. "

»[...] au mois de juin 1871, comme nous [...] regardions la carcasse noircie des Tuileries, de la Cour des Comptes, du Palais de la Légion d'honneur et que je m'exclamais, il me dit : - Si l'on avait compris L’Éducation sentimental, rien de tout cela ne serait arrivé. «8

For Flaubert, literature cannot put itself at the service of a cause without fail, but this in no way precludes the work from containing a message; At least this is what he expresses during his work on the Education sentimentale to George Sand:

“If the reader does not get the morality from a book that is supposed to be in it, then the reader is a fool, or the book is from the point of view of accuracy not correct. Because the moment a thing is true, it is also good. "

"Si le lecteur ne tire pas d’un livre la moralité qui doit s’y trouver, c’est que le lecteur est un imbécile ou que le livre est faux au point de vue de l’exactitude. Car du moment qu’une chose est vraie, elle est bonne. «9

If a novel is sufficiently accurate in its representation of reality, it can serve to free oneself from deadly certainties, to avoid fruitless struggles, to see the world and life differently and to break away from beliefs that subjugate thought, subjugate desire and let it age prematurely. However, it must also be read to do so.

5The Education sentimentale however, it failed to win over the audience, and so its message was not heard due to a lack of readers. Flaubert continues to look for reasons for this and finally says to himself that the cause may lie in the structure of the work itself, in its aesthetic pre-decisions, in what he must recognize as a mistake in the structure of the novel: it "does not form a pyramid". Flaubert had already noticed this when writing the manuscript, but without being able to change much about it:

»[...] I find it difficult to fit my characters into the political events of 48. I'm afraid that the backgrounds will overlay the foreground; therein lies the lack of the historical genre. The characters in history are more interesting than those in fiction, especially if they have moderate passions; one is less interested in Frédéric than in Lamartine. And besides, what should you choose from the real facts? I am at a loss; It's tough!"

»[...] j’ai bien you sometimes à emboîter mes personnages dans les événements politiques de 48. J’ai peur que les fonds ne dévorent les premiers plans; c’est là le défaut you genre historique. Les personnages de l’histoire sont plus intéressants que ceux de la fiction, surtout quand ceux-là ont des passions modérées; on s’intéresse moins à Frédéric qu’à Lamartine. Et puis, quoi choisir parmi les faits réels? Je suis perplexed; c’est major! «10

The will to reveal the real itself as systematically as possible, to depict it without a hierarchical order or perspective, without making choices or drawing conclusions, and allowing social and historical backgrounds to compete with the plot of the narrative, even at the risk of doing so compromising the illusion of the novel and even the stature of the characters - in this reorientation of the interrelationships between fiction and real has been the challenge of its poetics, a confusing but logical consequence of a new concept of historical narration ... and this was irrevocable. But since no one understood its purpose, Flaubert inevitably thought that there might be something wrong or premature, too radical, and not feasible at the bottom of his project itself. Ten years after the novel was published, he made this clear to his friends, who spoke to him again about the work. Huysmans, for example, who focuses on the Education sentimentale as a model for his own work, he advises extreme caution:

“The dedication in which you asked me about the Education sentimentale praise, gave me information about the intent and the lack of your work, which I had not noticed when reading it for the first time. It is missing Sœurs Vatard, as well as the Educ. sentim., the Distortion of perspective! There is no progression of effect. At the end of the book, the reader retains the same impression that he had at the beginning. The art is not the reality. Whatever you do, you are forced to make a selection from the elements it provides. That alone, in spite of the school, results in the ideal, from which it follows that one must choose. "

“La dédicace où [vous] me louez pour› l’éducation Sentimentale ‹m’a éclairé sur le plan et le défaut de votre roman dont, à la première lecture, je ne m’étais pas rendu compte. II manque aux ›Sœurs Vatard‹ comme à ›l’édu sentim‹ la fausseté de la perspective! II n’y a pas progression d’effet. Le lecteur, à la fin du livre, garde l’impression qu’il avait dès le début. L’art n’est pas la réalité. Quoi qu’on fasse, on est obligé de choisir dans les éléments qu’elle fournit. Cela seul, en dépit de l’école, est de l’idéal, d’où il résulte qu’il faut bien choisir. «11

The fact that one has to "choose", pretending to lure the reader in to make a move in the drama, all of which means that the novel is condemned to make the human, all-too-human scale the geometrical reference point of the To make representation, namely the "perspective". It should be remembered that after the Education sentimentale move away from it completely so that you never have to deal with this problem again. In La tentation de saint Antoine there is no going back to the human scale, and by the way, nothing real at all: now it is a question of a hyperbolic belief, the sole horizon of which consists in hallucination or fusion in matter. In Saint Julien there is "no" perspective yet. The representation here is based on the colored architecture of a church window and the axonometric view of the medieval world of imagination. In the Trois Contes all in all, writing still takes hold of the pervasive faith and its power of imagination, which transfigured every experience into a legend - as far as possible from reality: In Hérodias this happens through kinetic (almost cinematographic) magic means of a theatrical chain of visions, which stage the hagiological age, the original source of the Gospel story, and in Un coeur simple by means of a miraculous regression towards the instinctive, primary origin of belief, in a story in which Sand's compassion is not based on human standards, but on the contrary according to our innate animal simplicity, that is, our animal nature. And what Bouvard et Pécuchet as far as that is concerned, there is little room for novel-like tricks and sophisticated perspective arrangements. Now it is a logical narrative that revolves entirely around the adventures of the absent third party, a systematic representation of knowledge in a fictional form: this is a slap in the face, a cutting denial of the obligation to good taste and tricks that the novel has still seems to be committed.

6 That perspective falsehood that is evident in the Education sentimentale What is definitely missing, which, in Flaubert's ultimate conviction, explained the work's failure, was in fact a radical artistic undertaking that symbolically - in the form of its absence - was already inscribed in the narrative. And so, when it comes to narrative geometry, one can hardly avoid thinking of Frédéric Moreau and his friend Deslauriers when they take stock of their existence in the last lines of the novel:

“And they summed up their lives.
They had both missed it, the one who had dreamed of love and the one who had dreamed of power. What was the reason?
- Perhaps the line was missing, said Frédéric.
- With you, it can be. I, on the other hand, have sinned by being too straightforward, ignoring a thousand secondary things that are stronger than anything else. I had too much sense and you too much feeling.
Then they blamed chance, the circumstances, the time in which they were born. "

»Et ils résumèrent leur vie.
Ils l’avaient manquée tous les deux, celui qui avait rêvé l’amour, celui qui avait rêvé le pouvoir. Source en était la raison?
- C’est peut-être le défaut de ligne droite, dit Frédéric.
- Pour toi, cela se peut. Moi, au contraire, j’ai péché par excès de rectitude, sans tenir compte de mille choses secondaires, plus fortes que tout. J’avais trop de logique, et toi de sentiment.
Puis, ils accusèrent le hasard, les circonstances, l’époque où ils étaient nés. "12

Just like the two friends, the entire novel moves between excess and lack. On the one hand, the story stages in an unprecedented way the non-summable network of »a thousand secondary things that are stronger than everything«, in which every individual fate is now trapped and has to submit to a logic that transcends it , no matter what "straightforwardness", energy, obsession and Balzacian voluntarism one tries to oppose it in a somewhat anachronistic way. On the other hand, the narrative constructs the new, problematic figure of a post-Balzacian individual who cuts his way down winding, unfathomable paths with no ulterior motive or pre-made plan than that of being happy, and who constantly new agreements between his dreams and the Reality negotiates, depending on the opportunities or obstacles that those "a thousand trivial things that are stronger than everything" have in store for him. Neither of them are mistaken when in the end they "blame chance, the circumstances, the time," that is, those "backgrounds" to which the novel, in order to be completely true to reality, gives a dominant position Loads of aesthetic simplifications that would have given people more freedom to develop. Would Deslauriers as a minister and Frédéric as a famous writer or recognized artist have given the book a better reception? Perhaps, and this would certainly have been a completely different novel, one like a hundred others of this kind that were in vogue at the time. But in the process that Flaubert is bringing against modernity, success means branding: it is reserved for the pathetic Martinon, who becomes a senator, and the disgusting Hussonet, to whom all theaters and the entire press are subservient. That the Education sentimentale Neither the powerful nor the opinion-makers pleased, but frankly only a dreamer like Flaubert could wonder about that.

7He overlooks what could be politically unacceptable about his novel, for all parties from right to left, and is amazed that the lack of success could point to discrepancies between ethics and aesthetics. Flaubert knows better than anyone that you have to falsify reality in order to create art. Structure, planned course of action, a structure that plans all effects in advance from one chapter to the other, whereby every detail on each page only gets its meaning through its place within the entire narrative, none of this has much to do with a simple reproduction of the real. But that this fiction should also be simplified as an exact doppelganger of the real, narrowed down to a scheme, to a focal point, from which everything gets its clarity, and thereby disregards those complex relationships and uncertainties, without which there is no truthfulness , Reality or beauty is what Flaubert sees as a declaration of bankruptcy between ethics and aesthetics. Someone who has based all of his work on the hypothesis of a complete coincidence of the two must despair.

8And yet the matter is irrevocable: Nobody understands them Education sentimentale, and the book is not popular. And what Flaubert may not even notice: Without the trial and the scandal that brought him unexpected media publicity, his first novel would certainly have been Madame Bovarywho is less radical than that Education sentimentale, but is already full of anomalies, suffered the same fate. Salammbô was still carried by the wave of its first success, and the subject had piqued the audience while the Education sentimentale is published at the worst possible time, evokes bad memories everywhere, speaks of disturbing things and, above all, does not remind you of what is usually called a novel. Flaubert is unable to be aware of these circumstances owed reasons and implicitly accuses himself that his genius was insufficient to subordinate ethics to aesthetics in order to simplify and falsify the real without betraying it, and yet to remain true and strong. Due to a lack of creative strength, he has remained caught up in the real with its disturbing and impenetrable complexity: He has not found the magic formula that transforms everything from within into transparency and light. He doesn't say it, but you can feel that he thinks it: Shakespeare, Cervantes or Michelangelo would have succeeded under the same circumstances. The Education sentimentale can therefore not serve as a model, or at least your project is not yet understood. He repeated this again a few months before his death, when he was just deeply engrossed in the text in order to prepare a new edition, the second and last one during his lifetime:

“You're talking about her Education sentimentale, and your letter surprised me while I was correcting their proofs (for an edition by Charpentier due to appear in about two weeks).
Why didn't this book have the success I expected? Robin may have found the reason for this. It is too true and, aesthetically speaking, is absent from it perspective falsehood. I planned the structure too well, and so it disappears entirely. Every work of art has to run towards a point, to a summit, form a pyramid, or the light has to hit a point on the sphere. There is none of this in life, however. Art doesn't exist in nature! What the hell! I don't think anyone has ever pushed the sincerity further. "

“Vous me parlez de L’Éducation sentimental et votre lettre, tantôt, m’a surpris en train de corriger les épreuves d’icelle (une édition de Charpentier qui doit paraitre dans une quinzaine). Pourquoi ce livre-là n’a-t-il pas eu le succès que j’en attendais? Robin en a peut-être decouvert la raison. C’est trop vrai et, esthétiquement parlant, il y manque: la fausseté de perspective. A force d’avoir bien combined le plan, le plan disparaît. Toute œuvre d’art doit avoir un point, un sommet, faire la pyramide ou bien la lumière doit frapper sur un point de la boule. Or rien de tout cela dans la vie. Corn l’Art n’est pas dans la Nature! N’importe! je crois que personne n’a poussé la probité plus loin. «13

In contrast to what he said to Huysmans at the beginning of the same year, Flaubert is no longer simply satisfied with the admission of his failure or with the idea that there is no future for his work. He's sitting over the galley proofs of a new edition, dreaming that maybe the novel will eventually find its audience on the next opportunity. He shouldn't be mistaken. Some new readers, including a high-ranking one like Marcel Proust, should soon completely reverse the reception of this work. But at the moment nothing has been won, and the compulsion to "pyramid", the wrong play with perspective remain incompatible with the radical form of structural realism to which Flaubert subscribes when he plans the structure of the novel down to the smallest detail, that is, up to the level of the word and its context of use. From sentence to paragraph, from page to sequence, from chapter to part, from part to whole work, each element is inserted into a hidden architecture in which nothing has been left to chance, and on this encryption the whole truth of the is based for the writer Narrative, namely its correspondence as a work of art with what is called reality. In formulations such as "because I planned the structure too well", "it is too truthful", "nobody has pushed the sincerity further", the demand for the fundamental right of ethics within aesthetics, the complaint, has not been understood to be, of course, but also the subliminal certainty of having nevertheless rightly pushed realistic logic to the limit that it comes into conflict with what is called art. And what if the art of today or tomorrow consisted precisely in destroying the last traces of those focal points, pyramids and other figures of perspective formation that obscure our perception of the real?

9What can be considered real with certainty? Well, for example a utensil, the existence of a concrete and irrefutable utensil like a stupid vessel that you bump into in the dark out of inattention and that almost brings you to fall: a trough14 is stunningly real under certain circumstances. At the same time, this can be very helpful the next morning if, for example, in the morning you have doubts about what is real and what is not, if, like Frédéric, you receive a letter when you wake up that changes your own life fundamentally: You will inherit, You are rich from now on! Some pinch their arms to make sure they are not dreaming, others open the window to make sure that they are actually in reality, that this is not a dream. And here the trough is incontestable. Too foolish for a hallucination, too prosaic to belong to the world of dreamed-of things, it creates commitment: it is evidence of external meaning, the embodiment of spatial inertia, a kind of quintessence of reference to the real. For Flaubert, the word »trough« (baquet), like »ceiling« (couverture) for example, is one of those terms that would agree with Cratylos: they contain the acoustic sign of their triviality, a kind of stupid heaviness that the thing imitates .These are the kinds of words that Flaubert does not take for granted (as far as I know, not a single mention of them is found in all his correspondence) and that he recommends Louise Colet avoid in her lyrical poetry, although he himself does so in his novel prose, albeit with Moderation, gladly used, precisely because of this strong suggestive factor of material density:

“One day, December 12, 1845, around nine o'clock in the morning, the cook brought a letter to his room. The address, in large letters, was from an unknown hand, and Frédéric, still half asleep, was in no hurry to open it. Finally he read:
›Justice of the Peace of Le Havre,
III. District.
›Monsieur,
›M. Moreau, since your uncle died intestate ... ‹
He inherited! As if a fire had broken out behind the wall, he jumped out of bed barefoot in his shirt: he ran his hand over his face and couldn't believe his eyes, believing that he was still dreaming, and to make sure of reality he opened the window wide.
Snow had fallen; the roofs were white; - and in the yard he even recognized a washing trough that he had stumbled across that evening.
He read the letter three more times; indeed! uncle's entire fortune! Twenty-seven thousand francs pension! and at the thought of seeing Madame Arnoux again, he was overcome with maddened joy.
With the clarity of a hallucination he saw himself with her, in her apartment, as he brought her some present, wrapped in tissue paper, while his Tilbury was waiting in front of the door, no, better a coupé! a black coupe with a servant in brown livery; he heard his horse stomp and the rattle of the chin chain merged with the whisper of their kisses. It would be like this anew every day, without end. He would receive her at his home, in his house; the dining room would be in red leather, the boudoir in yellow silk, divans everywhere! and what étagères! what chinese vases! what carpets! The images appeared in such a vortex that he felt dizzy. Then his mother came to mind, and the letter still in hand, he went downstairs. "

“Un jour, le 12 December 1846, vers neuf heures du matin, la cuisinière monta une lettre dans sa chambre. L’ Adresse, en gros caractères, était d’une écriture inconnue; et Frédéric, sommeillant, ne se pressa pas de la décacheter. Enfin il lut:
›Justice de paix du Havre. IIIe arrondissement.
Monsieur,
M. Moreau, votre oncle, étant mort from intestat...
II héritait!
Comme si un incendie eût éclaté derrière le mur, il sauta hors de son lit, pieds nus, en chemise: il se passa la main sur le visage, doutant de ses yeux, croyant qu'il rêvait encore, et, pour se raffermir dans la réalité, il ouvrit la fenêtre toute grande.
II était tombé de la neige; les toits étaient blancs; - et même il reconnut dans la cour un baquet à lessive, qui l’avait fait trébucher la veille au soir.
II relut la lettre trois fois de suite; rien de plus vrai? toute la fortune de l’oncle! Vingt-sept mille livres de rente! - et une joie frénétique le bouleversa, à l’idée de revoir Mme Arnoux. Avec la netteté d’une hallucination, il s’aperçut auprès d’elle, chez elle, lui apportant quelque cadeau dans du papier de soie, tandis qu’à la porte stationnerait son tilbury, non, un coupé plutôt! un coupé noir, avec un domestique en livrée brune; il entendait piaffer son cheval et le bruit de la gourmette se confondant avec le murmure de leurs baisers. Cela se renouvellerait tous les jours, indéfiniment. [...] la salle à manger serait en cuir rouge, le boudoir en soie jaune, des divans partout! et quelles étagères! quels vases de Chine! quels tapis! Ces images arrivaient si tumultueusement, qu’il sentait la tête lui tourner. Alors, il se rappela sa mère; et il descendit, tenant toujours la lettre à sa main. «15

The appearance of the trough and the announcement of the inheritance take place within the diegetic chronology of the narrative on a date that is not insignificant, namely December 12th 1846. December 12th is Flaubert's birthday, an ideal occasion for his deputy figure To donate a fortune of 27,000 francs. And on the night of December 11th to 12th, 1846, it had snowed, at least in Croisset, as we know from a letter to Louise Colet ("It's snowing, it's cold"), which, however, does not mention matters of inheritance although they are cleared in Croisset at that very time. Flaubert's father died on January 15 of the same year, and he inherits a sufficiently large fortune from him that he no longer has to worry about his daily livelihood.

10 One could leave the matter alone and think that the motif of the "trough", which is in the context of an autobiographical reality Education Sentimentale is smuggled in, fulfills that modest but ultimately respectable function of confirming the reference to tangible reality and thus convincing every unbelieving Thomas who has to touch what his eyes see. The trough in which certainty with all its implications is concentrated enables Frédéric, who has just emerged from his dreams, to “make sure of reality” in order to give himself up all the better to his follies of happiness with which he plans his future.

11But there is another trough in the Education Sentimentale. Not two or three more, no, just more another one Sometimes the word "baquet" appears in this novel, which has a total of just over 140,000 words. And this second trough is placed long later in the narrative with what appears to be a sense of symmetry. The first trough, evidence of the real, which is supposed to confirm the certainty of future happiness, appeared in the last chapter of the first part, on the morning of December 12, 1846 in Nogent; the second, also evidence of the real, but in this case as confirmation of the almost unimaginable authenticity of the horror, appears in the first chapter of the third part, 18 months later, on the late afternoon of June 26, 1848 in Paris. And so this motif of the »trough«, which appears seemingly inconsequential and at first accidentally before and after the second part of the novel, describes the double instance of a polarity that extends to extremes in the memory of the text, beyond the limits of meaning may own a word, will expand to finally take on the almost hallucinatory value of a visible symbol. The second mention of the word "baquet" - anyone who has read the novel knows it inevitably - appears in the darkest hours of the June days of 1848, in a scene set in the prison under the Tuileries:

“When the prisoners approached a basement hole, the National Guards on watch, who were supposed to keep them from shaking the bars, pushed their bayonets into the pile at random.
They were adamant at all. Those who had not fought wanted to excel. [...] The old Roque [...] was very satisfied to be ordered as a guard in front of the terrace. At least he had them under him, these robbers! He rejoiced at her defeat, her lowliness, and couldn't hold back from berating her.
One of them, a boy with long blond hair, pressed his face to the bars and asked for bread. Monsieur Roque ordered him to be silent. But the young man repeated in a plaintive voice:
- Loaf!
- Do I have any!
Other prisoners appeared with their spiky beards, their glowing eyes at the basement hole, jostled, pushed and howled:
- Loaf!
Old Roque was outraged that his authority was being misunderstood. To frighten them, he aimed at them; and carried up to the vault by the flood of people who crushed him, the young man screamed again with his head back:
- Loaf!
- Here! there you have something! said old Roque and pulled the trigger.
There was a huge howl, then nothing more. Something white was stuck to the edge of the trough. "

"Quand les prisonniers s’approchaient d’un soupirail, les gardes nationaux qui étaient de faction - pour les empêcher d’ébranler les grilles, fourraient des coups de baïonnette, au hasard, dans le tas.
Ils furent, généralement, impitoyables. Ceux qui ne s’étaient pas battus voulaient se signaler. […] Le père Roque […] fut très content d’être placé en sentinelle devant of the terrasse du bord de l’eau. Au moins, là, il les avait sous lui, ces brigands! Il jouissait de leur défaite, de leur abjection, et ne pouvait se retenir de les invectiver.
Un d’eux, un adolescent à longs cheveux blonds, with sa face aux barreaux en demandant du pain. M. Roque lui ordonna de se taire. Mais le jeune homme répétait d’une voix lamentable
- ›You pain!‹
- ›Est-ce que j’en ai, moi!‹
D’autres prisonniers apparurent dans le soupirail, avec leurs barbes hérissées, leurs prunelles flamboyantes, tous se poussant et hurlant
- ›You pain!‹
Le père Roque fut indigné de voir son autorité méconnue. Pour leur faire peur, il les with en joue; et, porté jusqu’à la voûte par le flot qui l’étouffait, le jeune homme, la tête en arrière, cria encore une fois
- ›You pain!‹
- ›Tiens! en voilà! ‹dit le père Roque, en lâchant son coup de fusil.
Il y eut un enormous hurlement, puis, rien. Au bord du baquet, quelque chose de blanc était restée. «16

What this "something white" is is not said, after all, it is about the unspeakable: what sticks to the edge of the trough is the brain of the "boy with the blond hair" whom old Roque has just got up close and personal shot. But what has not been said, what is vague in the presentation is at the same time a stylistic figure that has a strong effect on the reader. The first time you read it, you have to think for a few seconds to understand what it is about. And in order to understand it, you have to visualize the scene, to acquire it figuratively. Then what happens? About what happened the first time the word was mentioned, when Frédéric had to see the trough "to make sure of reality" to be sure of what he had just read. In the reverse of a nightmare, as horror becomes reality, it is again the trough in its existence of a stupid but irrefutable utensil that testifies in an unsurpassable material way the reality of what has just happened, what the reader has just read and can see from now on. This picture cannot be read by the Education Sentimentale ever forgotten once again, once before his eyes. It has the power of a television news report. And yet it's fiction, it's words. But, as the text says, "something" (something worse than the murder of which this white mass sticking to the trough testifies) here gains the power of a thing seen, that is, in the strict sense, the power of the symbol.

For this scene of a massacre, Flaubert combined two testimonies that he found in his Carnet 14 and from which he took the detail of the “trough”: “An officer shot the unfortunate people asking for bread through a cellar hole in the École militaire and, after killing one, asked with a scornful laugh: ' Anyone else who is hungry? I'll give him something. ‹« 17 And in »Caveau des Tuileries"It says:" An innocent landowner (from the province) shot through the bars by a national guard. His brain sticks to the trough and the corpse lies on the floor for more than 12 hours. "18 The" trough "in question was a communal trough from which the prisoners were allowed to drink like animals. Needless to say, Flaubert is talking enthusiastically here, without saying it. He found this incident among the testimonies of the extreme left for the days of June 1848 (La Commune de Paris from Barthélemy). And he changed it by making the victim no longer the "innocent landowner" but a "boy with blond hair." This epic exaggeration is justified by the fact that this one scene in the novel alone represents all of the massacres that took place in June 1848. Some clues as to the context: More than 15,000 Parisians were arrested with guns in hand or simply because they were suspected of participating in the uprising. As the prisons were full, the National Guard locked 1,500 prisoners in the underground passages on the banks of the Seine, under the Tuileries Terrace. The heat was unbearable and there was hardly any air to breathe. When a shot accidentally went off on the night of June 26th to 27th, it was believed that the insurgents had been attacked by surprise, and the National Guards shot the prisoners at close range. 200 deaths were the result. The official story at the time when Flaubert shares the reality of this mass bloodbath Education Sentimentale writes, nothing more, as if it had never happened.

“I am now writing three pages about the atrocities committed by the National Guard in June '48, which will give me great esteem among the citizens! I press them with their noses into their shamefulness as much as I can. "

»J’écris maintenant trois pages on the abominations de la garde nationale en juin 1848, qui me feront très bien voir des bourgeois! Je leur écrase le nez dans leur turpitude tant que je peux. «19

So it is up to the novel to give truth to the story, and with a cleverly constructed novel structure a single concrete image, for example a trough, is sufficient.

13History is seen in the modern age as a history of causes and consequences. It's better than a providential story like Bonard or De Maistre. But in Flaubert's view, this is not entirely sufficient to show how historical time (duration and logic of a collective becoming) can be combined with lived time (individual and coherent experience of individual subjects). The narrative order that Flaubert gives to the events in the Education Sentimentale is that of a reasonable sequence carefully prepared on the basis of documents of the epoch, testimonies, things seen, and sometimes divergent analyzes by historians. By bringing all these threads together, Flaubert weaves a complex and extremely precise structure from the period between 1847 and 1851, which contains many impressions that will correspond to those of Karl Marx and which historians today still praise for their precision and correctness .

To this hypothetical-deductive framework, however, the narrative simultaneously adds three types of concatenation that relativize this coherence, sometimes even completely undermining it: the concatenation of individual standpoints, the concatenation of collective stereotypes, and what one might call an ahistorical concatenation of fate. By employing the technique of the relativity of various individual standpoints, Flaubert can allow several sometimes contradicting and mutually incompatible points of view to exist side by side in order to depict a particular event, between which the narrative does not make a decision. On a somewhat broader level, that of social groups, the narrative staging of stereotypes adds the collective dynamic of ideological distortions, so that each event is automatic and contradictory at the same time, depending on their class interests and partisan reading, often disregarding appropriateness and the most obvious evidence is evaluated, but almost always without the narrator intervening in order to establish a certain truth. Finally, on a level that goes beyond the individual and the collective, the totality of the narrative - a kind of synchronous image of the entire narrative diachrony - calls into question the totality of meaning through the emergence of a non-causal logic: It is about a species transversal concatenation that is no longer based on a temporal sequence and whereby the events here and there seem to relate irregularly and randomly to one another through a story that, like fate, resembles the coexistence of bodies in space. Against the grain of the chronological framework, so to speak across it, a hidden chain of premonitions, echoes and coincidences tightens the threads of the narrative fabric here and there by tying knots of temporal distortions that allow the past, present and future to purr together according to a different logic or some other necessity that could be attributed to sensitivity, consciousness or fate.

At the beginning of the second part of the novel, shortly after the famous existential experience with the trough, which Frédéric confirms that he has actually just inherited, the latter leaves Nogent the following day to settle in splendid Paris. After a night in the stagecoach, he reached the Paris area via Ivry in the early morning of December 14, 1846.Frédéric has just woken up and sees the suburbs pass by behind the windows to the rhythm of the carriage. And here we have come to the most real of the real: As in a kind of long plan sequence with tracking shots, which one can easily imagine in the cinema as a scene from a Nouvelle Vague or documentary film, the description enumerates all the banal or insignificant details that Frédéric perceives through the fog of his half sleep like fragments of reality: factories, houses under construction, neglected backyards, construction sites, in the distance the dome of the Pantheon, a desolate plain reminiscent of a ruined area, blood-red facades of night clubs, signs from midwives, scraps torn posters flapping in the wind, workers in smocks… Of course, all of these things described here are on display, and none was chosen at random. Before Flaubert wrote this passage, he took the trouble to go on the same carriage ride as his character in the novel, with notebook in hand (Carnet 13) carefully record everything that can be seen along the way. This attitude appears again and again in Flaubert, who does not write a line without first attempting to "see" his subject. A normal process for a "realistic" writer, one might think. But in fact it is a peculiar, even more than strange procedure, because the landscape to be described is that of December 1846, while the "location search" that he sets out to do while working on his novel takes place in 1865. For a novelist who wants strict documentary accuracy, that means there is a problem here. There are almost 20 years between 1846 and 1865, and it is not just any years, it is Haussmann's time: During this period, real estate speculation in the Ivry area flourished - Flaubert knows this all the better as he is concerned with this complex of topics because of the has dealt with financial changes in the novel - and fundamentally change the topography of the site, which is to become a »suburb« (banlieue) of the new capital in the future, which is being completely turned inside out by the major construction projects. Is that just carelessness? You don't really want to believe that. Writing carelessness? Possible, but this is also rather doubtful. No, this shift is in no way accidental, it is rather carefully considered and used functionally: it is simply about an arranged anachronism. If you take a closer look, every detail seen by Frédéric is associated with the symbolic value of a memory or a premonition, the meaning of which is revealed in the course of the narrative: the »Panthéon« is the place in the narrative memory (Education SentimentaleWhat Frédéric saw behind the windows of the stagecoach on that December morning, 1846, still very sleepy, is not the present, but the future, his own future. He's a clairvoyant without knowing it.

Flaubert certainly went looking for a location, but the observed details were carefully selected and reassembled in order to acquire meaning within a real temporal cartography, with the future diegesis in mind. The things “seen” by Frédéric, no matter how disconnected and heterogeneous they seem, only illusoryly evoke the “reality effect” named by Roland Barthes: They are not concrete and referential, but projective and forward-looking. Your image, which is located far in the narrative future, emerges here only fleetingly like a mirage: Your virtual consistency is created by a kind of temporal vertigo. Sartre said the dizzying thing about vertigo is that it makes you depend on a moment - that of the case - that has not yet happened. Like the vertigo, these "things" that Frédéric sees belong to a chain of events that have not yet taken place: they are discrete harbingers of numerous déjà vu experiences that will come into effect here and there, much later in the narrative . Echoes, preconceptions, signs or premonitions, networks of clues and signs, coincidences, recurrence of the same, similarities, reminiscences, micro-processes of suggestion or fatalities: the historical reference frees itself from the constraints of chronology in order to become material for a flexibility that space and time submits to narration. Down to the very lowest level of this plastic work on the memory of the narrative, Flaubert's writing uses barely perceptible details in order to subliminally stage a violent coup, namely to introduce the mechanism of recognition in the prematurity of the memorable event, without the knowledge of the person or the reader who Have a strange feeling at the moment that you are remembering what is happening.

In order to describe this landscape, which was imaginary in every respect, Flaubert needed contact with the real environment, he actually had to go on site, experience the outside world in its spatial experience, take notes - but why? Paradoxically, because it gives him a more secure footing within the narrative adventure. When he arrives in Charenton, he is not observing the surroundings. He notes: "Frédéric was happy in Charenton." / "Frédéric avait eu de la joie à Charenton." What he observes is Frédéric, how this Charenton observes. The location research on site is a schizoid experiment. The one who writes is not one but two. The one who is experiencing the situation is controlled by another who controls him. Incidentally, this split is not only specific to research situations: it is a fundamental separation that is typical of the writer. Within the system that Flaubert created for himself, the authentically experienced feeling is the actual raw material that is transformed into art by means of style when writing. Without style, the feeling is just a romantic "chamber pot" 20, but without this experienced raw material the style would produce nothing more than beautifully turned words like those of Binet's lathe. In order to “write correctly”, one must “think right” and “feel right” at the same time, that is, think the sensation in order to express it appropriately and make it communicable, but also to perceive the sensation authentically, from the perspective of the other get to know by leaving the narrowness of your own subjectivity. It is this regulating duality that controls Flaubert's experience of writing “on one occasion”, his on-site research, which he constantly complains about in his correspondence, but which he cannot do without. Flaubert, who has a precise plan from the start, could well clarify most of the topographical or documentary questions at once before starting to write. He could, but he doesn't, even if he then has to interrupt his work a hundred times and do research. Why? Because what he perceives under these circumstances has nothing to do with what he would have observed abstractly and uninvolved outside of the writing. To understand this more precisely, one could take up the dialogical opposition that Nietzsche proposed for the theater and which, as Paul Valéry showed, also applies to the interpretation of poetic writing. The writing subject is similar to Janus: it is double. On the one hand, there is someone who physically and physically embarks on research on site, in the midst of the eagerness to write, who observes a certain situation with all means of his sensitivity and as far as possible apart from his own person in order to feel as exactly as possible the same as his character under these particular circumstances, in this environment, at precisely this moment of the narrative and of his life. Let's say this is the dionysian Instance of writing is a fusional experience in which the writer dares so much to his fictional character bethat he feels this from within. She keeps the notebook and writes down as best she can what she sees immediately, but she only knows what she feels. And then there is at the same time, standing above it, so to speak, the other instance that looks at and manipulates the apollonian Instance of writing: a cool, relentless, calculatingly controlling person, a sovereign author who is present, omniscient and invisible at the same time, who controls and modifies this experience scientifically according to his needs, who takes up and transforms the fusional sensations of his deputy without the slightest Emotional movement, entirely in keeping with the overriding interests of the work and taking into account the novel as a whole. This duplication is a necessity and it is an uneven game. Apollo always has the first and the last word. He holds all the strings in hand, from the first moments of the first draft to the very last corrections to the finished manuscript, and he "sees" the text as a real God sees it, uno mentis ictu, immediately at a glance, and can plan every detail of its composition. He is the great master: He can rearrange the chronology at his own discretion, he can create and resolve causalities, overlay the future on the past, and ensure that what has happened does not occur. He can do everything, but he lacks feeling, the lively density of passion and concern. His intelligence would remain sterile without the sensitivity of his doppelganger, who has to hold out his body in reality so that the representation receives substance. So what is real in reality cannot be assigned to Apollo, who at best knows its form and expression; but it is not only to be assigned to Dionysus, who, left to his purely fusional experience, would soon lapse into madness and mutism and irretrievably lose himself in matter. One feels, the other speaks, but one is nothing without the other. The real is so definitely in the form of the symbol: it only happens when the two fragments that make it up are put together. And yet this is precisely the crux of Flaubert's realism: when the real expresses itself in its truth, it never symbolizes anything other than itself, the riddle of its own immanence.

18The real as a work of art

19Therefore, at least in part, the strange and strong sensation of reality stems from each deeper immersion in the Education sentimentale adjusts. A peculiar reality, because it is a novel in which one can easily lose sight of the clues - spatial, temporal, psychological and narrative - that are usually regarded as markings within a narrative, and get lost. There is no eye-catching progress, no visible signposts or signs. If you forgot which side you were on - your bad luck. However, this reality appears to be all the stronger because this slight feeling of confusion and contingency resembles those vague, confusing relationships that everyone maintains in their trusting, but fragile connections to the real. It doesn't matter whether you take the position of a character in a novel or a reader, that is Education sentimentale neither an avenue nor a labyrinth: like in a city that one explores, one is never completely lost, nor is one ever quite sure of one's way, and Flaubert was right when he denounced a lack of perspective or straightforwardness in it. But it is precisely in this deficiency that the brilliant success of this work consists for us today. We no longer believe that you just have to get a grip on the real in order to assert yourself as the master and ruler of your destiny. And we no longer believe that the work that tells us about the real, natural Maintaining connections with the outside world that it could refer to something other than itself. The reality that is in the Education sentimentale is set in scene is at the same time completely artificial, self-referential and constructed and can thus be regarded as a double of the world that only rests in itself. Its virtuality of a possible world resembles the real world only in its ability to be imperfect, in the availability of its networks of meaning, to be reassembled without determination, without wanting to lead to a superordinate meaning or a conclusion: it is a desire for meaning that itself ceaselessly renewed as desire, a finality without a goal, a work of art.

As far as Flaubert's realism is concerned, it is the concept, structure, course of action, assembly and succession of an infinite number of details on which the ability of his narrative to create an experimental picture of the real is based, based on the heuristic laws of “as if «Based. By making the external real not a reference but a formal analogue of the narrative, Flaubert wants to give his "style" the incorruptible precision of the sciences. If you are unsettled by a resistance, incomprehensibility or inconsistency of things and behaviors that are so much like the bulky and harsh reality of everyday life, then this is mainly due to its effect as a model: Flaubert's realism is simulation. But this simulation, which mobilizes that representation of things as they are seen and felt by the Dionysian authority of writing, and which only rarely lets their structural and Apollonian nature shine through, wants to be understood as the adventure of an affect. Everything in the novel happens "as if" something unforeseen, a last-minute adversity, something unexpected could happen, in order to let the most sensible hopes and most sacred desires of the most sensible hopes and most sacred desires fail those projects that were believed to be the best way to go; as if the real motivation of the characters, the actual logic of the events could only appear in the distant future after the occurrence, too late to be averted, at a moment when the game has already started, at the expense of the Dreams of happiness that you had imagined. From trembling expectations to disappointed longings, from worries to unexpected little joys, from sudden bursts of energy to insurmountable annoyance, one traverses the narrative and the violent turns of history, how one traverses one's own existence, one after the other between enthusiasm and longing, illusions and surprises back and forth thrown here without seeing how the days go by, but also without gaining any other certainty than that of the past time: a lost time perhaps, burdened by shadows and complaints, by missed encounters and false appearances, but also by beautiful memories and hopes still alive, in short, an inconsistency which, however, is paradoxically transformed by memory into a full and radiant totality of life.

Top of page