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Monsieur Flaubert, c'est moi!
March 23, 2009 2:40 AM   Subscribe

Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk has been awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Rouen in France and gave a speech in which he describes, as an aspiring young writer in Turkey in the 70's, the comfort and guidance he got from a certain letter written from Istanbul by Flaubert.

I read Flaubert’s letters in the 1970s as if reading the hagiography of a Sufi sheikh. This variety of traditional worship predicated on memorising the words and imitating the life of the venerated recluse-author, precisely because he was a Westerner, was infused with an aura of modernism rather than being subject to critical thought, analytical reasoning, or the stamp of blind devotion.

It goes on to become an analysis of a writer's life ethics and the influence Flaubert had and has on celebrated writers.

Some of Flaubert's correspondence is online, by the way. Most of it in french, hélas.

(via Passou)
posted by lucia__is__dada (5 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite

 
An excellent, thought-provoking speech—thanks for posting it!
(Though actually all you needed was the one link; the Wikipedia links and the "honorary doctorate" link, which goes to a very brief news story basically saying "Pamuk got an honorary doctorate," are presumably there to ward off the assholes who snark about posts with "only one link." Those idiots are doing their best to ruin MetaFilter.)
posted by languagehat at 5:48 AM on March 23, 2009


I read Flaubert’s letters in the 1970s as if reading the hagiography of a Sufi sheikh.

Flaubert's letters are truly marvelous, but presumably the selection he read did not include the letter to Maxime Du Camp in which Flaubert described his attempts to conceal from the Egyptian(?) prostitute he was trying to get to have sex with him the syphilitic chancre on his penis.
posted by jamjam at 9:16 AM on March 23, 2009


Flaubert's letters are truly marvelous, but presumably the selection he read did not include..

jamjam: See second paragraph of Pamuk's speech.
posted by vacapinta at 9:28 AM on March 23, 2009


That's what I get for presuming rather than reading!

Thanks for straightening me out, vacapinta. Panuk is a man of broader vision than I gave him credit for.
posted by jamjam at 10:11 AM on March 23, 2009


And so is Pamuk.

That's a complex speech. Pamuk notes the syphilis, and then goes on to invoke Flaubert as the very model of a modern major novelist, as a recluse who retires from the world and volubly scorns its pretentious bourgeois crassness, but retains or even experiences a heightened compassion for ordinary middle class men and women and the difficulties of their lives.

I would have thought he might wonder whether Flaubert wrote his mother that he would never marry and take up the life she hoped he would because he thought of his syphilis as a kind of carte jaune of permanent exclusion from that world, a world he could now participate in only by a process of vicarious identification.
posted by jamjam at 11:25 AM on March 23, 2009


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