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Just what sort of book is Flaubert's Parrot, anyway? A literary biography of 19th-century French novelist, radical, and intellectual impresario Gustave Flaubert? A meditation on the uses and misuses of language? A novel of obsession, denial, irritation, and underhanded connivery? A thriller complete with disguises, sleuthing, mysterious meetings, and unknowing targets? An extended essay on the nature of fiction itself?
On the surface, at first, Julian Barnes's book is the tale of an elderly English doctor's search for some intriguing details of Flaubert's life. Geoffrey Braithwaite seems to be involved in an attempt to establish whether a particularly fine, lovely, and ancient stuffed parrot is in fact one originally "borrowed by G. Flaubert from the Museum of Rouen and placed on his worktable during the writing of Un coeur simple, where it is called Loulou, the parrot of Felicité, the principal character of the tale."
What begins as a droll and intriguing excursion into the minutiae of Flaubert's life and intellect, along with an attempt to solve the small puzzle of the parrot--or rather parrots, for there are two competing for the title of Gustave's avian confrere--soon devolves into something obscure and worrisome, the exploration of an arcane Braithwaite obsession that is perhaps even pathological. The first hint we have that all is not as it seems comes almost halfway into the book, when after a humorously cantankerous account of the inadequacies of literary critics, Braithwaite closes a chapter by saying, "Now do you understand why I hate critics? I could try and describe to you the expression in my eyes at this moment; but they are far too discoloured with rage." And from that point, things just get more and more curious, until they end in the most unexpected bang.
One passage perhaps best describes the overall effect of this extraordinary story: "You can define a net in one of two ways, depending on your point of view. Normally, you would say that it is a meshed instrument designed to catch fish. But you could, with no great injury to logic, reverse the image and define the net as a jocular lexicographer once did: he called it a collection of holes tied together with string." Julian Barnes demonstrates that it is possible to catch quite an interesting fish no matter how you define the net. --Andrew Himes --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
'Julian Barnes's wry and graceful book, part novel, part stealthy literary criticism, traces the marks Flaubert made on a forgetting world. The writing is unfailingly sharp and often very funny, and among the best prose I have read in years' SUNDAY TIMESSee all Product Description
Blurb......... Geoffrey Braithwaite is a retired doctor haunted by an obsession with the great French literary genius, Gustave Flaubert. Read morePublished 2 months ago by col2910
Brilliant. Barnes knowledge and love of French Literature woven into a modern day context makes this unlike anything else I've ever read.Published 12 months ago by farida kassum
Lots of facts mixed up with fiction It is a must to read alongside Madame Bovary. An eye for detail all the way through and compelling analysis.Published on March 24 2013 by elizabeth green
I wish I had enough of that literary critic vocabulary and style to convey how wonderfully rich FLAUBERT'S PARROT is. Read morePublished on Oct. 25 2007 by Kirtland Peterson
This idea-driven novel is filled with brilliant observations, especially in the later chapters, that make me want to read Flaubert. Read morePublished on May 23 2001 by Ethan Cooper
A previous reviewer found the use of "clever" literary techniques by the author too much. On the contrary, they form the center of the novel--the possibility of finding... Read morePublished on Feb. 14 2001 by Roger T. Whitson
Who would of thought some dead French guy from the mid 1800's could be so interesting? I read this book on the recommendation of my brother but with the stipulation I read... Read morePublished on Jan. 14 2001
At the first sight this book is a story of an elderly English doctor Geoffrey Braithwaite who tries to reconstruct the life of the great French writer Gustave Flaubert in order to... Read morePublished on Dec 1 2000 by Andrew Karbovsky