Friday, August 28, 2015

A Simple Heart - Gustave Flaubert

Have you read Flaubert? Yes I have. Buying those 26 Penguins was one way of ticking off authors and read their best writings. So Flaubert gets ticked off rather late in the day with this slim story 'A Simple Heart'. As with most stories of those times it is full of sadness and hopelessness and ends on the same despondent note.

The simple heart in question is that of Felicete, a maid, who devotes her life to work and work she does like a woman possessed. She wants nothing more than a simple life and asks little from it. She comes from a sad childhood, left to fend for herself, makes her way around with her limited talents and learns to survive, falls in love and out, keeps away from all that could hurt, finds a good job and becomes the ideal maid. In terms of affections, she showers them on her work, her widowed mistress and her two young children. Young Virginie, the mistress's young girl whom Felicete grew up dies, then her own nephew whom she loves dearly dies. She gets herself a parrot and showers all her affections on it. Her mistress dies too leaving her little. Finally the parrot dies too and Felicete gets the bird stuffed.

When Felicete dies finally, alone, she dreams of the parrot, the source of much joy to her, beckoning her into the heavens.

Somehow, despite all the extra helpings of misery, Felicete stands out as an unforgettable character. Very ordinary but with extraordinary love.


Rajendra said...

Did he write Madame Bovary? Maya Memsaab was based on it, I think.

Harimohan said...

Yes Raja, the same. That novel went to court for obscenity (and became a bestseller later). Was a olourful personality. Never married. But would visit colorful ladies (and gents too apparently) and as a consequence, suffered from venereal diseases most of his life. Many times the lives of writers and artists are as interesting as their works themselves - or more. Guy de Maupassant was his protege.