Bouvard and Pecuchet
Gustave Flaubert tr. Polizzotti
Dalkey Archive 2005
Realism is just one phase in the long whine of the literati. Courbet always excepted, realism is always satirical or polemical and has about as much to do with reality as romance novels do. When you read a realistic novel, it’s always important to figure out The Moral of the Story.
The moral of Bouvard and Pecuchet is roughly as follows:
Copy clerks should continue to live as copy clerks even if they inherit tons of money.
Self-education is a crime against nature.
Parvenus are morons and dumbshits who speak only in cliches, have no taste, and always fuck everything up.
In general, only morons and dumbshits take an interest in science and technology, which are mostly crap anyway.
Parvenus shouldn’t study agronomy — partly because they always fuck everything up, but also because agronomy is crap. Same for medicine.
It’s impossible to learn to farm, and besides, who would ever want to try?
If a hailstorm destroys a parvenu’s orchard, it’s because parvenus are morons and dumbshits.
On page 32, Bouvard and Pecuchet’s stacks of wheat spontaneously combust because they stacked it using the Clap-Meyer method from the Netherlands. What a couple of dumbshits.
NOTE 1. We should never sneer at the romance novel, the most durable of all literary forms. Romance novels have been written and read continuously since God knows when. St. Augustine complained about them, Dante complained about them, Cervantes complained about them, Kleist complained about them, but the romance novel is invulnerable and laughs at the whiny literati. Most of Hamlin Garland’s works were romance novels. Sinclair Lewis began his career writing romance novels. Realism is just a fad, whereas romance novels will still be around when New York , London, and Paris are crumbling wastelands inhabited only by the wind.
NOTE 2. Readers of DeGuignet’s Memoirs of a Breton Peasant will recall that DeGuignet’s agricultural innovations, even though they were productive and successful, were scorned by the pious Catholic peasants of his neighborhood. What a dumbshit.